In the world of industrial electrogaze, The Glitch Mob is a force, literally, due to their music, and figuratively, due to their growing popularity. The Sherp caught them in action at the Moonrise Festival!
In the last two years alone, the powerful triumvirate of edIT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta) and Ooah (Josh Mayer), have been circumnavigating the globe in, what can be best described as a heightened performance frenzy. This Los Angeles electronic group has not only toured around most of America,but have even ventured further east, apart from being a part of festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo.
The band finds an eager audience not just for their powerful sound, but for their state of the art live-performance set-up. Known to have personally built their stage visuals, before they went big, the band delivers compelling audio and visual performances, making them a live act to boot. At Moonrise Festival too, the band took to the stage following loud uproars of support.
They spoke to us about their musical process and more –
In what ways have your fans inspired you? Any specific interactions with your fans that have sparked inspiration?
Boreta: No, there wasn’t any one particular moment; we have a very close relationship with our fans, because we come from this grassroots place…everything was built one person at a time. What we do comes from building one-on-one interactions with people and fans. There are so many stories of people writing to us whether it’s like this music has helped them through really dark times. There have been a handful of notes that we have received lately from people who have said that they’ve been harming themselves and that our music gives them light to help stop. There are also many soldiers abroad who listen to our music. There are people that listen for positive moments in life too, such as one fan who told us that he and his girlfriend fell in love while listening to our music. So, at the end of the day it just gives this feeling that we are part of something that’s bigger than just the music; we are all doing this thing together called life.
I think a bit of both, actually. We wear our heart on our sleeves when we write music, so for us there’s no holding back, whether it’s really high exciting top of the night ‘let’s rage’ party music, all the way down to struggling through a tough time in life, whether we are losing somebody close to us or breaking up with a loved one; for us, we see all of those emotions that come through us as ways to tell stories with our music. It is a release…I can sort of speak for Justin and Ed, but we definitely release a lot of our emotions through writing; we are able to heal wounds of our own through writing music. But, personally I find so much comfort in listening to different music, and some of my most profound moments have been through connecting with songs, whether it is through a specific moment or over time. Music is one of the best links to the emotional state. I know many people, including myself, may find it difficult to talk about your close emotional being, so being able to connect with emotions through music, whether it is writing a song or talking about how a song affected you or listening and sharing music with somebody else, is a very profound way to express highs and lows in life.
Boreta: It’s catharsis, for us. Writing music is for ourselves, and all of our songs start with emotion and a feeling that we are trying to work out, more than the music itself.
Ooah: We will use the most basic sounds you could pull up on a computer, and we have made this simplified palette of ‘let’s just start with these sounds, write our notes in sequences that portray a feeling that we have right now, and then later worry about the tone and the texture of how it’s going to work together.’
edIT: We never approach the song from the standpoint of ‘twerk is popular right now, let’s write a 100 bpm twerk track’, we never do that…we might write a song at 100 bpm, but it’s not from a standpoint of ‘since everybody is playing a song like this, we should do it too.’
Our songwriting always starts from ‘what are we trying to say?’ and ‘what’s the feeling that is coming out?’ – is this the feeling you get when you drop 60 points in your high school basketball game, or is this the feeling you get when you’re about to get on one knee and propose to your love? It can be any of those things, but that’s really where it all comes from. I think the stories that we tell are universal stories that everybody has felt and experienced and connect with.
Ooah: Our writing, in a sense, is not very electronic music of us…I sort of see it as a singer/songwriter way of writing…I know a few singers that work with songwriters, and they’re the people behind the curtain; they write everything with a piano, sing some lyrics, and then later the songs turns into this a song that can be electronic, or a band, etc., so I look at our process in that way. We start simple to express the raw emotion, then later worry about how it will sound.
When you are performing at shows and festivals, can you feel the energy coming from the crowd and feed off of that energy?
Ooah: That’s one of the main things we’ve always talked about that in our whole career…being able to be right there with the audience and connect with them, whichis a two-way street.I can remember in the beginning of our career, when we were just playing on a fold out table with some computers and little pads, we’d always say ‘put us as close to the crowd as possible, so we could see them and they could see us’…that was always the key. We wanted to feel the audience and we wanted them to feel us.
I would love to talk about some details of your unique instrument called The Blade…Although you each have a piece of The Blade, do you each stick with performing one piece of each song, or do you each switch up who will play the melody, rhythm, and harmony?
Boreta: It stays the same on a night to night basis, but we can switch it up; we play more like a band with a set list and we don’t really change it up too much, because it takes rehearsal to get our performance in place. But, there are times when we say ‘You know what, I like this part better, so I will play the drums here and Eddie’s going to play the synth,’ so it’s a platform and we can move around through any piece of the song if we want to. There are spots of improvisation, too, so if you came to our set three nights in a row, you will hear different rhythms and melodies in these specific parts.
edIT: The main difference from a traditional band is that in a traditional band, there will be somebody on guitar, bass, drums, and lead singer, and that’s all they do during the entire set. Although we play the exact same parts every night, the actual part that we’re playing differs on a song-to song basis. We might play multiple kinds of parts in just one song alone. For example, the way we have designed The Blade is that in any given song I might play bass, lead, percussion, and a pad sound, and Josh might play kick and snare, a different lead, and chords. So it’s not like he’s just the drummer, I’m just a guitarist, and Justin’s just a bassist; we can actually play everything, so that’s the fundamental difference from a traditional band.
What’s the difference in preparation between playing at a big festival vs. playing on tour in a club/venue?
Ooah: There’s not much difference in preparation.
edIT: We practice just the same, and the preparation is more for our team, who comes to the festival to set it all up ahead of time; I think for them it’s different, but for us we go to that same rehearsal spot a few weeks ahead of time.
Ooah: We have a crew of like 10 guys or so that make it all happen, so for them it’s definitely more preparation.
edIT: For our crew it’s a different ballgame, for us it’s more just rehearsing the performance.
Boreta: It takes a lot to make it happen; there are problems too sometimes, it is an experimental platform, so sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
edIT: But at the end of the day, it more has to do with our set length; the only difference with festivals is that we don’t dip too deep into ambient slow territory, because there are a lot of people that haven’t heard us before, so we only have 60 minutes on the stage, so we incorporate a lot of the higher energy stuff.
Ooah: The crowd wants to be up at 100 for most of the time
Boreta: Less peaks and valleys…
Ooah: Less what?
Boreta: Peaks and valleys
Ooah: oh I thought you said something about pizza…less pizza more rosé.
Name one person you would take to a festival?
Ooah: A toss up between Louis CK or Dirty Nasty
edIT: Jus Reign
Boreta: I was actually gonna say Jus Reign!
A festival you would consider going alone to?
All: Burning Man!!
Images by : Greg Bowser
Interview by : Jacqueline Gottlob
P . S. The interview was a great conversational piece between our lovely interviewer, and the eloquent Glitch Mob. We’ve tried to retain that element. Hope you enjoy it.