By Amy Szmik, Contributor
[Photo via Spotify]
When bass player Jonas Newhouse heard a chiptune project called casio dad on his local college radio station, he came to realize that he was already Facebook friends with J. McClendon, the intellect behind casio dad. As they messaged each other back and forth, the two agreed to be roommates along with the band’s drummer, William White, and they moved out to California from Minnesota in 2016. Naming themselves after the beach in California, glass beach was born.
With guitarist Layne Smith joining the band after handling live roles, the four-piece released their debut, the first glass beach album, on their own budget. Fusing everything from ’80s synthpop to emo, glass beach’s mastery in a range of genres is apparent from the beginning of the album (“classic j dies and goes to hell part 1”), which gives the listener a snapshot of glass beach’s musical capabilities. They’re able to transcend multiple genres to create an eclectic mix to give themselves their own sound.
Taking all their personal music influences into one, glass beach’s vast range of musical backgrounds has allowed them to experiment with several different styles, even within individual songs. For instance, White and Newhouse came from jazz and punk backgrounds, while McClendon chimed in with emo and pop-punk melodies. “We just all have very broad music tastes; I like a lot of different kinds of music, and the music you listen to always finds a way into the music you write,” McClendon says.
“classic j dies and goes to hell part 1” is the perfect storm of fused genres. Adding several transitions in the song during style shifts was oftentimes a challenge for the band. Calling the song a “weird, Frankenstein song,” the band had to go back and forth to balance the song because it would be the first track which would introduce glass beach and their album. The complex mix braces listeners for everything the album has to offer.
Additionally, many of their songs on the record, when listened to carefully, can be heard as video game-like melodies. McClendon realized this and connected it to their love of video game music as a child. Since casio dad was heavily stylized by chiptune sounds, the video game influences are still infused into glass beach’s songwriting. Although the video game aesthetic was the core of casio dad, glass beach took a different approach with remnants of the same musicality. The video game-esque melodies also tend to evoke nostalgia from time to time.
Thematically, glass beach opted for an “emotional narrative” instead of a conceptual one, keeping a consistent flow of themes without actually having a storyline in the album itself. The album pokes fun at concept albums; the song “classic j dies and goes to hell part 1” does not have a part two because the band didn’t want the album to be a concept album. Aiming to steer clear of conventional albums that had a storytelling narrative, every song on this album has its own story instead. “I don’t think I realized it all that much when I was putting it together, but there are definitely a lot of common lyrical themes in it,” McClendon mentions.
Writing, recording and budgeting their music, glass beach is completely self-produced and released. It took approximately three years for the band to release their debut album, which was warmly received by critics and listeners alike. The band addressed the difficulty of creating an album during their free time and on their own budget, with McClendon also attributing the difficulty to their perfectionist tendencies.
Admitting that if they hadn’t set a release date, glass beach would still be reworking their songs. The song “glass beach,” which was originally written in 2014, was finished but then entirely re-recorded right before the album’s release in May 2019. The creative process starts with McClendon writing and recording demos then showing them to White and Newhouse. With both of their creative inputs, White and Newhouse would then write their own parts or rework McClendon’s arrangements. “The writing influences the recording, and the recording influences the writing and in terms of how we actually recorded it in our practice stage,” McClendon explains.
With recently having signed to Run For Cover, glass beach is already working on new material and aspires to release at least three more albums in the future. The quartet is also working on additional projects, including a Dungeons & Dragons podcast titled Greetings, Adventurers in inspiration to produce a possible Dungeons & Dragons-based album.
“We have started working on some new music, and we’ve got a lot of other stuff going on right now, but we hope to start recording our next album relatively soon,” McClendon says.
Listen to the first glass beach album below: