Extreme Experimentalists: Glassing Challenge Perception’s Limits “From the Other Side of the Mirror” (Interview + New Video)

Published: April 02, 2024

You may believe that Glassing make music that’s meant to be enjoyed. After all, the Austin, Texas-based trio’s riffs course with lifeblood and Dustin Coffman’s vocals scratch the bottom of the heavens just as much as they pierce your ears while they inject post-rock as a reprieve to unplug your brain from their previous track while setting you up for their next swing. These elements are on display in the group’s latest single, “Circle Down,” from their upcoming album From the Other Side of the Mirror. Along the forked road between artistry and simple satisfaction, Glassing has dug a moat that crosses both paths. In reality, if he had his way, Coffman would obscure all signs along those roads and force his audience to chart their own path without a map. 

Coffman’s view on art is that he does not want to give listeners any leeway. He asks them to pay attention and, ideally, would reward them with scraps. It’s an approach he was turned on to by former Glassing drummer Jason Camacho, who introduced him to the experimental rock group Oneida. Coffman calls it anti-songwriting, and it supersedes meditative post-rock, of which he’s an ardent fan. 

Those who are listening often fumble their words when trying to pin down Glassing’s genre. Is it post-blackened sludge screamo? Coffman doesn’t care. As he puts it, “ We’re into all kinds of music, but we don’t want to play those genres specifically. We just want to play the stuff we do like from them. We can write a good song, but I think it’s more important to make sure we stay out of any identifiable genre.”

Given this, it’s surprising how easily one can parse a Glassing track. For as much as Coffman wants to push what can be tolerated, he’s brought back to reality by guitarist Cory Brim, who is largely responsible for the group’s monumental riffs. Ironically, the pair’s dynamic has never been as accessible as it is on From the Other Side of the Mirror, a more commanding effort than their previous record, 2021’s Twin Dream, with the first three tracks aiming to punch your teeth out. “Circle Down,” the album’s third single, dials down the muscle to writhe in the gaps between post-hardcore, screamo, and black metal, at least at the onset. Halfway through, Glassing can’t help but shovel more of their overpowering riffs into your mouth.

Read through our conversation with Coffman to find out more about the recording with the new album, their recent tours, and his approach to songwriting. You can also check out the video for “Circle Down,” which dropped today.

So, you guys just finished touring with Author & Punisher and you toured with City of Caterpillar right before that. Glassing is quite different musically from those two acts, but it makes sense why you’d tour with them, at least on an artistic level. How was playing with them and what’d you learn from them that you didn’t learn from metal bands?

Both Author and Punisher and City of Caterpillar were so cool. Very different crowds. One thing about our band is that we are a middle ground between different acts. We can play a show with This Will Destroy You or with meth.. We don’t try to tailor our shows to different audiences, we just play what we play. Although, we could. 

For instance, with City of Caterpillar and Saetia, these old-school screamo bands who are going through a resurgence these days. And their crowds are young now. We were surprised that most people in the crowds were under 21. But their music has a youthful rebellion in it that kids gravitate towards, and I guess that’s why we gravitated toward it when we were kids. But it’s funny, in the same instance, Author & Punisher will get industrial fans and we spoke to Tristan about it, and he said, “You go out and sometimes you see doom guys, hardcore guys, but then you see the industrial goth kids come out.” We were just excited to be part of it and play in front of all types of people. We know our music isn’t for everybody.

To put on my music critic hat, you’re a “post-genre” band in that you take bits from multiple styles but you don’t have enough of any to fit into any of them. Everything I read about Glassing describes you as a different band. How do you feel when you read that Glassing is a “post-blackened sludge screamo whatever”? Does that even resonate with you?

No. I get that they’re trying to describe it, but I think when you’re making art, you’re doing something right if they have to search to describe it. If they say something like post-rock then grindcore, those two genres are so widely apart that it’s clear that they’re trying to describe it. But, we have screamo elements, black metal things here and there, hardcore stuff, so It’s always some strange amalgamation.

The artists don’t consciously think about what band they’re trying to be. It’s not your job to think of the descriptors someone would use for your music. 

No, it’s mostly that I want to make music with a specific feeling. Sometimes, if we’re three or four songs into an album, we may notice that the album has a lot of this or that, particular qualities, so we make something different than that. Or if we’re being ambitious, we’ll make something that’s completely out of our wheelhouse. We take a lot of inspiration from early post-rock. That’s the most common thread. If someone were to call us a post-rock band, I’d see how they reached that conclusion. 

I love this band called Bowery Electric. They’re trip-hop post-rock. I highly recommend them. They haven’t been around for a while, but pick any album, play it, and go on a long drive. They make the coolest shit in the world. I try to put shit like that in the record because we have the screaming loud shit all the time but I think a good record needs ebb and flow between both sides. 

The new album is much more compact than Twin Dream. What led to that change to make them punchier?

Probably our new drummer, Scott (Osment). He’s in a band called Deaf Club and he’s used to making minute-and-a-half long songs with extremely fast drumming. I used to think Glassing was a fast band and that we played hard. Then I saw Deaf Club play, and I realized we were the slow band. Scott has to play slowly for us. 

Cory (Brim) and I went to a house show Scott was playing in Austin, Texas once to see his band, and when I saw it, I couldn’t believe how quickly he was playing. I didn’t know he could play that fast. He just came through and started playing quickly with us, forcing us to up our ante. 

The funny thing is, he mentioned that he has to challenge himself to play more creatively with us and not just blast the whole time. He tries to channel our original drummer Jason Camacho. They’re old buddies, so it was one of those situations where if anyone were going to replace Jason, it’d be Scott, cause he knows how Jason plays. So for certain songs like “Nothing Touches You,” Scott said that he was channeling Camacho a little bit. If you compare that beat to the one of “Twin Dream,” you realize they’re similar cause they’re tom-heavy and tribal, in a sense. That’s how Camacho plays and it was a big staple of the band. 

Scott has been trying to channel that and put his own spin on it, and it’s cool cause every time he tries it, it becomes my favorite beat on a record. He’s so impressive with the fast hard shit. We’re lucky to have him. 

You’re cultivating an environment where everyone has to step up and challenge themselves, it’s just funny that Scott’s challenge is slowing down.   

The slow part is funny cause he’s just never played that slowly in his life. There’s slow shit on the record for sure, but we erred on the side of pushing the tempo more than we normally do. I’d want to expand on the monotonous, post-rock drums. The longer tracks where nothing happens and it induces a trance-like meditative state because I like music like that. That was one of Camacho’s big things. He was a fan of a band called Oneida and they’ll do 10 minutes of the same riff. 6 minutes in, they’ll change something, but it’ll be a little thing, like the drummer will hit a tom instead of a cymbal. I think that’s interesting artistically.

What you guys do that’s cool is you put in these big riffs that reward people for sitting through the more challenging sections. People can make it through, because they know they’re gonna hear the sickest riff on the other end. 

It’s weird cause Cory and I have very different styles of songwriting. We couldn’t be further from each other; we’re just lucky that we both like the same music. I’m in the mentality that I don’t want to give the listener anything. I would love to write an album where it’s just a beat and nothing cool, just to disappoint people. Cory is on the opposite spectrum; he likes people to like his music. He’s actually the smart one. So together, we can make good music. 

There have been a lot of times where I’ll say that we need to do a beat for five minutes and we can’t change it, and Cory will tell me that everyone will walk out of a show if we do it. To which I say, “Whatever, dude. Fuck it, dude.” That’s the point of art. You can spend your artistic career trying to make stuff that people will like, but have you ever tried making stuff people won’t like? That could be the thing that’s most interesting to me right now–making stuff that people won’t enjoy. Who knows, maybe they will, and if they do, that’s great. 

It’s pushing the boundaries of taste to make it an experiment for the listener. 

It’s the concept of harsh noise. If you listen to it, at first, you’ll think it’s awful. I was exposed to a Japanese harsh noise artist, and the first song is this intense high-pitched squeal. I was determined to find out why this stuff was cool or interesting. Maybe that’s a fool’s errand because you could listen to an entire harsh noise album and think it’s boring, or annoying, or that anyone could make it. When I listened to it, though, I ease myself into it. I put it at a medium volume, then slowly increased the volume, because you can’t start at max volume. By the time I was at max volume, I was in pain, but I think that’s why they make that music, to inflict pain, but sometimes, pain is interesting. I learned a lot from that. 

Was it a pursuit of a different feeling from art? Because, usually, you don’t go to art for pain.

Art can instill any type of emotion ever, and we usually only focus on the emotions we want to feel. If it were up to me, I’d only listen to Charli XCX and blink-182 non-stop. And sometimes I’ll go three weeks only listening to pop punk and feel-good shit, but then I realize I’m not challenging myself artistically, I’m not trying to change anything, I just want brain candy. 

Do you think those experiments, like the one you conducted with harsh noise, could make you better at making “brain candy” music? 

I don’t really know. When you get the brain candy music, it comes out of the blue and you think it’s too cool not to do. I don’t think I’ll ever get so jaded that I’ll throw away cool riffs, or I’ll tell Cory that some of his riffs are too good that we can’t use them. I don’t know the relationship between them; you have to know the relationship between the intent. Sometimes, the music can reveal the intent. Sometimes, the riff can tell you what the song should be about. A lot of time, it will do that. The riff or composition will describe the feel of what the music should be. That’s how we go about it. 

Cory will have a riff he wants to fuck with and I’ll shoot it down. We got to the point where Cory has to come in with at least 10 riffs cause I’d shoot 9 of them down. 

Do you want something more challenging?

No, I’m just a shithead. We talk about this all the time, but I’m the guy who’s never satisfied with the song. Cory, bless his heart, comes to practice with what he thinks is cool and I say it’s not cool and that it’s trash. I don’t want to be that guy, but I am. I don’t like that it’s me, but it is. I’ve always been that guy. I’ve always thought shit was lame. I tried fighting it for many years and saying things were cool, but it wasn’t me. But that’s good because I’m wrong a lot of the time. Sometimes, a month later, I realize an idea is cool, it’s just that I wasn’t thinking about it in the right way. 

And I love that energy and that enthusiasm for creativity. 

Twin Dream was written and recorded during the pandemic when you were laid off and found solace in the studio. From the Other Side of the Mirror isn’t like that, of course. How did your mindsets differ between albums?

We were forced into a different writing style because Scott lives in Cali and we live in Texas. We flew him out in week-long stints where we’d write, then we’d book studio time at the end of the month, which is a stressful way to do things, cause if we didn’t write anything during that week or we weren’t creative, we still had studio time booked. Luckily, we were able to figure it out. That’s how we did that. 

The pandemic writing process was so weird because Camacho and I lived together and had nothing to do. We tried to be as careful as we could but it was a whole different process because we had all the time in the world for it. But that’s a bad thing sometimes because we don’t have a million dollars to pay for studio time. We use that as a limitation for writing. But, for this one, we flew Scott down, wrote some songs, had some rough ideas on concepts, and all manifested halfway through, and, in that way, it was done in short bursts rather than a longer process. I think you can tell if you listen to both records. You can hear the writing process in both albums, which is something you don’t think about when you’re making the album. 

From the Other Side of the Mirror” releases April 26th via Pelagic Records.

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