Before you get into the interview, take a minute to grab this brand new track from Glass Fingers, “Out Side,” available here for the first time ever. Word is it is unlike anything on the new album. Enjoy the track, and catch Glass Fingers live at Arootsakoostik this Saturday, July 7, in New Sweden!
Interview by Kevin Steeves.
What’s the next step to take after releasing an album that’s met with universal critical acclaim? For Jesse Gertz — aka Glass Fingers — the answer was to just walk away from it all. Following the release of “this” last year, Gertz took the time immediately following to leave music all together for over half-a-year. Now after taking a break from recording and touring altogether, Gertz is back in full force releasing the Infinity EP in April, playing the SIX Minifestival, and today is in the middle of recording the follow-up to “this”.
HillyTown caught up with Gertz last week to talk about what he’s been up to since the success of “this”, his relationship with pop music, and the positive side of being a 19-year-old musician in Portland.
HillyTown: After the release of “this” last year, which was your big breakthrough album, you made a choice to stop working on music all together. Now after a few months you’ve come back in full force. What made you decide to come back now?
Jesse Gertz: I was working full-steam and had all kinds of new ideas. But because of personal events in my life, I didn’t want to do music for awhile, so I just took the time to get more involved in other hobbies that I like. But then I played at the 48 Hour Music Festival which got me more into playing music again. And I played the SIX festival recently, which really pushed me back into Glass Fingers more.
HT: That must have been a strange time for you because you had been releasing material for awhile before Glass Fingers. With such an extensive discography how do you decide what is, or isn’t, a Glass Fingers’ song?
JG: Glass Fingers is usually almost exclusively just me. I sit in front of a computer by myself. A lot of the songs I don’t keep, but just post on the internet for free. Pretty much everything I make on a computer by myself, I consider Glass Fingers.
HT: So you just like sit down at a computer and just go? What is the exact process that goes into making music for the project?
JG: For this new album that I’m working on, I started out with a really specific set of ideas; a lot of really specific song ideas. What always happens is that the song ideas break down more and more as I write, because I am writing and recording at the same time. Usually I’ll just sit down, think of a cool bass line — maybe it’s a synth-part, and I build off of it — and eventually the song is finished. This time though I did more writing before sitting down and recording, so maybe the music quality itself will increase; I’m trying to just write bigger and better music this time.
HT: And what is your goal for the new album that you’re working on now? You’ve said that “this” was you trying to be taken seriously in the Portland music scene — and it worked. More people heard “this” than any other album beforehand. So in a way it’s sort of a second album for most people.
JG: I guess I haven’t considered it to be the second album that people hear from me, only because I’ve been making albums since I was in middle school. But that’s an interesting thing to think about. My goal for this album is that I wanted to make it bigger. A lot of the time I spent away from music I spent trying to decide what I wanted to do, kind of an overall idea of my life sort of thing. And I’d like to plan more shows — and play bigger shows. Maybe tour around a little and hopefully, just get bigger and better.
HT: It’s interesting that you mentioned bigger and better because your recent Supermoon Show was a completely intimate occurrence. What sort of things go into developing and executing such a creative show like that?
JG: I did a Supermoon show last year, it was a quarter of the size maybe — it was just a group of my really good friends and we had a lot of fun. But I was actually planning on doing a lot of shows outdoors and out-and-around, but really only did that one. And it was kind of just for fun and to practice for the SIX show. I really like playing in that spot, underneath the bridge.
HT: You said that that one was really the only one that came to fruition. Is that sort of outside atmosphere something that you’d like to do more of in the immediate future, or are you just concentrating on making the new album?
JG: I always wanted to play in really weird places because I have generally more fun doing that than playing at a bar or any other local venue. I really like the SPACE Gallery but other than that I think I’d rather play outside, or just any weird spots that you’re not supposed to play music in. More than anything else, I think it’s interesting — it must be interesting for people to see a table of electronics and the porn table — and just some kid with all of this stuff playing music.
HT: Is pop music where your mind is right now? Because “this” was fairly pop-based compared to your previous work. Do you ever see yourself being conflicted to go one way or another?
JG: I didn’t actually mean for “this” to be as poppy as it was, I had a lot of different ideas that I didn’t end up going through with. I think this new album is based more on bigger emotions, like there aren’t as many lovey songs; pretty much all of the songs on the last album have me singing about lovey stuff more or less. That isn’t to belittle those songs, because I made them and I love them. But I think the new music is much deeper and based on more real life situations. A lot of stuff that caused me to stop doing Glass Fingers stuff for awhile, and maybe a few of the songs are a little more depressing, the lyrics are a little more abstract.
HT: You mentioned that you didn’t want to belittle the music because it was pop, or because it was lovey-dovey. Do you think pop is a bad thing right now?
JG: I tend to go with whatever I make, is what I make. But I think it’s definitely cool when someone has a sound that they want and they go ahead and make it, and it turns out to be a pop song. I don’t have anything against pop music really — I don’t have anything against most music if people are really trying hard at it.
HT: You say that you saw “this” as sort of a lovey-dovey album. Was that because it’s an idea, a concept that is accessible to people, or was it more based on actual experiences, lyrically considered?
JG: “This” I didn’t really consider as a whole album. Each song I made was constructed individually, I wasn’t really thinking that this song would go well with this other song and so on until I was all finished, and I just picked the order. But it was more or less what I was experiencing, so each of the songs reflects where I was at the time. I think it’s a pretty good representation of how I was feeling at the time and not as much me thinking that people would like pop more than goofy beeps and boops
HT: And then there was that weird point when the song “Runaway” was picked-up by random teenage girls for YouTube videos. Do you know how that came about?
JG: I send all of my releases to music blogs and stuff. And I hadn’t really have a lot of success with that except for one called Musigh, which is kind of a chillaxing music blog. I sent them “this”, saying that I’d be really excited if they put one of my songs on it. And from that, this teenage girl whose screen name is something like wannabealoserr — who has an incredible amount of followers for really not doing that much aside from videos with quick cuts and a nice camera. But she made like a 25-second clip of like her doing stuff with my song in the background. I don’t really remember how many hits that video got, but it was way too many and there were a bunch of knock-offs from that. A lot of teenage girls liked the song, which was cool I guess.
HT: What do you think about it was about “this” that really caught hold of audiences?
JG: I can’t really say, because the reviews it got really exceeded anything I thought it could have gotten. But maybe I’ve just really got that thing where I am really hard on myself. I really can’t say, I think I’m glad people like it. I’m not really able to put my finger on what people liked other than maybe people like kind of minimalist music, that is people like taking a lot of complicated elements out of music.
HT: Sort of something that every piece of press likes to concentrate on is your age, people like to latch onto it. Do you think that’s even like a big deal when you’re making music?
JG: I do like take advantage of the fact that I’m 19 according to a lot of articles, to some extent. At the SIX festival, three or four people asked how old I was and when I told them all of them said, ‘Woah, I thought so. You’re so impressive.’ For whatever reason someone that is 19, as opposed to 20, and plays music is just a little more impressive. So I guess I do like to take advantage of that. I think maybe I won’t publicly advertise my birthday so it’s likely people won’t be finding out.
HT: Aside from the album, what else it coming up in the future from you? Are we going to see more Glass Fingers shows, or are you basically going to be holed of in your house making music?
JG: I really enjoy performing live and it lets me show people a different side of the Glass Fingers thing, I get to show people stuff they might not know. I really want to do more shows and have been talking with some people about playing in different states a little bit. I’ve been working on getting more equipment to improve my live set and I have been planning a music video, I’m not really sure what song it will be for — but it’s definitely happening.