Feature: Glass Towers
By Alana Mazurke
Prior to the release of debut album Halcyon Days, Sydney four piece Glass Towers were becoming known for their knack of creating exceptionally well presented tracks, sounding matured beyond their youth and diverse from the ever present and often comparable sounds of indie pop. Now, only a short time after showcasing the album, the eleven track pop-accolade gem has received worthy approval from critics, which lead singer Benjamin Hannam responds to with a simple “well this just made my night!” He recently took out some time to divulge into the construction of the new album, growing up and all things music.
“Growing up in and around Byron Bay we were completely cut off from the rest of the Australian music scene, which was really good for us because we never got caught up in any one particular Australian city music scene. It decreased the possibility of ending up sounding the same as every band that you share a city venue residency with.”
Originating from the coastal town of Byron Bay the band – Ben on vocals, guitarist Sam Speck, bassist Cameron Holdstock and Daniel Muszynski on the drums; had both perks and drawbacks from growing up rurally. “There is a massive hardcore metal scene in Byron and in fact for the entire time from when we first formed the band at 15 to when we moved to Sydney at 19 we were the only band in the town doing our kind of sound…That turned out to be really beneficial because we would grab literally every major Triple J tour that came through town; at the age of 17 we were regularly supporting bands such as Cloud Control, Bluejuice, The Holidays, Deep Sea Arcade etc.” They had all met at an early age and through high school and Ben’s consistent creation of songs, united to make music. “In high school the band was a form of escapism for me, not in a cheesy way as I wasn’t escaping from anything particularly bad in my life but our high school was very sports and academic minded with only a small faculty dedicated to the arts. I wasn’t a water polo or rugby player and although I received good grades I never really properly applied myself, so being in a band gave me a purpose and my own identity.”
“Travelling up to Brisbane to play our first show’s in a city when we were 17 and still underage was a massive thing for us; a lot of those early shows are still some of the most fun gigs we’ve played. There’s something beautiful and refreshing about those first couple of years when your band is in its infancy.”
In 2009 the band was hand-picked to play main stage at the renowned Splendour In The Grass festival after having played only a handful of local live shows which, due to their age, were played to crowds of mostly parents and high school friends. On managing the perils of playing gigs at 16 Ben states “…The only shows open to us were all age band competitions and underage local shows that were totally depressing.” I was curious on the decision of playing such a massive festival after only having played a number of times; whether there was any worry in the detriment to the band if the show wasn’t done well due to lack of experience and if, now looking back, the band would have made the same decision. “At just 16 it was one of the first proper shows that we ever played as a band…I think playing Splendour In The Grass was at the time the best possible thing that could ever have happened to us, it got us nationwide attention and it showed everyone around us at the time that this wasn’t going to be just some high school muck around band.”
“The term “Halcyon Days” means a time of peace and tranquillity, often nostalgic, which for me was before I graduated from high school. Back when I had no responsibilities and life was uncomplicated, the entire album is basically one big dedication to that time in my life.”
Glass Towers released their first EP What We Were, When We Were in July of 2010 with revered producer Wayne Connolly known for his work with Silverchair, Powderfinger, Neil Finn, Hungry Kids of Hungary and Dappled Cities to name a few. “We recorded that EP at Studios 301 in Byron Bay, we stayed at the studio accommodation so a lot of our free time was spent partying and riding our bikes up to the Byron Bay lighthouse and back which was pretty idyllic… It was our first proper time spent in a studio and to spend that time with someone as acclaimed and accomplished as Wayne was incredible.” Soon after the band released their second EP Collarbone Jungle rather than opting to head straight into an LP. “We chose to release a second EP simply because we had extra tracks that we absolutely loved but for aesthetic reasons we knew we couldn’t fit them on the album.” The EP features one of my favourite Glass Towers tracks ‘Tonight’ which has now made its way onto the debut album. It reminds me of a cross between The D4, We Are Scientists and Two Door Cinema Club, incorporating chimey guitars with hard hitting drums along with ethereal harmonies and synths; a recipe which in my mind, makes for the perfect indie tune.
“Working with JP was a dream come true for myself, he understood everything that I had envisioned for our debut album and he was able to completely and seamlessly translate all of the musical ideas that I had in my mind.”
After four years in the making, the long awaited Halcyon Days was released, however, for the making of this record the band opted to work solely with the young and elusive Jean Paul Fung (Bluejuice, Silverchair) who’s well known for his role in the band Last Dinosaurs. “Dan randomly met JP (Jean Paul Fung) in a bar in Sydney when we were looking at potential mixers for the first EP and although we didn’t end up going with him for What We Were, When We Were I still really wanted to work with him as he was young like us and already such an exciting Producer/Engineer.” The band began recording in March 2012, but due to incessant touring and Ben’s self proclaimed OCD in the studio, the album wasn’t complete until February this year. “…There were no drastic changes made to any of the album tracks with the exception of Halcyon which had some structure changes, the rest of the songs on the album were recorded exactly the way that they were first written. We first started writing the record when we were in high school so you’d naturally assume the songs would have gone through different incantations over the years but that never happened.”
“After watching Morrissey in Sydney last year I’d love to tour with him but I eat meat and also I can imagine any form of on tour chatting or small talk attempted between us would just be really awkward.”
Luck or no luck, the band have scored themselves some significantly large and well deserved support slots including Cloud Control, The Vasco Era, Tame Impala, The Kooks and recently Atlas Genius; most of which Glass Towers have personal admiration for. Yet in regard to the weight of these bigger shows Ben shrugs off any idea of apprehension. “We never feel any kind of pressure when supporting big bands [though] the worst thing ever is being on tour for a month with another band that you just don’t really gel with and the awkward small talk at every leg of the tour. Anyone in a band who has ever been on tour will know what I mean…”
Glass Towers have only just returned from a headline tour across Japan and in the UK where the reception consisted of great turn outs at each show; much to the band’s relief. “I loved the UK so much! I never wanted to leave and what’s more depressing is that everyone in my band with the exception of myself can apply for a UK ancestry Visa, so I’m probably never going to be able to live there permanently.”
The type of distilled pop in which Glass Towers create opens up to much more than another sunny, guitar mod album. Rather, it hones in on the bands ability to incorporate listed influences subtly; such as Neil Diamond and Simon & Garfunkel with the reminiscent lyrics “cos in this city, in this town I die” from the opening track ‘In This City’ or Lou Reed with the punchy, yet melodic bass which can be found on track ‘Doom’. The lyrical architect Jack Kerouac is ever present throughout the album, however, notably so in the title track ‘Halcyon’ where Hannam encapsulates the modesty of adolescence – “It’s hard to find love when they’re talking like it’s not to be found, they think the hardest part is knowing when to stick around…I guess it’s when you finally learn that all you know is see through”. Yet, in all retrospect, the most refreshing undertone in this album is the ideals of youth and how applicable each song is to that time in anyone’s life. Notable stand outs off the album for me are ‘Lust For Life’ and closer ‘Foreign Time’ due to their explicit ability to stay in one’s head. In saying that, however, each song is as enjoyable as the next and I truly hope this band continues in the trend of making albums as good as Halcyon Days.
Buy Halcyon Days from iTunes here
Melbourne – Saturday 17th August – The Toff
Buy tickets here