Interview: Glass Pony discuss their debut album, music video concepts, and seeing the 518 scene from crowd and stage

The Capital District scene has produced great bands for decades – Blotto, Ominous Seapods, Mister F, Formula 5, Wild Adriatic, Annie in the Water, Candy Ambulance, just to name a few. Add Glass Pony to the list of bands with immense promise and potential that call the greater Albany area home. The quartet have risen over the past year with a psychedelic jam sound that has brought in a large swath of fans to shows across the region.

They’ll have an album release show on November 2 at Parish Public House in Albany. Glass Pony recently premiered “Stardust” off the upcoming self-titled debut album, and spoke with NYS Music about the album, what it’s like seeing the local scene from both sides of the stage, and where they see themselves in a few years.

Pete Mason: The first track on Glass Pony, Grover’s Mill 1938,” find’s its roots in Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’, with a spooky, creeping build throughout the song. How did interest in an 80 year old radio program lead to writing a song about this infamous New Jersey town?

Greg Pittz: This is Eddie’s tune, and it was one of the first things we ever worked on.  I remember him showing me the demo on his phone while we were at Blue Sky one night.  It’s an interesting song, because at first we didn’t take the jam out too much beyond the chord structure, but now it’s one of my favorite vehicles.  It’s grown into a very strong show piece. 

Eddie Hotaling: Honestly, I had just finished watching a documentary about the broadcast. It’s such an interesting story. Imagine what it felt like for those people who actually thought that Martians were invading Earth. It was Halloween eve and war was on the horizon… put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine the panic that people felt when they turned on their radios and heard what sounded like an actual news broadcast reporting an alien invasion. That’s where the song comes from, it’s from the perspective of somebody who lived through those few hours of terror that night with an image of that New Jersey town under attack burning into their mind.

PM: What is the story behind the 10 minute odyssey of “Maximus”?

GP: This was the first thing I wrote for us, and in a way it sort of encapsulates everything about my musical tastes.  I grew up playing death metal, and this song has some very traditional metal “punches” that set up the fast, dancey verse grooves.  Those “punches” also come with some killer bass bombs and organ screams.  I love all of that.  You can hear a lot of organ slides like that in versions of “The Other One” from the 80’s – Brent was great about that.  The intro to the song comes from my love of post-rock – that music style is all about the build up.  You need some patience, but it can be so effective.  The dark, spacey middle section is an homage to my love of Pink Floyd, especially the song “Dogs.” Matt’s synth is killer here, and I’m really hoping listeners go to another place when they’re listening.  Eddie also did a great job on his lead work for this part. He had a clean slate – I just had the chords, and he came up with his parts on top.  This section gives way to a big, triumphant guitar melody that I absolutely love to play live; when it’s really working, it feels so good, especially with Jeff’s bombs underneath.  It might be my favorite thing for us to play live, and I like it too because the bar count is odd for this section – it’s a 7 bar phrase, which is kind of weird.  It gives a sense of tension and movement, and I love Chanda’s drum fills here, we’re all moving together as a unit.  I didn’t intentionally set out to write a song like this, a big thing with multiple sections, but it just came together that way.  I’m glad Matt (Richards, Formula 5, Annie in the Water) was able to play on this song too, because his keyboard work is exactly what I always envisioned it having when I wrote it.

EH: This was the first song Greg wrote for the band. The prog and post-rock elements help establish the variety that makes this band unique.

PM: “Bolly Golly” is easily your most catchy song and loved when performed live. Imagine this song as a music video. Where is it set and what is the tone of the video?

GP: So, this is a funny story.  I go to a post-rock festival called Dunk! Festival every year in Belgium. Two summers ago, I came home from the festival and when I picked up my guitar, literally the first thing I played were the chords that became the verse and main rhythm for this song.  I must have been primed for creativity, because it was literally, literally the first thing that came out, and it was so different than all of the music I had heard at the festival.  The rhythm is sort of based around the Bo Diddly beat, and post-rock never uses that.  Lyrically, the song is about Eddie’s trip to Ireland and his discovery that there are, for some reason, palm trees in Ireland.  I don’t know if it was the first time we jammed on it, but Eddie came up with the guitar and vocal melody while we were jamming.  The chorus lyrics were written while I was on a bike ride – a lot of stuff comes to me when I ride my bike for some reason.  I was about to pass over Delaware Ave on the Rail Trail here in Delmar, and I immediately took my phone out and punched in the words.  As a music video, is it too on-the-nose for it to be set in Ireland? 

Chanda Dewey: We start off at a beach party, drinking Corona’s with Kenny Chesney. We’re all hanging and Kenny introduces us to the Bolly Golly palm trees, they are cool little cartoon palm tree folk. Then the band ends up getting on a boat, but the boat is really a space ship and we’re kidnapped by the Grover’s Mills aliens. We are pretty concerned and try to escape but when we get to their home planet we find out that the Bolly Golly palm trees are there too so all is good. End scene would be us partying with the aliens and palm trees.

EH: The music video, directed by Twinkie (his directing debut), follows a tasty treat trying to escape his death after being chosen from a Japanese vending machine by a hungry postman. It’s set on a breezy summer day in Japan. It’s warm inside the vending machine but nobody is melting, and it’s a pretty relaxing afternoon. The postman stops for a break and picks a snack. Panic fills the chocolate treat as it falls to what is sure to be it’s last moments of life. Just as the jam starts about half way through the song, the treat slides out of the postman’s hand and begins an escape. It is almost caught several times but as the jam comes to an end the treat takes a crucial turn and secures his freedom for another day. It’s not easy being a tasty snack and the ups and downs of that life is something that is brilliantly portrayed in the Bolly Golly music video.

PM: “Hypnos” reminds me of Patti Smith, a little bit of Chris Robinson, and some spoken word mixed in. From what influences did this song originate, and how does the energy reflect on the band’s core sound?

GP: This is kind of our goth/krautrock song, and it’s become a big crowd favorite and maybe our most potent jam vehicle.  I love The Cure and Kraftwerk, and the dancey 80’s motorik drum beat thing with spacey guitars over top could fuel me forever.  I can’t get enough. (If you like “Hypnos,” you need to listen to “Red Flags and Long Nights” by She Wants Revenge, “Hallogallo” by Neu! and “Entrada” by Barrows.)  I think this song works well because even though it’s darker, it’s still dancey, and jambands don’t really play dark music these days.  I wrote the song to be about all the nonsense we get bombarded with today – empty distractions that don’t really fulfill us.  Kids who get everything given to them, people who troll Tinder looking for meaningful connection, people who always have to have the new, shiny thing, etc.  It’s kind of a snarky condemnation, and I must have been feeling salty at the time.  I think its energy is really reflective of what we do well though – dancey grooves with explosive jams.  When we do it right, the climax is one of the most potent things we have in our arsenal.  I always feel like I’m surfing a tornado when we get there, it’s all chaos and a whirlwind, and then we slam back into the theme and it’s just a great, great feeling.  When we’re done, I feel like I’ve held my breath through the whole thing.

EH: I remember Greg telling me he had a new song that had sort of a Talking Heads vibe. The song has a lot of energy and opens up for an upbeat jam. It’s also a song I get to scream in, which I think is another element that helps set us apart in the jam scene. The jam has a very high energy peak at the end and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play live.

PM: Arising from the Albany scene and playing in the greater 518, what are some things you have observed as musicians that you didn’t see as fans?

Jeff Picarazzi: As a musician in the 518 music scene I have learned that anything is possible if you have the right people to work with. Meeting, playing and making friends with all these traveling musicians/ promoters/ bar owners/ sound engineers helps make it all possible. I used to think it was rocket science to play with a jam band and still maintain that level of interest and consistency. But it’s not, its very accepting and open to basically any direction we want to go, which I knew all along as listener but not as a musician. We can go anywhere we want with this jam and to me that’s the beauty of it, we can rely on the things we know and groove and it doesn’t need anything else. If I can recognize and acknowledge that the groove is happening and it is now, the opportunities are endless.

GH: As far as playing Albany and local shows, the biggest thing for me is a feeling of “we belong.” When I was younger, I always saw the stages and venues as these lofty things that “professionals” had a right to be playing.  It didn’t seem like a thing that I could take part of – it was always outside of me.  Now, I realize they’re simply there for the taking if you’re willing to work hard and earn your spot. 

CD: I think most fans have a sense of the awesome music community we have here in the Albany. For me as a fan, I only had a small idea of the relationships beyond the community of fans and musicians. As a musician I have seen how much further it extends than I fully realized. Between all of the other bands, the bar owners and staff, promoters, other artists, just everyone else involved that you don’t initially think of, there is an incredible amount of collaboration and support that makes all of this work. We’ve met so many amazing people since we have started this and are very lucky for that.

EH: I’ve been part of the Albany scene for years not only as a fan but also professionally as a live sound and recording engineer. Even though I had been writing and recording my own music for years I saw myself more as a behind the scenes person. I think part of that was from the insecurities I felt from being surrounded by such great musicians all the time. Although I was confident in my writing I hadn’t done too much performing. The support and encouragement that this artistic community gives each other is incredible and that’s the biggest thing that has stuck out to me since we have started playing more. It makes me wonder why I waited so long; if you wait to start doing something until you’re perfect, you won’t ever start. This area has a lot of passionate artists doing some very creative things and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.  

PM: Where do you see yourselves at the start of 2021?

JP: At the start of 2021 I would like to have played a New Years Eve set or show to ring in the new year, and playing a lot more outside of the Capital Region and New York as a whole. I would like to have Colorado in our foresight and weekend/tours booked for the upcoming spring in states and territories we haven’t been. That being said, I am so happy to see how far we have come in this past year! It’s a lot to take in sometimes but at the rate we are going those aspirations of mine for 2021 seem more like a plan and less than a wish.

GP: At the start of 2021, we’re looking to begin moving outside of Albany and take our weird thing to the people elsewhere.  We also have a ton of new material beyond this album that we’re looking to get recorded also, but I’m not sure when that will happen.  Just keep moving forward to grow and grow!

CD: We’ve got a solid amount of material that came up around or after the time we recorded this album. Hopefully we can get some of those songs recorded and have another album ready by early 2021. Beyond that, we are hoping to start playing outside of Albany, we haven’t done too much of that yet.

EH: I’m very proud of how far we’ve come in the last year and I think the next year is going to be even better. By the end of this year we’ll have our first album out and hopefully by the end of 2020 we’ll release our second. We already have a batch of songs that are ready for the next release and we’re excited to get those recorded. In 2020 we’re also planning on getting outside of Albany and starting to establish some connections in other cities so hopefully by 2021 we’ll have made some friends and new fans in places across the Northeast and we’ll be working on growing those audiences and setting our sights even further out.