Many bands have used the past year to hunker down and work on new music, and Connecticut metal vets Glass Divide were no exception. With their EP Worldburner coming out on April 20th, guitarist PJ Morell and vocalist Mike Mones sat down virtually with Alternative Control to talk about this release and how they’ve held up during the pandemic. Enjoy!
I know Glass Divide has been in the Connecticut scene for a long time, but can you catch up our readers on the history of the band?
PJ Morell: It’s strange, but it feels like we haven’t been around that long despite it being over 7 years now. We formed in early 2014 by myself (guitar), Matt Lugo (guitar), Evan Valente (drums), and Mike DeMasi (bass). Our first year was spent jamming out the songs that would become our first EP, we hadn’t even settled on a band name yet, and still had no vocalist. The only audience we had was the guy who squatted in the mechanic’s shop next to our rehearsal space. We could hear him yelling “It’s the same damn song!” as we practiced late into the night. We don’t think he was a big fan.
Victoria Boecklin joined on vocals in 2015, and she was instrumental in getting us out there and playing shows. She certainly had a gift for booking and promoting, on top of her monster voice. A lot of her lyrics are in our first EP, even though her voice isn’t. When she left midway through 2016 our buddy Mike Mones jumped in. He was a longtime friend of the band, and our original choice for vocalist back when we formed, so we were incredibly happy to give him a second chance. Two months later he was already hitting the stage with us, and by the end of 2016 we were tracking our first EP Broken from the Start.
We’ve been playing around the CT scene pretty much non-stop since 2015, with occasional journeys to our neighboring states. 2017 saw the release of the first EP. And two years later in 2019 we released our second EP The Sacred and the Scarred. There may be only three people who’ve noticed, but we actually released a remixed/remastered version of it last year. It sounds much better, and the remix of that EP is what convinced us to work with Rico Ruotolo at his studio on the Worldburner EP. He’s played a big part in shaping our sound over the last year, and we’re looking forward to working with him again.
Was Worldburner in the works before the pandemic, or is it a “quarantine EP”? Can you tell me about the writing and recording process?
Mike M: One of the songs, “Stopwatch,” was mostly ironed out before last March, but the other songs were written through the pandemic. In spite of everyone’s fears, we chose to hunker down and continue playing and writing with one another throughout COVID. I’m glad we stuck in there, it proved to be a super helpful outlet for our frustrations and we wrote some killer songs because of it.
PJ Morell: This is definitely a hybrid of stuff already in the works and a “quarantine EP.” With no shows going on, we needed to put something out there, to give us hope and purpose. We stopped practicing our sets and focused solely on all the new ideas we’ve had kicking around. I would say between April and July it became a sort-of race to see which songs would be ready for recording.
Like Mike said, “Stopwatch” was already a mostly finished song before March 2020. We actually had been writing that one on and off for the past couple of years, it just needed some tightening. That song has been in the works for so long some of us actually have had a love/hate relationship with it. Now we absolutely love it, but that certainly wasn’t always the case.
We always have several songs in the works at any given time, but our original plan was to only record and release “Spiked Casket” as a single, despite “Stopwatch” being the more obvious choice. “Spiked” immediately became a staple of our weekly practices because of how fun it is to play. It’s got a bit of a throwback thrash vibe. It even has a little reference to one of the most well known metal venues in CT (hint: the bells halfway through the song). That sense of fun was much needed during the first few months of not knowing wtf was going on. Putting the finishing touches on that one didn’t take long. We ended up recording that back in August.
Midway through tracking “Spiked” it became pretty clear we wanted to do more. And that’s when we decided to make this an EP release. We had “Stopwatch” ready to go, and “Worldburner” had quickly come together seemingly out of nowhere beating out other ideas that existed long before. If any song is the “quarantine song” it’s that one.
This is our shortest release so far, but working with Rico Ruotolo at his studio allowed us to spend more time on each song than we have in the past. He’s a friend of the band, and also a talented engineer, guitarist, and veteran of the metalcore scene. For the first time ever we didn’t feel too much of the financial pressure to rush through the recording process. He’s also a great coach and got us to do more pre-production than we’ve ever done before. I’m almost ashamed to admit how little pre-production we did on our previous recordings. In the past we were perhaps a little too confident about how tight we are as a band, often figuring out the click tracks in-studio, or not breaking things down into more manageable chunks. That’s one of our biggest takeaways from this recording experience.
Who would you count as your greatest musical influences?
Mike M: I would say as members with extremely varied musical tastes, we pull inspiration from all over. As a vocalist, I probably have drawn the most from Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Mike Patton.
PJ Morell: Yeah, we all have a wide variety of tastes so it’s hard to say which are the greatest influences. I’ll say this, at shows people have told us on numerous occasions that we sound a bit like Lamb of God and Tool. Those are certainly two big influences on the band, among many others
Aside from this recording, how have you guys spent this past unusual year?
PJ Morell: I personally spent 6 months of last year unemployed, not knowing what my financial future was gonna be. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my guitar chops, learning new things as well as editing videos. I’m also a rock climber, once the gym reopened back in June I was so relieved, but also any chance I could hit the outdoor rocks with my buddies I would. I helped my girlfriend build up her Etsy store and I practiced yoga with her as she got certified to be a yoga instructor.
MikeD (bassist) and I are pretty big gamers so we’ve spent a lot more time talking and playing games than we already did before. Aside from new games, I’ve also revisited entire series like replaying the entirety of the Doom series after finishing Doom Eternal back in March 2020. Everyone in the band has had to find little projects around the house to keep themselves occupied. Evan (drummer) got a lot of help from Matt (guitarist) in getting tools and materials to fix up parts of his house.
Mike M: For me, finding projects to keep myself busy, spending a lot of time with the lady, and making time to get out of the house and spend some quality with friends. This has been a particularly anxious year, and having a means to express myself with friends or through various creative outlets are truly the things that have helped me stay (somewhat) sane through this.
How has Glass Divide kept in touch with its fans while live shows have been limited?
PJ Morell: Haha, how many followers does a band need to have before it can be called a fanbase? We have a few handfuls I think. We’ve actually seen our followers grow on Instagram over the past year because we post frequently about the recording process as well as just our weekly buffoonery during practice. Post-March 2020 we did manage to play a couple shows thanks to our relationship with The Cellar on Treadwell.
In June we did a livestream show which they co-hosted, but in November we did play an actual live show there (shout out to Ryan Early for putting us on that bill!). It was limited capacity, of course, and Mike M was set up just outside the door by the stage with his own monitor and wireless mic because no vocals were allowed indoors. It was one of the strangest setups for a show, but it worked. The crowd was great. There was a genuine sense of excitement in the air. People miss shows, man.
What do you think needs to happen for our local music scene to recoup itself post-pandemic?
Mike M: Local bars and venues have truly struggled through this pandemic. Hats off to the ones that have made it thus far. We’ve seen a few good ones close this year or nearly bite the dust. And without these places, we simply won’t have a live platform to get our music out. So in order to recoup the scene, we need to do whatever we can to support them. Build great bills and vigorously promote your shows!
PJ Morell: The basics of it are what Mike said. But I would add that bands and promoters should look for new venues to play. Once everything is fully open, bars and venues which never held shows before (much less metal shows) might be looking to add live music to the mix. Everyone is gonna be looking for stage time, we can help create new stages. I would also say don’t hesitate to give spots to lesser known bands. The newer or unknown groups can inject a lot of life into the scene, but they’re the ones who are going to struggle to get onto bills the most having lost a year of opportunities.
“Spiked Casket” is now available on all streaming platforms. Purchase the single on bandcamp: https://glassdivide.bandcamp.com/