The last time I saw Glass Vaults, they were performing four or five songs at the City Gallery Wellington after a screening of Gregory Crewdson’s documentary on growing up in New York. This was a particularly fitting setting, Richard Larsen, founder of the band with Rowan Pierce, is eager to tell me that Glass Vaults is “… always very interested in architecture.” The architecture, artwork and music can enter into a special dialogue just for one night.
“Sound is a very spatial thing,” he notes, and hence the need to experiment with different venues and layouts. Indeed textures cascade from each track of the band’s new EP ‘Bright’, unravelling like a new carpet into all the corners of the room.
“Stoner gospel” is the label Larsen aptly designates for the band’s particular genre, and of course there is something oxymoronic about pairing drug use or, more broadly vices, with the high culture of spirituality. Alight is a track that best defines this aesthetic, with soaring hymnal vocals that seem to salute an epiphany, drug-induced or otherwise. The gospel aspect has been a motif of the band ever since its early days. Larsen and Pierce studied performance design together at Massey University.
Pierce’s Scottish heritage and memories of bagpipe bands creating a dense sound in community halls directed his fourth year research project in experiments with sound. The pair soon began writing songs together under the name Vaults, inspired by the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals. However, in a bid to avoid association with the criminal/dangerous connotations of a bank vault, Vaults became Glass Vaults, a solid piece of architecture that is open to the heavens above.
Songwriting in the band is organic and experimental, fed by “… basically whoever is in the room at the time.” Synths that fill the recording spaces encourage random dabbling in a bid to discover more perfect layers to the atmospheric sound. Therefore, even though ‘Bright’ is made up of songs that are now quite old, Larsen sees the EP as “… a bridge from old ideas, heading towards some new ideas.”
Prompted to elaborate he says that the band is aiming for more fluid and light ideas.
“More yellows and oranges, while the old ideas were more blues and greens.”
Make of this what you will but, on an artistic level, the warmer colours of yellows and oranges reduce a sense of distance.
It is therefore pretty exciting to learn that Glass Vaults are currently recording an album, ‘Sojourn’, anticipated for release early next year. Considering that Larsen holds great admiration for Arcade Fire’s latest stellar creation, ‘Reflektor’, with its unapologetic experimentation and maturity, the band’s next release, with the help of producer Bevan Smith, could prove the ultimate in stoner gospel.