Glass Mountain – Cowboy Song (Video Premiere)
Watch the video for the new track from Bradford four-piece Glass Mountain, as we catch up with vocalist Harry Hanson
Glass Mountain are proudly and wholeheartedly a Bradford band – the four-piece plaster their love for their city all over their bio and social media profiles, with a stated aim of celebrating the city's heritage and fostering a new artistic community to rival that of their neighbours in Leeds.
New track Cowboy Song is an atmospheric slice of indie rock, with an equally foreboding video that's all rugged coastline, foggy clifftops and faces peering through old cathode ray monitors. The single is out on 17 March, backed with a cover of Bill Murray's cover of Roxy Music's More Than This; watch the video for Cowboy Song in the player above.
Ahead of the release, we asked singer Harry Hanson about the new single, the band's inspirations, their recollections on 2016, and their plans for the year ahead.
The Skinny: How has life been for Glass Mountain since the release of your Glacial EP last year?
Harry Hanson: It's been very busy to say the least! We were taken aback by the response to our first single, Glacial; the song is 7 minutes long and, as such, it's not really built for radio... We spent the summer playing gigs and a couple of small festivals, most memorably Bingley Music Live, which is only a couple of miles from where we live, and on a clear day you can hear the music echoing through the valley. We played a great show that day and we were happily packing our gear down when one of the festival organisers came running over in a panic and asked us if All Saints could borrow one of our guitar capos. Of course we were more than happy to oblige. And that's the very last we saw of it!
We rounded off the year with a seven-date tour with Embrace who asked us to be main support on their UK tour. As well as sharing stages and dressing rooms, they were generous enough to invite us to travel with them on their big swanky tour bus which meant that, as well as being able to stay up late with them, chatting and drink copious amounts of gin and tonic, it made the tour affordable. Their audiences are great too, getting down early every night to watch us play.
Named after a David Hockney etching, who else would Glass Mountain cite as an inspiration?
Robert Smith of The Cure, and Codeine (90's Sub Pop slowcore outfit) for their devotion to a specific mood, tempo and King Kong-sized dynamic range on all three of their amazing records.
As I write this, I am on the volcanic island of Lanzarote; February is a great time to be here, especially to escape the winter in Bradford briefly. The weather is very changeable and right now, the sea is wild and the surf is most definitely up. It's humbling to be walking across black, jagged volcanic rocks while the turquoise sea spits at your face. Sometimes nature can be deeply inspiring. It's also good to be reminded that in the big giant framework of everything, we're all just specs of dust.
What is it about Glass Mountain that defines you as a band?
People have described our sound as cinematic, our lyrics as personal and sorrowful, and one writer described us as brave and fascinating, which is all very encouraging. It gives us more strength to push ourselves forward as a band. At the same time, we don't want to be too defined because that could put us into a pigeonhole, and bands that get pigeonholed often get hung up on trying to rehash old ideas, then they realise that they're just treading water and sadly they often break up.
I'd love us to be able to keep growing and trying out lots of different avenues rather than us declaring "That's it! That's our sound!".
Your music is quite emotionally hefty; there’s a lot of space to hang sorrow on ... do you think of yourselves as morose people?
At times we lean towards the morose, I guess. But as a band we're usually quite upbeat, especially when we're together. We take the music seriously but that doesn't mean that making the music is an agonising process. We do use music as a way to vent our darker thoughts and vulnerabilities. Everyone has their problems and hang ups. As a band, being able to get lost in the process of writing or playing is about as good as it gets in terms of keeping our spirits high.
I watched a documentary about Scott Walker recently. He's famously very serious and is a recluse these days, but it was clear to me that while he and his production team are making this immensely powerful, dark and heavy duty orchestrated music, there is still a huge sense of childlike playfulness about him. And that surprised me, to be honest. I imagined laughter on a Scott Walker session to be as appropriate as someone having a giggling fit at a funeral.
You make a point on your Facebook page that you are proud to be a Bradford band, and so you should be! What’s the music scene like in Bradford and do you feel it quite often gets overshadowed by Leeds?
The scene in Bradford is small and slow to grow. After decades of poverty and crippling lack of investment, all the venues closed and those in Bradford wanting live music only had to hop on a train to Leeds. But there are passionate people in Bradford who won't give up, who keep trying to revive the scene, and recently a couple of great new venues have appeared, including The Underground where we have played.
Are there any local bands or like-minded spirits that we should be aware of?
Tell us about the new single Cowboy Song – what’s it about?
Cowboy Song is about release and being youthful. Lyrically, the mood of the first EP was very much about over-thinking and worry, and that wasn't really a conscious decision at the time; I only realised after we'd finished the EP, but it's still a relatable feeling. When Cowboy Song needed lyrics, the way I felt about things had changed. Everything felt less heavy and more positive, and I wanted to convey that feeling in a track without getting cheesy or too sentimental.
Lyrics such as ‘Swing from a branch until it breaks’ are an example of what I mean by being youthful, about living life with a childlike sense of wonder and a more carefree and naive attitude, about taking risks – ‘Fail at everything, you'll learn’. We're only here for a short time, so it's best to throw yourself at things wholeheartedly, if you can.
And you’ve done a cover of Roxy Music’s More Than This for the B-side – what was the inspiration for this?
My favourite film is Lost in Translation. It's my favourite for many reasons: the pace, the soundtrack, the Tokyo setting. William [bass and keyboards] re-watched it not long ago and sent me a text asking if we should cover Bill Murray doing Roxy Music, and my face lit up instantly. There's something special in that particular scene, it’s where you start to see the two characters getting closer, and the way Bill Murray performs is amazing. So it’s more a cover of a cover! Hopefully we are going to make a video for it; I will sing to Lewis [guitar] in a makeshift karaoke bar!
It sounds a lot darker than the original – was this a conscious decision?
We knew that if we were going to cover it, it certainly wouldn’t be at the original Roxy tempo. More than 100 beats per minute is unheard of in Glass Mountain! We were rehearsing the live set for a forthcoming gig and after running through the set once, we decided to give More Than This a run through. Out of habit or comfort, we left a lot of space, with delicate vocals, a very slow pace and very reverb-drenched, atmospheric guitars. We didn’t really change much from that first rehearsal and we recorded it very quickly.
What other plans do you have for 2017? Is there an album on the horizon?
We plan to do as much writing as possible, and hopefully we'll get to play many shows and some more festivals. We're busy working on EP2 and that's coming along very well. We've raised the bar and so far the new songs are sounding very exciting to us. We're playing a homeless benefit concert in Leeds in March and it's an honour to be asked. Quite frankly, the fact that people are living rough in 2017 is a social and political disgrace, so if we can raise some money and some awareness, then that can only be good.
Regarding an album, for now we'd much prefer to release 5-track EPs. It allows us to work quickly and not get bogged down in that whole pressure of the ‘debut album’ thing. We don't want to be pigeonholed just yet, and I think EPs are a great way for us to grow up in public.
Glass Mountain's new single Cowboy Song is out on 17 Mar. The band play Fulford Arms, York on 3 Mar; The Library, Leeds on 11 Mar; The Refectory, Leeds University on 16 Mar; Rough Trade, Nottingham on 17 Mar; ScaryCanary, Stourbridge on 18 Mar; The Ferret, Preston on 25 Mar.