When musicians join forces, there’s a word for that. The most common term is “band,” but others include “collective,” “group” or the superlative “supergroup,” if the band includes busy free agents like Eric Clapton or Josh Homme. Some acts work the word that describes their conjoined efforts right into their names; see Bloc Party or A Flock of Seagulls.
Technically, many of these descriptors fit Houston’s own Glass the Sky, but their devotion to band democracy really requires a word all its own. From the songwriting process right down to choosing its intriguing name, the band has done it all together. The most current example of its cohesion is LP1, Glass the Sky's new album and its first-ever full-length release. The record is being unveiled Saturday, when the band and some friends — the Wheel Workers (Rodgers' other band), A Sundae Drive and College Station's Ex-Optimists — will celebrate with a release show at White Oak Music Hall.
We wanted to know more about LP1, but first had to ask about Glass the Sky's captivating name. Erin Rodgers, who plays keys and clarinet and sings for the band, gave us a brief history.
“The band went through a few different forms and names as it was finding itself, but it truly solidified in 2011 when Nick Kirkham, our former guitar player, and I joined," she says. "We've evolved since then — Nick left to join the Navy and was replaced by Jonathan [Chan], who has an entirely different style.”
Chan and Rodgers' bandmates include Eric Lungstrum on lead vocals and guitar, bassist/vocalist Michael Mazzella and Joseph Tracy on drums. Rodgers says Tracy is presently in Europe, so Isaac Chavez-Garza, formerly of New York City Queens and currently with Camera Cult and Sand Dunes, is playing this weekend’s show.
“The band name took a long time to develop,” says Rodgers, who is an entertainment lawyer by day. “Having a lawyer in the band is a blessing and a curse, I suppose; every time we came up with a name we liked, I'd run a trademark search on it and find out that someone already had it. We had a vodka-fueled sleepover at Michael's house one night to try to come up with a name, and although that night would definitely have to be included in our Behind the Music feature, we still didn't have a name.
"Finally, we were desperate, on the verge of booking a show," she continues. "We decided we didn't want to be anything that started with 'The,' and the name we really wanted was Glass Houses, but that was taken. So someone suggested putting the 'the' in the middle of some of the words we'd been considering, and that worked.”
That was more than five years ago; since then, Glass the Sky has developed a fan base by way of its virtuoso musicianship and live shows. Some of the songs audiences have grown to love from those shows, like "Touch" and "Elephant," will finally have a proper home on LP1.
“This album has been a long time coming," says Rodgers. "Part of the delay was because we write democratically — our songwriting process is to just get in a room together and play, record the session, then to go back and mold the best pieces into complete compositions. Everyone writes their own parts. So, when Nick moved and Jonathan joined, we wanted Jonathan to be able to put his own personality into the guitar parts. We ended up going back to the studio to re-record the guitars. Some parts are still Nick's original compositions because they were crucial to the structure of the song, but Jonathan definitely brings his own style."
Of the ten tracks on the album, Rodgers says "Elephant" and "Zero Sum" were the last to be completed — but are also the oldest. She calls "Elephant" her personal favorite.
"[It] was originally written before I even joined the band, but it was tabled," Rodgers says. "A year or two ago, we revisited that one and polished it up. It gives me goosebumps to play it live, no matter how many times I've heard or played it. I think it's the best presentation of Eric's vocal power. ‘Zero Sum’ is another one that was written a long time ago, but after ignoring it for over a year, it was completely reworked and is probably unrecognizable to anyone who heard the original version.”
How did the band celebrate such a momentous occasion after years of writing, rewriting and recording? We pictured something wildly extravagant, maybe even a little decadent. Maybe trashing a hotel room together or a Dom Perignon White Gold champagne toast?
“Most of the celebrating is going to come after [Saturday’s] show," Rodgers says. "Getting this album finalized and released has been a Sisyphean task for so many reasons, mostly outside of our control. I don't want to breathe out until April 2.
“For now we are just focusing on promoting this album," she continues. "I will admit we are slightly behind on planning because unfortunately I broke my foot in January, right after our Super Bowl LIVE gig. In fact, I'm still supposed to be using crutches at this show...don't tell my doctor."
The album will be available through the customary streaming sites, as well as Glass the Sky’s Bandcamp page. They’ll have vinyl copies for sale and a limited run of CDs. Rodgers said the group is actively exploring sync licensing opportunities, as it feels its music is well-suited for film and television.
She hopes listeners will find something they love in LP1. As someone so involved in the creative and business aspects of art, she knows her role in the process.
“I came to terms long ago with the fact that once you put your art out into the world, it's no longer entirely yours. Of course I want people to like the music, but I'm not going to tell them how to feel about it. We're excited because it sounds great and we did our best.
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“This album is different from our EP in that we have progressed, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a departure,” she said. “We were still finding our voice when we released the EP, and we essentially just released the first six complete songs we had. This one is more cohesive and intentional.”
“Cohesive” – there’s that word again. That formation of a united whole is what this band excels at. It boasts skilled individual performers who give their all for the good of the group. Maybe Slowhand himself isn't in the band, but on this level you could easily define Glass the Sky as a supergroup.
“Everyone's personality and style is apparent in each song, yet it's still a cohesive project. For me, that's always been the magic of playing with this group of people,” Rodgers says. “I don't want to speak for everyone, but the music we create together is better than anything I would have created entirely on my own. We have a collective voice, and that's so hard to find.”
Glass the Sky celebrates its album release with special guests A Sundae Drive — also celebrating an LP release — The Wheel Workers and Ex-Optimists Saturday, April 1 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main. Doors open at 8 p.m., all ages.