The Power of Potential

The Gloria Record grooves to the sound of fulfilled expectations

Potential. Chances are, you've heard that term applied to yourself at some point. It's an overused and double-edged word, implying lack of present-tense success and the possibility for future failure.

"Potential" is a word that was used, quite accurately and frequently, to describe what the band Mineral had. The group released but two full-length albums, The Power of Failing and EndSerenading, during its brief run from 1994 to 1997. Splitting up halfway through the recording of EndSerenading, two of Mineral's former members, singer/guitarist Chris Simpson and bassist Jeremy Gomez, seem ready to get past the loaded expectations of the "p" word with their new band, The Gloria Record.

It's not that Mineral's muse was ever stunted by the expectations foisted upon them. As Simpson notes, "It's kind of hard to talk about Mineral's sound without talking about the difference between the two records, 'cause the first record was very heavy and abrasive, and the second record was a lot duller and more subdued."

Mineral rights: The Gloria Record (singer Chris Simpson, foreground),  sittin' and thinkin'.
Mineral rights: The Gloria Record (singer Chris Simpson, foreground), sittin' and thinkin'.

The Power of Failing was a blast of cold water in the face of the mid-'90s indie-rock scene. Filled with effusive, dynamic instrumentalism and beautiful interweaving melodies matched with lyrics about searching, suffering and the aesthetics of beauty and its appreciation, it unintentionally offered post-hard-core scenesters a different definition for their new favorite genre label, emo.

EndSerenading furthered Mineral's legacy, but through a newly contemplative musical context. Much of Failing's bombast disappeared; the songs were slower, lusher and occasionally duller. Nonetheless, the two records and the handful of seven-inch singles the group released created a legacy that its members still have trouble escaping -- a fanatic following who hung on Mineral's every chord progression and Simpson's every utterance. The band was the anchor for the now phenomenally successful Crank! Record Company, which also released many of their stylistic contemporaries' efforts, and the imprint that The Gloria Record calls home.

Crank! owner Jeff Matlow explains that "the success of Mineral definitely broadened the reach of the Crank! name and further established an identity for the label that we had been building with our first few releases. The fact that I got four great, close friends out of the deal is all the more special to me."

Despite the fans' enthusiasm, Mineral broke up because its members wanted out of the band's shadow. "I feel I really had some sort of -- not that it was like any revelation or anything -- but I had some sort of a creative awakening around the end of Mineral. I know I was creatively involved in Mineral, but I just don't feel I was exercising any creative energy," Simpson explains. "It just seemed like the songs came out and that's how they were, and that sounded fine to me at the time. I didn't really question anything. I just started feeling the need to push things in different directions."

So, shortly after Mineral's split in the summer of 1997, Simpson began writing songs for his new project, originally conceived as Gloria (the name was changed after the members' continual references to "the Gloria record" they were readying struck a chord). He reconvened with Gomez, as well as another guitarist, Brian Hubbard, and drummer Matt Hammon (no longer with the band), and the foursome recorded The Gloria Record's debut, a self-titled, six-song EP. For a young man trying to escape the trappings of his former band, collaborating with the same bassist may not have seemed the most logical decision, but sometimes chemistry overrides such conventional assumptions. "For he and I, it was a very simultaneous thing when we quit the band. We had our own reasons, and some of them overlapped a little, but we were both ready to try something different," says Simpson.

Less rock-minded and more orchestrally minded, the EP set the course the band would take. Though differences between the two bands weren't obvious to some fans who wanted The Gloria Record to be Mineral Part II, the similarities end with the fact that Simpson sings for both bands. His ethereal, sensuous voice is the carbon base of both outfits; his syllables stretch like strings of saliva between lovers' mouths, held until every drop of emotion is wrung from them.

As Crank! honcho Matlow explains, "The Gloria Record definitely continues with the same philosophy. The only comparison I make between Mineral and The Gloria Record is that there are two members in common. The Gloria Record's sound, vision and goals are quite different from Mineral's -- neither better nor worse. They write great music, they love playing music, and they are determined to work towards increasing the exposure for the band -- a label's wet dream."

This week sees the release of The Gloria Record's second EP, A Lull in Traffic. Forged by a different lineup, the addition of drummer Brian Malone and pianist/organist Ben Houtman has thickened the band's sound and pushed the aural allusions to Mineral completely out of the picture. Though two years after the first EP, many, including the band itself, expected to follow it up with a long player, the group felt it necessary to document the songs written in the interim between the lineup uncertainties and the solidification of the current unit.

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