By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Five young men. One band, three years old, with two acclaimed EPs released. This is where it starts.
At the end of 1999, Chris Simpson, Jeremy Gomez, Ben Houtman, Brian Hubbard, and Brian Malone entered a recording studio in Austin, Texas, to purge themselves, to whip through the catalogue of compositions that their band, The Gloria Record, had generated up to that point.
These songs were documented on A Lull in Traffic, the band's second EP, and the slate was wiped clean. The band had finally jelled after a few years of numerous lineup changes and an ongoing search for a musical voice. Simpson and Gomez had chemistry dating back to their days with emo-progenitors Mineral, but it was not until they completed Lull that all five members reached that part-family, part-paramours, sum-of-their-cumulative-talents stage. It was time to write The Gloria Record's first full-length album.
"I think it's common for new bands, young bands, to put out a bunch of singles and EPs. It takes a little while to establish your identity," Simpson says of the long delay between The Gloria Record's conception and its first album-length recording. "If every band's first 10 songs they wrote together were their first record, that'd probably be really bad. We're all very respectful of the craft that we do."
That respect led the Gloria Record boys to conceptualize intensively before their attempt at the long player which would establish the band's identity to a degree not possible with the short blasts of lush, pretty songs the EPs exhibited.
"Once we finally got, personality and chemistry-wise, the band we wanted in place, we decided that we had to start there, at that point, and write our first record," Simpson explains. "We couldn't use songs that had been laying around up until then. Our whole philosophy about how a band should work is very democratic, very much like the drummer is just as involved as the singer/guitar-player guy, so we just wanted to write and make a record together."
So, as they gathered in their Austin practice space, the young musicians began brainstorming, figuring out what The Gloria Record could do differently.
"Whether we intended it to or not, both of the EPs have kind of one mood or vibe to them throughout; it's just kind of a natural fact of the recording process that you write it all at home in this storm of inspiration and then go spend 10 hours a day for a week recording it -- dealing with one emotion or concept very quickly," says Simpson. "That was the one thing we were adamantly against. We wanted to make a record with a bunch of different vibes, where nothing was really out of the question."
The band members began delegating tasks. They wanted songs not simply driven by guitar, but ones that utilized the various talents within their ranks to the greatest degree possible.
"We knew what we didn't want to do," Simpson says. "In the past, we had written everything and recorded it and rerecorded it in our practice room, torn everything apart and put it back together again at home to where when we got to the studio, we knew down to every little tambourine what was gonna happen. So we talked about it a lot, how we wanted to make our first record.
"What we ended up coming up with was that everyone kind of had assignments. We brought up examples of some of the great songs that we all really like and are much more built around bass and drums, the guitars are much more incidental. So with Jeremy and Brian, our bassist and drummer, they would write a couple songs on their own on bass and drums and we'd start with that. And we have Ben, who's by far the most talented musician in the band -- he can play anything with keys on it -- so we decided we wanted some stuff based around straight-up piano. So we just kind of broke it down that way -- everyone would come in with two or three ideas, and [we'd] just start working from there."
The Gloria Record set about its work, each member bringing in fetal ideas -- no vocals, no concrete arrangements, some merely, as Simpson puts it, "these great songs that Ben had written on the piano that none of us had any idea how to play anything else with. That's the state it was in when we left to start recording."
During these developmental construction stages, the band was introduced to Nebraska producer Mike Mogis, known for his extensive work with Omaha's Saddle Creek stable of bands (Cursive, Bright Eyes, the Faint, etc.). The Gloria Record found a kindred soul in Mogis, and became convinced that his production (and his new studio, Presto!, in Lincoln) was exactly what the band needed for its introductory opus. Subsequently, The Gloria Record became associated with the phenomenal musical community in Nebraska, and was inspired by the diversity of styles and the no-holds-barred ingenuity embraced by that community.
The Gloria Record was without a label after the two EPs (the self-titled first EP on Crank! Records and the Lull EP on Better Looking Records). Financial support for the recording was nonexistent, but the band rallied on, with support from its Nebraska peers.