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Glass Lungs Explore a Variety of Emotions, Sounds on Debut Album, 'Impermanence' (premiere + interview)

Jedd Beaudoin
Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions

Brooklyn sextet Glass Lungs upsets expectations with gorgeous soundscapes, soaring choruses and unexpected twists and turns on their debut, Impermanence.

Brooklyn's Glass Lungs issues its new release, Impermanence on June 29. With three guitars in its arsenal, the band traverses a range of moods and emotions as well as genres. One can find traces of Taking Back Sunday and post-rock outfits such as Maserati in these 10 compositions with flashes of traditional progressive rock and gorgeous ambient passages sneaking in along the way. The deeply emotional content of the lyrics carries the listener across a range of moods that ultimately leaves one not with a sense of exhaustion but instead a need to explore these moods and modes more fully.

Formed in the early hours of 2015, Glass Lungs released two singles early on before creating a video for "The Migrant Wind" the following year. The band continued to hone its sound, expanding from a quintet to a sextet and refining its sound to the fine point it has today.

Guitarist Alex Lehneis recently discussed the tracks that comprise Impermanence and more with PopMatters.

The band has three guitarists and each of the songs reveals many different layers, yet nothing ever seems overcrowded. How did you get that clarity and definition?

Well, originally it was two guitarists but the bass was playing a lot of technical parts with a lot of effects. Bill Ratel had been expressing that he'd rather be playing guitar rather than bass while we were talking about how we're kind of missing the low end drive and punch. A friend of mine since I was a kid, Jay St. Angelo, had recently lost his band so it was almost perfect timing. Bill started playing a lot of the rhythm guitar parts that we were missing since Nick Viscovich and I like to noodle. Suddenly, Jay was really driving the low end. Bill also plays some textures that he previously played on bass as well. Nick and I are like a match made in heaven when it comes to complimenting each other's parts, he's my favorite guitarist to play with. The way I write and the way he writes perfectly complement each other without having to learn what the other is playing. People refer to what we do as "dueling guitars." We have a lot of strange harmonized parts as well as call and response parts, it all works out really well.

These also seem like songs designed to be performed live. It's easy to imagine being in the front row at a concert and singing along with "From the Wayside". Did you write it with that in mind?

"From the Wayside" was very Taking Back Sunday influenced, believe it or not. I mentioned something to Chad Henson about vocal hooks and used that band as an example. I don't think instrumentally it was much of an influence but the vocals really drove that home. It's also the "poppiest" song on the album and that was unintentional, it all just came naturally. The end of the song really ties it into the rest of the album though.

At the same time you're not afraid to get a little strange at times, like in "Eyes of the Abyss (Chapter 1)". That you have songs with the subtitles "Chapter 1" and "Chapter 2" already implies a certain appreciation for progressive rock. Then, listening to the tracks, it seems like it would be a touchstone for you.

"Eyes of the Abyss" and "Firewalker" came from an early idea we had to make a concept album, as was "Monolith". Unfortunately, we ran into some speed bumps and lost interest in it. "Eyes of the Abyss" was meant to have a sound that resembles water, I felt like that really came through with all the vibrato and phaser effects, as well as Andy's washy hi-hat parts. "Firewalker" obviously was supposed to represent and aggressive fire like sound. We didn't want to drop these songs because we really liked them so they became a "Chapter 1" and "Chapter 2" idea. It worked out because they were next to each other on the concept album we were planning on doing.

After dropping that initial idea we changed a lot of parts and vocals in "Monolith" so we didn't find it necessary to make it part of the chapter songs.

As far as "prog" goes, we actually didn't think of our band that way until after people started hearing the record. We were compared to a lot of bands we didn't even take inspiration from but we heard how there were similarities. We're happy to be part of that community and we do listen to a lot of prog but that was never actually our intention but it's cool.

I really like the song "Empire" and the way it encapsulates all the band does in a short space of time.

It's actually pretty funny, "Empire" was the quickest we've ever written a song and a lot of it was written in my apartment while Andy was in California. It's the only song that wasn't written with the group at practice, we were running out of time because our studio dates were right around the corner and we needed another song for the record. Nick and I bounced a few ideas back and forth via texting guitar clips. I structured out the song and brought all the ideas to practice and we finished it off. The bridge at the end we actually wrote together and I feel like you can tell. That bridge is one of my favorite parts on the record and Andy came up with that pattern.

"Foreign Bodies" begins with those nasty, gritty tones and then just stomps our heads into the floor.

"Foreign Bodies" is actually a song from our demos that got a facelift. Funny story: We finished that song and left the studio, a few days later Ryan Clark from Dr. Scientist sent us his new Frazz Dazzler v2 fuzz pedal. We loved it so much we booked more time in the studio to lay down some parts with the fuzz, like the beginning of "Foreign Bodies" and "Casting Stones." That song came out way better than we expected and we're really happy about it.

Was "Impermanence" always slated to be the closer? It seems like such a perfect way to close out an album.

It actually wasn't, it was inspired by the intro structure of a Foxing song we really love, the rest kind of took off from there and ended up really sounding nothing like it. The song originally ended way earlier too but one night at our practice studio in Brooklyn we ended up just jamming out at the end of the song. We had so much fun with ending it like that we said, "We should just add this and make it the closer on the album." We were so stoked on it! Later Chad had named it "Impermanence" but we didn't decide on that as the title of the album until we were in the studio. We felt like that title really spoke to us in a way that it encapsulated all the elements of the songs on the album as well as the general theme of the lyrics and meanings behind them. It's my personal favorite song on the record because it so emotional, from the lyrics to the melodies, to the huge instrumentals.

You worked with Mike Watts and Frank Mitaritonna on this record. What did each bring to the project?

Mike Watts was super busy and was really just in and out and stoked on what we were getting done. Frank Mitaritonna was just vibing with us super hard and took over. We were just on a roll with Frank and he was so helpful throughout the whole process and had a bunch of great suggestions. I was very clear with him about the tones I wanted and the analog sounds I wanted and he was totally on board with me. He is also extremely creative when it comes to vocal harmonies and really helped Chad through that process. I love working with creative people and people who are willing to break the rules and try something new and he did just that. I really suggest to any band ready to record to work with Frank, he will get whatever was in your head into phenomenal recordings. Frank also has a great sense of humor, although I'm sure he got sick of hearing the same immature dad jokes after a few weeks of working with us.

You made a video for "From the Wayside". What can you tell us about the concept for that piece and its outcome?

That's the only song on the record that is directly a song about relationships, I believe. It's a song that at its core is saying, "There is someone out there for you". All Chad's lyrics are very much from the heart and extremely emotional, he doesn't just write to write or throw words together to make a song sound good. He will not change his lyrics if it doesn't make sense with what he's trying to get across and it's something I really respect. Chad has something to say, period.

We wanted to really capture the meaning of that. We worked with Andy's good friend Grayson, who is an actor, as well as my friend Lindsey Jennings (Suicide Girls). We told Grayson that he needs to look like an uptight business guy and Lindsey to just be herself. We wanted to show that you can't force a relationship with someone who is just not right for you. Lindsey is a very playful wild kind of girl, someone Grayson just couldn't handle, and she being someone he couldn't mold.

She knows this so she messes with him leaving pieces of clothing behind for him to find, showing he's willing to look for clues to relate to her and willing to chase her for it. At the end Lindsey finds Chad, someone that fits who she is and what she's looking for, that person could be right around the corner. She walks off into the distance with him and Grayson gives up. I feel like we got the message across the best we could've without words and I'm proud of everyone involved. Our director Tom Flynn did a killer job and kept it kind of ethereal with our band shots to still fit our musical vibe.

What do you hope listeners take away from this album?

We want people to feel some sort closure or relief to whatever they're going through or have gone through in their life. We want people to take each song and find their own meaning that helps them in some sort of way. This album touches a lot on the meaning of impermanence and death and overcoming obstacles. We want people to take something from the lows in their life and come out with something positive from the messages in each song. Life is a journey and we won't be here forever, try not to dwell on that and the imperfections in your life, focus on the positivity in it, or make the change that will bring positivity to it.

Impermanence may be ordered here.

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