Interview with vocalist Daryl Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck | By Zackary Miller
The internet gave us everything and nothing at all. Access, but not ownership. Knowledge, but not truth. Action, but not power. Filtered through this instant gratification, the music industry now asks the basic question: “If you could listen to anything, what would it be?” But algorithms can’t give you what isn’t there, and for the 15 years since their last full-length album, Worship and Tribute, Long Island’s own Glassjaw have been anywhere but here.
Since their inception, the post-hardcore godfathers have been trying to write their own grassroots story outside of the machine. With the release of their new album, Material Control, on Dec. 1 via Globochem Music, Inc., and Century Media, the band may have finally completed the goal they set for themselves years ago: to sound like the grimiest fucking band of 1993.
“The goal was to finally do it right,” says Justin Beck, cofounder and guitarist of Glassjaw. “Our last records, they had all their little angles to them, but we never really captured what we sought to do when we first started. We didn’t have the capacity to do it.”
Despite “not having the capacity,” Glassjaw created enduring touchstones of post-hardcore with 2000’s Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence and 2002’s Worship and Tribute that still lord over the many bands who have tried and failed to replicate the same balance of emotiveness and head-bashing. To Beck and cofounder and vocalist Daryl Palumbo, this was less a result of the musicians and more the fault of the commercial cycle looking for more talent to eat.
“[When we started], we were signing with horrible labels and assholes trying to tell us how loud different things were supposed to be on a fucking record, and they’ve never played an instrument in their life,” Palumbo says. “To make a record every 15 months, to stay on the road, that shit is hyper-detrimental to having fun. [Young bands] get into situations where they don’t have the upper hand and can’t say no.”
Glassjaw, unlike some of their contemporaries, frequently opted to say no—whether to Roadrunner Records at the beginning of their career or even to fans during the wait for Material Control. Their trajectory has been one of their own making.
“We tried less,” Palumbo says. “I feel that if you keep beating a dead horse for 20 years, it’s gonna fuck with your business. It’s music. It has to be fun, it needs to be in harmony with whoever your partner is. Don’t push it and take it to a place where you’re mortified by the decisions you’re making. I don’t think people would want to hear a record if we were doing it nonstop.”
Material Control is purposeful chaos, certain to upset the modern nu-metal and emo-minded fans who may be looking for something more like the bands Glassjaw inspired. Band favorite tracks like “shira” and “pompeii” reintroduce the crushing, dirty guitar sounds the band are known for, with shallower production and melodic tics more reminiscent of a live show than a studio album. The vocals are more reserved, allowing the heavy bass to form the true connective DNA of the album, which makes for an insane listen with a high-quality sound system or headphones.
“[We try to embody] the irritants present in the people who live in New York. It’s not just acting like it’s a brutal record,” Palumbo explains. “There’re a lot of bands over the years who referenced Glassjaw or referenced hardcore, and it’s supposed to be this really heavy and tangible thing. Then, you hear it, and it’s just a major label fucking record. We were very cognizant of maintaining that visceral, irritated intent.”
Though it took 15 years for Material Control to materialize—with the occasional EP and many side projects occupying the interim—Palumbo and Beck are adamant that they felt no pressure to release something just because of the time gap. They were more concerned about letting it happen naturally and making sure it remained fun. “When the timing is right, shit just normally comes together when the opportunity presents itself,” Beck says. “I would say that we are pretty effective in the collective hours that we put together a record, [and it] is actually a lot shorter than people think. It’s not like we’ve been writing this same record for 15 years.”
Glassjaw recently completed a month-long tour with The Used, then returned to Brooklyn for a record release show at Saint Vitus. Across the bridge into Lower Manhattan at Five Points Tattoo, the band paid for Glassjaw-inspired tattoos for the fans who came to purchase the album: another marker of their cult status, and yet another way to keep the band fresh in the minds of those who may wonder what will come next.
“Imagine you’ve got [an] aunt, and she makes the best apple pie,” Beck explains. “Every few holidays, she pulls it out, and […] everyone goes apeshit, because everyone at that table knows your aunt makes the best apple pie. It’s the shit. But all of sudden, she’s going into business, renting out a space, selling apple pie, convincing people to eat her apple pie, and now, everything changes. Now, you’ve got to chase your overhead, and […] your aunt’s pie is gonna start to suffer. For us, we’re occasionally baking a pie when it’s ready.”
Top photo by Jacki Vitetta