Interview with guitarist Chuck Cieslik and vocalist Sarah Paul | By Tim Anderl | Photo by Jacki Vitetta
With an emphasis on droning atmospheres, harmony, and post-punk propulsion, Glass Traps delivered their debut, self-titled LP on Feb. 23. The record is lush with sonic grit and aptly grounded in a Rust Belt city with a musically rich history, Cleveland, Ohio. Twin guitars dogfight amidst an abundance of modulators, combined with the haunting voice of Sarah Paul, who is seemingly inhabited with bits of Siouxsie Sioux and Ian Curtis’ conflicted spirits. Not to be undersold is a tightly locked-in rhythm section.
“Two of the songs, ‘Eiffel’ and ‘Lines,’ were written years ago and have actually been rehearsed with several different lineups before they got to Glass Traps,” guitarist Chuck Cieslik says. “I kept coming back to the two guitars and bassline all playing different parts that created these cool harmonies. It was way different than anything I’d tried to play before, and I was determined to keep going with them until I found the right lineup. They never felt complete until our bass player Sebastian [Wagner] connected me with [guitarist] Matt Hallaran, who in turn connected all of us with Sarah Paul. She just did a quick vocal demo over an old recording of ‘Eiffel,’ and we knew right after hearing it that, all of a sudden, we had a band.”
Glass Traps recorded with Paul Maccarrone, whom members of the quintet had trusted for projects in the past. They were also quick to note Maccarrone’s habit for keeping a well-stocked beer fridge and the proximity of his studio to El Torino, a favorite stop for tacos.
Also of note, Lamont “Bim” Thomas of Obnox provides a notable guest appearance on Glass Traps’ “Freight Elevator.” “Bim stopped in unannounced to chill for a bit while I was tracking vocals,” Paul recalls. “Normally, this would have freaked me out, as I’m pretty sensitive when I’m trying to focus on precise execution. But I could tell he was digging the sound, and he and [Maccarrone] are close, so it was easy to just keep on with what I was doing. Bim was silently hanging toward the back of the room until ‘Freight Elevator.’ After I’d tracked a couple takes of the lead vocal, we were listening back and Bim just stepped into the room and crooned this harmony on the chorus that sounded like it was meant to be there all along.”
“I’d not planned to do any backing vocal at all on the song, but it just clicked,” Paul adds. “I love the textures of our voices together.”
The label Wax Mage has plans to release an additional song from the sessions as part of a compilation in the near future. “The song is called ‘Old Man,’ and it was another one that I had written several years before Glass Traps got together,” Cieslik says. “I think I was going for a Birthday Party kind of thing at the time. It’s much better now due to Matt’s added guitar parts and Sarah’s vocals. We liked the song but thought it did not quite sound of a piece with the rest of the album. It’s great as a one-off tune, and we’re excited for the Wax Mage comp, which has a ton of great Cleveland bands.”
In addition to continuing to write, the Clevelanders are also looking forward to basketball season, as some members are avid Cavaliers fans. “I’m new to the fan club, as I’ve not been in Cleveland all that long, but I fell hard for them a few years ago,” Paul admits. “Win or lose, I adore them all, but I’m partial to LeBron [James]. The lyrics to the song ‘Obron’ are about him coming back to Cleveland. He’s also present in the wild narrative woven into some of my most recent video work. He’s a fabulous human all ‘round. I’m smitten.”