"The space that Glitterer occupies in my life at the moment is one where I am trying to comfort myself as well as comfort others."
'Life Is Not A Lesson', the new album from Ned Russin's Glitterer is out now via ANTI- Records.
Delving deeper into the ins and outs of the wants and needs that pop up within our everyday lives to a rough soundtrack of bleeping synths and fuzzy guitars, it's an indication of not just the progress Ned has made in carving Glitterer into his own image but also his incredible knack for penning a track that has the ability to get lodged deep with your head as well as your psyche.
We jumped on the phone with Ned to talk about the formation of the record and how the last couple of years has cemented what he wants to gain from the band...
How does it feel to have reached a point where this band that you created has released its second album?
“I got here through a lot of trial and error. The idea of doing a new band as a late 20-something-year-old, or as someone who has had a history with other bands, was a daunting and strange task. It was something that I was trying to figure out how to actually do and every time that I would sit down and write a new batch of songs I would figure out that little bit more exactly what I wanted the band to be and how I wanted it to sound. That all came with me still wanting to challenge myself, which came from the set-up of the band just being me playing and performing by myself. All these things made it such a weird puzzle to figure out, but as I got more comfortable as I continued to write and kept on playing, I understood it more and more. From there I was able to write songs in a different way than I could at the beginning, where writing in such a way at the time felt impossible.
“This is a record that was finished in quarantine. It’s a record that occupies that space and a record that’s come out in a period where new things are important. The space that Glitterer occupies in my life at the moment is one where I am trying to comfort myself as well as comfort others. That’s the goal of all of this really.”
A lot of that process of working things out is from it being completely by yourself. There isn’t any other opinion there to help flesh something out. It’s a journey you have to figure out yourself…
“There are two things that come with that. The first is that I suffer from the anxiety of choice really bad. If I have an infinite amount of options in front of me, that makes me nervous because there’s always the fear that you’re picking the wrong one. When there’s a blank slate, that’s terrifying.
“That also bleeds into the second part, which is the anxiety of being original. That’s something that I really felt when I was younger where I felt like I had to do something new and something interesting. Over time and from talking to people that I really respect, I’ve lost that fear of being an original. The way I think about it now is that there are only chords to play and notes to sing and words to write. Everything is on a finite list, to begin with. It’s not about being the first person to do something. What I can do is do what I want to do and play the music that I want to play. I’m not looking to plant a flag on the moon.”
So where did the core message of this record stem from within all of that?
“I never set out on any project with a specific goal in mind. I try and allow to have the room to wander around in my conscious and figure out what it is that I’m trying to say. The process is usually a case of writing a bunch, figuring out what’s going on, landing on what I like the most and then refining it. The thing that kept coming up in this batch of songs was the word ‘Want’ again and again. It got to the point where I had to go, ‘I’m saying this a bunch so I either have to stop saying it or I need to figure out why I’m saying it’. That was a thematic turning point. That was the middle point, which also came with the writing of the song ‘Life Is Not A Lesson’. I landed there through an attempted self-discovery. Everything around me bled into that as well and I somehow ended up in this place.”
You worked on these songs alone, but then you also had your brother Ben [Russin] play on some of them with you later down the line. What was it like bringing this version of the band to him, considering how you have worked together in the past?
“Ben played the drums on ‘Looking Through The Shades’ too, but this time was very different to that. For that record, I was right there with him and we discussed it. Usually, I demo these songs with electronic drums and then ask him if he has any suggestions, except I don’t want him to be as good as he usually is. The way that Ben likes to play is super hard and with lots of good fills. This is a little bit different.
“This time around, due to quarantine, I wasn’t able to be in the same room as him when he was recording. My friend Colin [Gorman], who plays in Tigers Jaw, recorded his drums in my parent’s basement. It was interesting because some of it would be him following the map and some of it would be him making the executive decision but all of it was done in this slow real-time.”
So through making this album, how do you feel as though your exact relationship with Glitterer has changed?
“I think that’s a really difficult question to answer with me being as close to it as I am. It’s not something that’s planned out and not something that I have to figure out. It’s not like I know the next five moves that I’m going to make. A lot of the natural progression that has occurred through the period of doing the band is that it’s kind of an uncomfortable experience, both for me and for others. That’s something that I understood as we were going into it and something that was also attractive in a way. If something is scary, you have to figure out why it’s that way. If something makes me nervous, why does it do that to me?
"What felt possible with Glitterer changed over time, in terms of what was possible for me to play live and what kind of songs I was able to write. It felt like a loosening up of what I could do with a band like this. As the band continued I realised I wasn’t nervous to play live anymore, but people were nervous to watch me play. If I fuck up, I’m the only person to blame. I’ve fallen over when I’ve played, I’ve stumbled over my words, I’ve done all these things and there is nothing you can do. You just have to keep going and there’s something really exciting about that. There’s also the projection that comes from someone thinking, ‘That is uncomfortable for him and I’m nervous to watch that’. There’s a weird voyeuristic feeling to watching someone perform in the way I have, especially in a world that has a lot of very specific traditions and rules.
“All of these things have led to Glitterer being more of a band. This is not a solo project. This is not a weird version of myself. This is a band that I play in and I just happen to be the only member. When you set something up in a weird way, people are going to try and define it. I like the idea of this band being a challenging thing for people and I like playing with that. I like fucking with things in that way.
“To me, it all boils down to the music. You can put on a show and it can be interesting and weird, but if that’s all you have then there’s no point coming back. I do these things but what I really care about is writing music I like. There are a lot of humps to get over to get to Glitterer, but the goal is that the people who want to hear this music will get to hear this music. The goal is always about getting the music to the people who want and who need to hear it. Hopefully, it does its job.”