In the Fall of 2022, Goddamn Glenn and Tony Porter (both of Parlour Bells) came together with fellow Boston scene veterans Pete Zeigler (The Easy Reasons, The Rationales) and Mike Ackley (Strangeways) to see what would happen when this group of seasoned  indie musicians made noise together. Each needed it as much as the others. The spark was immediate. A new post-punk-meets-glam sound emerged, melding Glenn’s theatrical vocals with Pete’s shimmering and sputtering post-punk guitar, all driven by Mike’s propulsive UK bass lines and Tony’s precise beats. They called it Looking Glass War.
In your opinion, what are the essential qualities that make a “good songwriter”?

Pete Zeigler: Understanding the band you are writing for, how the sum of the parts can execute a particular song is important so you can write to everyone’s strengths. Additionally I think a DEEP understanding from years of listening to the music one loves creates instincts that allow a writer to touch on familiar umami, if you will, while still pushing originality. Also, learn your instrument and knowing how things work can save a lot of time and headaches.  

Goddamn Glenn: Be patient with a good idea. Conversely, don’t be afraid of something that just falls out of the sky suddenly. In between the ideas, try to stay in some kind of habit of writing. Even if that doesn’t yield a song or particular lyric you feel is worth saving, it’s time well spent.

Mike Ackley: An ear for a catchy melody. Don’t overplay. Keep it simple.

What is the basis for writing attention-grabbing music in the year 2023?

Pete: Speaking for myself, I try to write music I would like to listen to. It is what comes out naturally. I don’t think so much about grabbing attention, but more about how it makes me feel.

Glenn: The thing that gets forgotten about grabbing attention is that it doesn’t necessarily require shock, controversy or being topical. A simple parable that strings a few words in unlikely company can be enough to grab someone’s attention. 

Mike: A great hook.

What has it been like working with an indie record label as opposed to working on your own?

Pete: We are working on our own, at present. But if there are any indie record labels out there that are interested in working with us, please do feel free to reach out so we can answer this question properly in a few months!

Can you pinpoint some specific songs and songwriters that changed the way you write music?

Pete: For me there is Johnny Marr – his approach to songwriting and the place of the guitar in it all is definitely impactful. Bernard Butler and then Richard Oakes’s separate contributions to Suede, and of course Bowie. I also listen to a lot of writers and composers that are outside of the post punk/Indie genres. Becker and Fagen from Steely Dan, modern jazz stuff, loads of electronic IDM stuff as well. I am kind of all over the place.  

Glenn: I’m not sure I can pinpoint a particular artist or song that has changed the way I write – they exist for sure – but for me it’s more observing their habits as creators that has influenced the way I write. I guess if I had to lean into this a bit, I’m pretty conscious of when I’m being confessional and when I’m creating a kind of fiction. One of the most honest lyrics I can think of is, “I miss the comfort in being sad” from “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” by Nirvana. It’s a heartbreakingly naked sentiment that Kurt Cobain put into the world.

Mike: Like Pete, I’m all over the place with what I listen to, but for this project I’mn relying heavily on British post-punk – bands like the Chameleons and obviously Joy Division. Bands with sparser, spiky guitar parts with the bass driving the melody and chord structure.  

Do you find it hard to be inspired by artists that are younger than you, or are you motivated by their energy? Can you name any new artists you find inspiring?

Pete: Most of my post punk/indie listening is with newer artists – you have to keep doing that or you rot away and sound like a boring garage band – few fates worse honestly. Here is a list of some that get me going lately, some newer than others: Affleck’s Palace, The Murder Capital, Pastel, Enjoyable Listens, The Violent Hearts, Desperate Journalist, High Vis…

Glenn: Everyone in boygenius has to be younger than me! They definitely inspire me. Look, most of my influences are rotting in boxes underground at this point, so I’m absolutely inspired and motivated by anyone who can keep this Sisyphusian rock rolling forward.

Mike: I’m kind of the opposite – I find it hard to find good new bands that move me, but I can always find or rediscover older music that passed me by when I was growing up. 

For your new album, what inspired the lyrical content, album title, and overall vibe?

Glenn: Where it is a debut album, I can’t say that I set out with a particular narrative lyrically. We wanted to record the best of what we had written to date, so by nature it’s a bit of a collage. It would be cool to eventually do something more conceptual, where we are earnestly setting out to tell a story. The album title Where Neon Meets The Rain is lifted from the second verse of our debut single “ARRIVE!”

Do you find that you ruminate over writing songs and hold on to them for a long time before including them on a record? Or do you prefer to write them, release them, and be done with them? Do you ever re-visit old material to do a re-write or once it’s done it’s done?

Pete: Mike and I have a backlog of songs that are half started, just the harmonic structures and instrumentation – Glenn writes the lyrics and melodies. There is a lot of self editing in the process right? It is important to be your harshest critic and know what works and what does not for the particular chemistry of the group.

Glenn: Well, we’re still relatively new. Having played them repeatedly in rehearsals and shows, the songs may feel old to us sometimes, but they’re still just in the process of reaching people! That being said, there’s a few things vocally I’ve experimented with live and adjusted since they’ve been committed to record. Looking ahead, when we have more time to meditate on ideas, I do however think there is some value in letting some song sketches marinate for a while before heading into the studio.

Were there any lessons you learned in the writing and recording process for your current release that you will take with you into your next project?

Pete: Trust the process.

Glenn: Again, be patient with a good idea.

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