Music Without Borders: Glass Elevator
By Tucker Petertil
Four years ago, looking for a way to celebrate her birthday, Glass Elevator’s bass and keyboard player, Mara (Mars) Carlson sparked an idea that eventually became the Olympia Independent Music Festival. This year after three successful festivals in Sylvester Park, the July 14th OIMF moves to 5th Avenue in front of the Capitol Theater. (More about OIMF in article at right.)
Tracked down to their east-side practice space, amidst Pink Floyd posters and board games the band talked about the fest and their new record. Turns out that this is also where the bands’ songwriters Wylie Vanwenger and Jabe Jabberwock call home.
They’re just putting the final touches on their new record, Universum Gloria (roughly translated as Glorious Universe), which they hope to have out later this month. While their first and previous record, Psychic Battleship featured lots of Beatlesesque pop, lengthy guitar breaks and dreamy meandering passages, they emphasize that the new one would be more straight ahead pop. Wylie says, “The one that we’re about to put out is a lot more rock and upbeat, it’s a hit machine.”
The band’s drummer Paul Vandall recounts how they approach their live shows, “We’ll definitely go into psychedelic areas and spacier music too but then we’ll go and play peppy 60s vibe thing and hard hair metal stuff.” “When we play shows we rock,” adds Wylie.
They came from places like Wisconsin, California and Oregon. Whether or not they attended Evergreen, they all heard the clarion call of the school and the surrounding art and music community and have called Olympia home for at least 10 years. The band itself began life a few years back as Glass Elevator & The Bracelets, the Bracelets being “backup singer chicks who were hot and would shake their stuff, it was awesome,” says Wylie.
Sounding like the Elders of Oly Rock (though they’re all 30 something) Jabe says “We’re some of the last kids that grew up when there was rock, pop and soul in one section (of a record store) and classical and jazz in another.” Paul adds, “We remember rotary phones, Johnny Carson on TV, life before the internet, Atari, having an attention span, all that stuff. We’re the last generation that remembers some of the finer points of life…It comes out in the music.”
Besides Glass Elevator, Paul also drums for Mongo Music Team, Jabe plays in Scott Taylor’s soft rock band The Fond Farewells, and the others have played in bands like the Accidentals and Blintz. Jabe will once again create the far-out cover art for the band.
Listening to the unfinished version of Universum Gloria they furnished me with, I found it to have more high quality songwriting and performances with even more variety of approaches from latter day Brit Pop to Prog Rock with a extra squirt of post punk intensity.
Besides OIMF and their new record, there are other reasons for the band to be cheerful: they plan on performing as Devo for the October’s OFS Night of the Living Tribute Bands, and the head of The Bureau record label wants to have them play a show with his band up in Bellingham. What makes them extra psyched is that the label was started by Frank Black (of the Pixies, a band that they all love).
They were also quite cheery about the Voyeur as a venue. “The Voyeur has that capacity to bring in tons of people,” says Paul and Wylie adds, “Everything about it encompasses the spirit of Olympia. It’s all do-it-yourself…if you have a bad show at the Voyeur, it’s your fault.”
About their OIMF show, Wylie says “We just like playing outside too, it just feels good to play your guitar in the sun and not be in a dingy bar.” ◙