Interview: Glass Mountain’s William Sands

12 mins read
Glass Mountain
(Image courtesy of Ian Cheek Press)

Let me to introduce you to Glass Mountain.

Hailing from Bradford – and proud of it – Glass Mountain are a four-piece, formed through the deaths of other bands, making transcendent guitar music of a cinematic scope. Heavily influenced by forgotten ‘Sadcore’ pioneers Codeine, the band blends that slow, emotionally heavy sound with a touch of shoegaze and a dash of good old 90’s alt-rock – think Dinosaur Jr and Smashing Pumpkins.

Glass Mountain have just come off a productive year, having dropped their EP ‘Glacial’ in June, then touring with Embrace to bookend the year. As a showcase for a bands talent and diversity, ‘Glacial’ is very effective. Filled with thick, fuzzy basslines, Bonham-esque drum beats, and guitars that wash over everything in a cascading wall of sound, the band can jump between expansive, brooding pieces, and more direct, danceable rock tunes.

Standing tall as their current magnum opus is the title track, a triumphant seven-minute track that seems to progress almost organically, where the beauty lies in the empty spaces between notes. The accompanying music video, serves as a bold, effective piece of visual art to accompany a song that will emotionally purge listeners by the time it fades out.

With Glass Mountain already showing so much promise, I spoke to bassist, keyboard player and founding member, William Sands, about what 2017 holds for the band. In the true spirit of phone conversations, we both accidentally spoke over each other and went down long diversions in a revealing, and decidedly conversational interview.

William is in the studio with Harry when I call him. I know Harry’s there because William has to apologise for nearly drinking his coffee. He tells me that they have just been putting the finishing touches on a couple of new tracks – then, before I can even ready my questions – he answers my first two for me, too enthusiastic to hold back.

“Everything’s going so well. Ever since the EP dropped we’ve been pretty busy, ’cause apart from gigging, we’ve been writing and recording. Then of course there was the tour with Embrace at the end of last year, which was brilliant, cause we were treated like rock stars really. Normally bands at our level sort of sleep on floors and travel around in the back of a transit van, but we were living in total luxury.”

Glass Mountain’s tour with Embrace has been a milestone in the band’s career so far, so I ask William how that experience was for them.

“Well, you know, to be playing in front of hundreds of people every night, normally at our level you’d be playing in front of fifty or sixty people, but to be playing in front of that many, it speaks for itself doesn’t it? Also, the Embrace crowds are so attentive – it seems like people really connected. And the thing is once you’ve done a tour like that you just want to spend your life on the road, playing more and more gigs. So, we’re probably going to put a single out mid-March, and see if we can jump on another tour.”

Glass Mountains concluded their tour at Queens Hall in Edinburgh, their first gig in Scotland, and it’s at this point that we take our first detour as we both gush about how pretty Edinburgh can be, and start comparing it to European cities. Realising I need to get the conversation back on track, I ask William about that single he mentioned earlier.

“Yep, we want to drop it mid-March. It’s all recorded, we just need to make final touches to the mix, then we want to shoot a video. The song itself follows ‘Glacial’ very well, it’s very atmospheric, and it’s got a really strong mood to it.”

With at least one song confirmed for release, I have to ask if any more are to follow.

“Well with the single, which will be called ‘Cowboy Song’ by the way, there’ll be a B-side. One of our favourite films is Lost in Translation, and there’s a moment in the film where Bill Murray’s sat drunk in a karaoke bar and starts singing Roxy Music, ‘More Than This’. It’s a spine tingling moment, and we just finished recording a cover of it yesterday. We’re playing it dark, like Jesus and Mary Chain meets Codeine, stripping the instrumentation back to its fundamentals.”

Having went into full stalker-mode prior to the interview, I bring up something the band said when speaking with Wow 24/7, about how seeing a band live should always be different to hearing them on record. I ask William to explain this which prompts a reserved laugh.

“It was Harry that said that actually. I think what he meant was that there’s nothing worse than seeing a band, and 80% of it could be on a backing track and they’re just going through the motions. I won’t start naming, but all of Glass Mountain went to see a band last year. We were really excited to see them, but alarm bells started going off about halfway through ’cause between songs, you couldn’t really understand a word the singer was saying, and then as soon as every song started, the vocals were coming through so perfect we all thought, hang on a minute! This is cheating. Every show should be unique, flaws included.”

Cue our second detour, as me and William talk about the DIY music scene and the power it gives normal people. He makes the mistake of asking me about Stirling’s music scene, and I spend five minutes explaining it, which leads us to the topic of secret gigs and how vital they are to a local scene. It gets to the point where I realise I’ve been talking to him for twenty minutes and I’ve only asked half my questions. With Lost in Translation and Bradford already cited, I ask if Glass Mountain have any influences outside of music that affects the way they write.

“Yeah, we do actually. Me and Harry have got our own little studio, and it can be nice to just get out of there and clear your head for half an hour. Just down the road from where I live there’s a place called Salts Mill and it’s got the largest collection of David Hockney original pieces of art, these giant, beautiful pieces. Also, we’re lucky that around here, there’s a lot of countryside, you only have to drive for ten minutes then you’re out on the moors.”

David Hockney – for those unaware – is one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century. Bradford-born himself, the band actually take their name from one of his pieces, having personally asked him for approval to use it. With nature having been brought up, we return to Glacial and it’s almost sentient nature.

“Harry and I had been trying to write music for probably six months. We got to this point where we had all these ideas, but they were just kinda distorted, shoegazey, instrumental pieces. We knew we needed to get a drummer to progress to the next level and start playing live. Johnny – our drummer – had a reputation, so I messaged him explaining where we were and if he wanted to come around and have a jam with us. So, he just turned up, we had a cup of coffee then we pressed record, and the first thing to come out of the speakers was ‘Glacial’ really, almost in the form it is on the record. Harry and I were looking at each other with giddy expressions like, this is it!”

The large amount of space in ‘Glacial’ is very much an intentional choice, and a crucial part of the bands song writing ethic.

“One of the things we found when we’re recording and writing is that it’s often what you don’t play that makes the music special. The skill I think is in decorating the space with as little as you can. ‘Cowboy Song’ was recorded entirely and we were really happy with it, then we listened to it a few weeks later and we weren’t getting the feeling we had when we finished ‘Glacial’. In the end, we realised that we recorded it slightly too fast, so we scrapped it and started over just a bit slower, and suddenly we were all getting those goosebumps again.”

And we tail off again. We speak about playing bass, and our ideal songs for a touring playlist, during which it becomes apparent he doesn’t think ‘Call Me Maybe’ is as much of a banger as I do – something I’ll just have to forgive him for.

If you have half an hour to spare – and you know you do – give Glass Mountain’s EP a listen. If you don’t mind feeling just a wee bit emotional, then there’s a lot to explore with it, and given the band’s plans for 2017, a lot to look forward to.

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