Glass Wands Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chances are good that you’ve heard one of the bands Brooks Tipton has been involved in. Over the past decade he has been a part of groups like Unwed Sailor, Bear Colony, and Colour Revolt, and has performed live with Thursday. Currently Tipton is in the touring lineup of The Secret Sisters and will be releasing his debut solo album under the name Glass Wands. This venture focuses on soaring soundscapes that have more of an ambient or post rock feel, and when the press release for the album came through my email it instantly caught my attention. I had the chance to send over some questions and learn more about the material and creative process behind Glass Wands. The self-titled debut is out today via Esperanza Plantation.

 

Your self-titled full length releases this Tuesday, March 25th. How long have you been working on this material and how do you approach the songwriting process?

I started to get the vision for the album about 8 years ago. Usually, it doesn’t take me nearly this long to feel finished with a song (or in this case a full album). The concept for this album was based on an idea that I had for a live stage performance to go along with the music. The very basic idea was to play shows in theaters with moving props that appeared to be sort of like a giant pop-up book. As I started writing the music, I realized that it was going to be an ambitious pursuit.

Chase Pagan helped record the album. Tell me about the recording process and what went into bringing these songs to life.

Chase and I have been friends for over a decade now. I have spent a lot of time playing music with him and have recorded on some of his albums. I have a trust with Chase that was very important for me through this process. I knew that I could count on him to let me start building something and then completely abandon it if it wasn’t looking (sounding) right. My grandmother (who I was very close to) had passed away in the fall of 2012. Her house was the one place that’s always been a constant in my life. It was up for sale and my mom had the keys so we set up a DIY recording studio in this shell of a house. it’s a big old house that sits deep in the country of Arkansas. It was a bit scary at first because I’ve grown up hearing lots of tales of ghosts in the house. It was an interesting 10 days out there, for sure. 😉

You’re currently working with former Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison on a stage production that will be used during live performances. I understand that you may not want to give away all of the specifics, but what can audience members expect and how did this collaboration come about?

I met Daniel when he was still playing in Norma Jean about 10 years ago. He’s always been an inspiration to me (in many ways). The first music video I saw of his was a stop motion animation that he (and his wife) had built in their apartment over the course of weeks. I was impressed with the amount of time and work he spent on the details. For me, I feel that Daniel explores man’s relationship with nature. He captures the magic of being in the woods from a child-like perspective. So many of us spend most of our time on paved roads and inside buildings surrounded by gadgets. Daniel’s artwork reminds me that entering the wilderness can be a mystifying experience. As a kid I loved stories and films that made you feel like you were in a grand adventure. Neverending Story, The Labyrinth, or even The Goonies. I wanted to tag along with these characters to these worlds and their adventures. Daniel’s work sparks this same sentiment in me. I want to bring this to the stage. He and I are working on that, and some ideas for film that we will project during the shows.

The material I’ve heard from the album so far really stuck with me, as there’s a level of depth to the songs that makes me feel like I’m discovering something new each time through. I felt some classical and post rock influences as I listened, but what musicians/bands would you consider to be influences on Glass Wands?

For this, I have thought of the music as a soundtrack to the mystical side of nature. Other artists who have done something like this that I love are Yann Tiersen, Rachel’s, Air. The first band that I ever toured in was called Unwed Sailor. Johnathon Ford and Nic Tse (the two initial writers in the band) have been very influential to me.

The press release for the album mentions that the imagery for the album is based around your fascination with the mystical side of nature. How do you feel you’ve captured some of these ideas with your music?

I really like the idea of things happening in nature that appear to be controlled by humans (but certainly are not). A classic visual of this is when leaves blow together in unison or when trees sway together like they’re dancing. I love to think of all of these beautiful little moments that are happening that aren’t witnessed by people. I wanted this album to be the soundtrack for these events. 🙂

The information I received also mentions you like to collect antiques and other items while traveling. What’s the weirdest item you’ve come across and what made you decide to pick it up?

Ha! I like the late 1800’s prosthetic leg that I found in Birmingham. The design of it is striking. I tend to like things that have had a useful purpose, but that kind of scares us when we look at them. I think it’s amazing that objects can evoke an emotion in us. According to the antique dealer who sold me this leg, it belonged to a man who lost his leg in a farming accident when he was a teenager. He wore this prosthetic until he died in the 1930’s. I also have a bone saw that was used for amputations in WWII. These things stir us up when we look at them. I think it’s because we get a little bit superstitious. Superstition is definitely a theme that I was inspired by (sub consciously) when writing some of these pieces.

Along with touring as Glass Wands, you will be performing with The Secret Sisters as well. How did you get this opportunity, and is there a chance that you’ll be able to take Glass Wands on the road at the same time or will these be kept separate?

I think they will be kept separate. I would like the Glass Wands performances to be in smaller venues that can be tailored for a theatrical stage production. I might take versions of the band out with less of a production if I’m still able to capture the aesthetic I’m going for. Playing with The Secret Sisters has been absolutely great. I met them through a mutual friend. (I was fan of their music before meeting them). We will be very busy touring and supporting their forthcoming album Put Your Needle Down that comes out in April. I will find time in the cracks to bring Glass Wands on tour.

In addition to your musical endeavors, you also own and operate Electric Ghost Screen Printing. How long have you been running this and do you have anything special planned around the Glass Wands album release?

I’ve been running the screen printing business for 5 years. I want to make some special posters and shirts for the release. I haven’t picked a designer for these yet, but I’m sure they’ll end up looking Witchy. 😉

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the album. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you very much! Ultimately, I just want this music to be something that people can put on and get lost to. Ideally it can be something that people can be creative while listening.

Brooks

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