Local Greenville, SC transplant Aaron Burke is soft-spoken enough that you might miss his accent over the reverberating din of a music venue or the busy chatter of a coffee shop. But as his inflection sinks in, things start to make sense. Burke’s not from Greenville—not originally, anyway. He moved to the States from Scotland nearly four years ago, and that jolting relocation has served as consistent creative fodder for Gláss, the post-punk trio for which he writes, sings and plays guitar.
The concept of displacement and its associated feelings took central focus in Gláss’ music after the band settled on its core trio of Burke, drummer Sam Goldsmith and bassist Ary Davani. Burke began conceptualizing the “Foreign Bastard” archive, a series of three Gláss-related releases that would detail his move and its psychological aftermath. “It kind of made sense to write about it because that was a really big deal for me, moving here,“ he says. “It kind of messed with me for a long time, and it was really hard to kind of integrate myself into a new country.”
Burke’s struggle to adapt to a new homeland didn’t just seep into the songs’ subject matter; it impacted the band’s style, too. “The first few shows that we played, I was super uncomfortable with people hearing my voice,” Burke says. “Whenever we’d play shows, I’d just put so much reverb on my vocals. Even on the [Foreign Bastard] EP, I did, like, four vocal layers just because I wanted it to sound like that distant, foreign, disjointed kind of thing.”
As noisy and shrouded as the band’s first EP was, with its doomy guitars and moments of caterwauling crescendo, the band’s upcoming full-length, Accent, sounds as though Burke and the band have become much more comfortable with their surroundings.
Though many noise elements remain, Accent’s strength lies in the tautness of its execution, each of Goldsmith’s drum rolls coordinating perfectly with Davani’s bass and Burke’s guitar. One might think everything was labored over tirelessly in the studio, take after take recorded until the members landed their parts perfectly. In truth, the band knocked out the album in just two days at Columbia, SC’s Jam Room Recording Studio, for the most part live, with overdubs for vocals and guitar on two or three songs.
The new material recalls austere UK stalwarts of the late ’70s and early ’80s like Joy Division and Bauhaus, making it tempting to tack polar descriptors onto the group’s work. Burke’s delivery is often removed and unaffected, warranting those chilly connotations, but the band’s seemingly effortless coordination and clinical execution could influence those labels just as much.
The singer admits those characterizations are applicable, and notes how changes in climate, like changes in geography, can influence how one feels and thinks. New songs “Glass(-accent)” and “Hotel/Motel” even carry lines about the cold: “And I’ll go where I’m not so cold/ And it’ll be the death of me”; “I’m not cold enough for you/ And I’ve lost most of my teeth/ I’m not cold enough for you/ And I can’t stand on my feet.” In those lyrics, Burke associates the climate of his former country with his personal identity. The drastic change has left him at a loss.
While those feelings are more abstract, the third and final installment in the Foreign Bastard series lays many truths bare. These Are the Reasons For All of My Wrongdoings These Past Few Years is Burke’s recent solo acoustic record that, by that platform’s nature, prompted him to be more honest with his writing. “I think it certainly shows the development of me becoming more comfortable with my voice, and singing and talking about feeling nostalgic and feeling out of place,” he says.
The band is set to celebrate the release of Accent with four Southeastern shows, including one in Greenville—where Goldsmith and Davani still reside—and one at the Caledonia Lounge this Saturday. With the new album behind them, Gláss has begun toying with experimental ideas involving space and repetition à la This Heat. As for his lyrical themes, Burke wants to veer away from the discomfort and self-loathing that characterizes much of the Foreign Bastard archive, opting instead for a more narrative approach. “I can write about that so easily, I feel like,” he jokes, loud and clear.
VINCAS Local downer-punk band featuring snarling guitars and doomy, psychedelic flourishes.
GLÁSS Newly local post-punk/noise rock band. Album release show! See story on p. 16.
ET MEXICO Collaboration between musicians ET Anderson and Zack Mexico.
ART CONTEST Math-rock band from Athens via South Carolina.