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Glass Vaults' New Record is a Nod to ASMR and Grace Jones

The New Zealand trio are back with a cleaner sound and an affinity for 80s pop.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

When Glass Vaults set out to the start work on their latest record, they were watching a lot of ASMR videos, and listening to a lot of Talking Heads. Which likely has something to do with why The New Happy, the band's fifth release in seven years, turned out so fucking uplifting.

Lead single "Brooklyn" sounds like something you might wish you had your first kiss to, while follow up "Bleach Blonde," which premiered via Wonderland Magazine last week, sounds like something you might wish you took your first pill to.


We sat down with Richard Larsen—one third of Glass Vaults, completed by Rowan Pierce and Bevan Smith—to talk pop music, his native New Zealand, and fetishes.

Where are you, what are you doing?
Not much. It's a nice day here, I just had a kebab.

You were recently in Berlin, right?
I was, yeah. For about eight months. It was cool. It's quite a hard city sometimes, to find your people and stuff. It's pretty different.

I hear you only have to work two days there to be able to live alone in an apartment.
That's… not true anymore.

Haha, good to know.
Yeah, that was sort of my thought as well, but it's not so cheap anymore. Gentrification, blah, blah, blah.

Probably all the Aussies and New Zealanders. Did you get influenced and inspired over there?
Not really! I mean, I listened to a bunch of Kraut kind of stuff and bought a bunch of records but I didn't find it that inspiring, really. Cold and bleak.

That's the thing about Europe, I think: if you're used to living on this side of the equator you can maybe only get inspired by cold and bleak countries in the sense that you're creating because you're so stifled.
Yep, definitely. It was good and it was bad as well. I'm pretty sensitive to environment I think and I like the ocean and the mountains and stuff.

So I read that this record works with ideas around ASMR, which I really love. I'm obsessed with it. But I haven't had it affect me the way it sounds like it affects other people—do you get a physical reaction?
Kind of. I'm not sure if I experience it as much as other people do either, but I definitely… the tapping thing! That's so good.


Have you ever seen Whispers Red?
Yeah, I've watched probably all of her videos. There's this one guy, I can't remember his name now, but he does all the stuff with polystyrene like cutting it up? And he doesn't really talk, he just whispers in these weird sounds.

Oh yeah, I love that. It's super creepy but I think I like that about it.
Yeah it's like, this sort of sexual thing but it's totally not sexual.

Yeah, it's kind of like the adult baby thing, like how it's totally sweet and wholesome and just people acknowledging a kind of left-of-field thing that makes them feel good but then there's also a bit of a sinister undertone, because it does seem sexual and a little bit sordid at times…
Yeah, fetishy. When we were in Berlin I found a job on Craigslist where this guy wanted to come around to your house and have you treat him as a footstool. Like he would come round, you put your feet up on him, and he would pay you.

Wow, that's so cool. Did you do it?
No way.

I love the idea of using ASMR as inspiration for a record, because the whole thing is so sonic.
Yeah so with our older stuff we used a lot of reverb and it was really spatially big. And when we started to produce this record, we wanted to do the opposite of that. Like how all of the ASMR stuff is really close and the reverbs are really short and we just wanted to see if we could record it in that way. I'm not really sure if we actually did it but some of the tracks, the placement of the vocals works a little bit.


Do you think that style of production made the record more pop than you'd initially planned?
I think the songs were heading that way anyway, and at the time we were listening to heaps of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. So I think it was happening anyway.

Was there anything that you really wanted it to sound like?
I remember Rowan always talking about one of the Grace Jones albums and Bevan was talking about some mixing desk she used and trying to make it sound like that. Everything as dry as possible, and letting the grooves speak for themselves rather than washing them out with heaps of reverb. I feel like when we starting as a band in 2010 it was all about being really shoegazey and dream pop was becoming a really big thing so I think we just wanted to do the exact opposite of that.

Fuck, so how do you make a band work for seven years?
I guess we're all… friends… and we live in different cities, so, yeah. It is hard, but it's a real collaboration and we bring in our own parts and give each other a lot of trust.

I also read that Glass Vaults were trying to capture New Zealand summer in this new stuff. Do you think you did that?
Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I was listening to a lot of Crowded House so I got obsessed with how good at songwriting they were and I just wanted to be the best songwriter I could be. I feel like "Brooklyn" could maybe go well on a Coca-Cola add. Some of our friends when we released that were like "Whoa, you've gone really pop."


Hah, okay. Last question: If you could have written any song, what would it be?
Fuck… that's so hard!

You can choose more than one if you like. I'll give you three.
Okay. "You're the Voice" by John Farnham, "This Must Be the Place" by Talking Heads, and "It's My Life" by Talk Talk.

Listen to "Brooklyn" below. The New Happy is out May 12 on Melodic. Pre-order it on iTunes here.

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