Dressed in black with tight haircuts and a cool, calm intensity about them, The Glitch Mob’s Justin Boreta, Ed Ma, and Josh Mayer look every bit the part of “rock star.” But when they start gushing about their fans, they reveal the inner music geeks they really are.
“The Glitch Mob is the three of us in a literal sense but when you look at the big picture, The Glitch mob is all the people out there who help create this experience,” says the group’s Ed Ma aka edIT. “It’s the fans that bring the whole thing to life. If you took the fan element out of it, it would just be three guys making music with crazy sounds and stuff like that.”
Ma, Boreta and Mayer (aka Ooah) released their first album as The Glitch Mob, the deep and angst-fueled “Drink The Sea,” in 2010. After nearly four years – an eternity in the lightening-fast world of electronic music – they release their second LP, “Love Death Immortality,” this week on their own Glass Air Records. The album’s release is preceded by an enviable display of support by their fans, largely on social media – a community The Glitch Mob has proudly cultivated over the last four years. The band responds to nearly every tweet, they reply to as many Facebook messages as they can, and have even begun regularly Snapchatting.
“This whole thing has sprung up this last week where people are making Snapchat art about our song titles,” Boreta explains. “It’s a really good way to have a fun back and forth with people.”
Beyond the promotional aspect, The Glitch Mob is adamant that the relationship with their fans has actually influenced their creative process in making “Love Death Immortality.”
“The closer we’ve become with them we’ve realized how much this music means to people,” Boreta continues. “We take it very, very seriously. There are a lot of young people in our fan base who reach out to us who feel suicidal, who are [stationed] in Afghanistan, or who just lost somebody. They reach out to us and because we answer all this [social media] we start to realize this is not about us getting on the stage and making tunes. This is about people using music and community as a way to get through life.”
“We are the ones pushing the buttons to make the tunes but the Glitch Mob experience as a whole is everybody’s,” says Ma.
“The reason we have epic tales behind these songs is because we get to experience life happening with all these fans,” adds Mayer. “It’s kind of this cool symbiotic thing that keeps happening. We make tunes, someone loves it, we get this feedback, and it’s this constant cycle of inspiration.”
After two years of touring behind their debut, the Mob decamped to a rented house in Joshua Tree, the desert community two hours east of Los Angeles known for its rock formations and a legacy of outsider artists. The result of their year-long recording process there is a muscular album that picks up where the first left off. “Love Death Immortality” offers sonically complex beatscapes with a heavy dose of aggression, reflecting the group’s influences of Portishead, Nine Inch Nails and Tool, but still wholly its own. Unlike their first album, this one is imbued with narratives, carried at times by a selection of vocalists including Nico Vega frontwoman Aja Volkman on tracks “Our Demons” and “I Need My Memory Back.” The collaboration with Volkman is one of several that crucially changed the album’s direction.
“We were trying really hard to write the lyrics and melody for each song ourselves,” Mayer concedes, admitting they even tried singing on the record themselves. “At the end of the day, we’re not that good at it. When we reached out to Aja, we were like, be you and do what you feel like this song needs.”
Volkman, who is married to Imagine Dragons’ singer Dan Reynolds, found time in the back of her husband’s tour bus to write the lyrics and melody and then lay down the vocal, recording on her MacBook pro while hers and Reynold’s baby daughter slept in the adjoining cabin.
“She was like, ‘Dan really wanted to get in on the process and record it for me but I wouldn’t let him,’” notes Ma. “The recording was really bad quality but the magic and the mojo was there.”
While this was the first collaboration between The Glitch Mob and Volkman, the band has known her for a number of years (Ma is good friends with her band’s drummer, Dan Epand). In fact, everyone in The Glitch Mob’s crew – from the manager to their videographer, to the album’s guest artists – comes from the trio’s personal lives.
By working with people they know, they’ve avoided the trend of EDM acts who try to catapult to a quick hit via blockbuster featured vocalists or superstar guest artists. They also remain committed to a D.I.Y. philosophy of their work – from running their own label, to building their own computerized instruments, to releasing full-length albums when an EP or series of singles would be easier. They no longer act as their own roadies, but they still have little interest in the relatively simpler act of DJing, opting instead to tour as a live act.
“Being so D.I.Y. allows total creative control,” Boreta explains. “We can do whatever the fuck we want and that’s so much fun. We don’t really answer to anyone. We don’t have to send anything up any chain. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to anybody, but it works for us.”
“It’s just how we do it,” Mayer says emphatically.
Ma echoes, “It’s a lot of hard work but it’s totally worth it.”
“Love Death Immortality” is available February 11 on Glass Air Records.