If you’ve read my stuff, you might recognize that I have a keen affinity for musicians that don’t feel the need to ground their craft in explicitly defined stories or make overt references to bold concepts within their material or exude cleanly packaged lessons to be learned. Gleemer is no exception.
The band, born of Loveland, CO, and named after the quintessential-outcast track by the legendary Guided by Voices, is fronted by Corey Coffman, whom FPH had the chance to speak with over the phone while he and his cohorts tour the country in support of fellow “doom-gaze” purveyors Hundredth and Spotlights.
Challenging to describe, Gleemer is at different moments shoegaze, dream-pop, lo-fi indie rock, and even whispers of heavier sensibilities like post-hardcore (a suggestion I thought Coffman would enjoy if I pointed it out, to which he responded with a raucous laughter). Their most recent record, Anymore, can sometimes sound like an entirely different band on any given track — in the best possible way.
“Tonally we get labeled as shoegaze a lot, and I get that completely, but it’s funny how little we listen to that anymore,” he tells me about his sonic make-up. “I’m just drawn to whatever makes me feel understood. I think everyone, in general, is a pretty complex person and that different stuff hits you at different times.”
The band is a four-piece with Joey Costello and Nick Manske, but chiefly Coffman and final band member, Charlie O’Neal, handle the songwriting and recording process.
“I’m basically the engineer and Charlie is the artist, who performs all the parts that we write together,” he tells me.
“It’s nice because I’m way more technically minded in terms of sonic stuff, and I just love audio,” he says, after telling me about his experiences working in studios in New York after attending an audio engineering school in Arizona. “Even the nerdiest stuff about that is awesome to me, and Charlie is extremely fluent in music theory and can play tons of instruments. So we sort of fill in the cracks for each other.”
Much of this also comes from the band’s DIY approach to their music-making, utilizing only a handful of pedal effects — most prominently a Cali76 Compressor Pedal and a chorus pedal — in conjunction with multi-track layering techniques for the guitars. It’s recorded using a Fender Princeton amplifier from the 70’s with a modified speaker (he doesn’t like the way speakers from those days sound), and laid down completely from the basement and spare living room of his parents house, which they were kind enough to allow Coffman to retrofit into a studio and live room of sorts for all Gleemer projects since 2014’s Holyland USA.
Thematically, Coffman’s songwriting comes from a wealth of foundational records too, another contributor to the band’s unique sound. From the Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream to The Microphones’ The Glow, Part 2, there’s seemingly no end to the sounds he’s willing to pull from to craft the intimate textures of the bands work.
“I’ll be listening to [something] and think, ‘that makes me feel so good and okay how do I do that?’ And once I do it’s almost like we’re a different band, like I’ve never felt that before,” he explains. “I think that’s what I try to do when I write songs. It’s like a whisper of an idea, or a little inkling. I remember listening to Sufjan Stevens growing up and thinking ‘how the fuck did this guy write 45 string parts for this song?’ So I always shied away from creating anything because I thought you had to have the ‘whole thing’ all at once, but you don’t.”
It is this same quality that makes one feel when they listen to Anymore as if they are being taken to the edge of a story by Coffman’s lyrics, and pushed over that edge by the music itself.
“Do you like Bruce Springsteen at all?” he asks of me in response to that statement. “I’ve been listening to Nebraska a lot lately and ‘My Father’s House,’ the second to last song, he’s talking about reuniting with his dad in a dream, and he goes to his father’s house and his father’s not there, and then in the conclusion of the track he says ‘across this dark highway, where our sins lie unatoned,’ and that’s the end of the song. A complete lack of conclusion.”
“That’s so much more real than a packaged answer,” he extrapolates. “Even the album title, [Anymore], whether or not unintentional, [is in reference to] these emotional circumstances that I allow to come out, and for people to relate to, and sort of leave it at that. No one person is right. It’s not like a breakup album, or an album against my parents, it’s just that. Does this matter to me? Does this make me feel something? Scary or not, does this reveal stuff about myself? Do I feel like I’m, with this concept alone, sort of being vulnerable with it?”
One concept that consistently returns to the album’s narrative focus is the distinct presence of water.
“I don’t do very much around water, I don’t really like swimming,” he ironically admits to me. “You know those times when you feel like you’re taken out of your life, like you’re not thinking about anything else, like all of the tentacles of your life are sort of peeled out of the way and there’s a calm reassurance in the air? Like when I’ve been on vacation to the beach or visiting the lake with family, and the sun’s setting over the lake.”
“I think there is a very distinct quality of being around bodies of water for me, not even symbolic but more direct,” he explains. “Feeling like you are pretty small, just floating there. I like taking people to that. I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I just wanna take you to that lake and sit there with you.”
The band really took off after making the jump aboard the young rock label Other People Records (led by industry powerhouses Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns and Tom Williams of Stray From the Path) who have helped them release their last two records and showcase the video for standout single, “Gauze,” but the band is thankful that they maintain a pretty hands-off approach to the groups work.
“The best part is how much they’ve been able to help us get on support tours like these,” he relishes in telling me, “but they’re creatively out of the loop in a good way. If I like it, then they like it and that’s the bottom line. Basically we gave them the record when it was done, got it mastered with the artwork, and they were just like ‘cool.’”
Even the album artwork itself, a photograph taken by friend and collaborator Jack Garland, is a manifestation of the indescribably authentic, emotive quality of the band’s work. Having gone out on several shoots together of various things and places originally intended to be on the cover, Coffman ultimately decided on the photo after stumbling upon it late at night on Garland’s Instagram — he had taken it of his own sister while on vacation in Hawaii — and deciding that it felt like the record to him more than anything else, and immediately retrieved the raw file from him to use for the record’s face.
When pressed on what the album represented to him, he refused any notion of explanation or reference points in his own life for much of the records hazily weaved together narratives of powerful intensity. Instead, he’d rather it be from someone else’s story.
“I don’t even know if it’s there,” he tells me of his own place within it. “I think it just comes from me being really emotionally sensitive and watching a lot of TV”
Go see Gleemer when they open for Hundredth and Spotlights at Walters Downtown on Wednesday, December 20th, for which all ages are welcome and tickets are still on sale. Doors are at 7.