For the last three years, Bushwick rock band Glass Elephant has brought a rare, pure rock element to a digital-infused music scene.
Russ Flynn, lead singer and guitar player, startede the band with his childhood friend from Long Island, drummer Danny Wolf. The duo soon brought on guitarist Sam Petitti and later their full-time bassist, Jackson Hill, to round out their sound.
Following the release of their debut, self-recorded album, Atlantic in 2012, the band has since performed throughout New York City and continued to push out new music.
In 2013, they started working on their follow-up Glass Elephant EP, which was released on November 11 following a release show at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg.
Today, the group is in full throttle and looking forward to their upcoming music video release and shows in and around the borough.
I spoke with Flynn and Wolf earlier this week to discuss the band and the success they have found here in Brooklyn.
Where did you guys come from?
Russ: Dan and I actually grew up together in New York, out on Long Island a little ways. So, Dan and I have been playing together since junior high school. The first time we played together was at the eighth grade graduation. We also played in a number of bands.
We both went to school outside of New York and came back. We did our grad work in New York together at Queens College and then Glass Elephant was formed when we moved into Bushwick together.
What has it been like as a band in Bushwick versus other places where you guys have played?
Russ: We’ve all played in a lot of other bands, we’ve all been parts of a lot of other acts and I think that there is a preconception people might have when they think of what a Bushwick band is. I don’t think we are that necessarily. I don’t know though, maybe I’m too close to it to analyze it successfully.
Is it helpful to be a part of the oversaturated music community?
Russ: It is an exciting place to be. I think it’s inspiring because there are so many musicians. I also think because there are so many bands, I think that people through one another do the best work that they can possibly do.
Danny: It’s more of the rock scene in Bushwick. We are supportive of each other here. We support all of our friends and their bands and their bands support us. We go out to their shows and they come out to our shows.
Russ: I think there is a healthy level of – and I don’t want to say competition, because it is not competition – but there is an awareness as to what’s going on and I think that people doing work at the highest level that they can. It really pushes everyone to be really creative.
Have you found it difficult to practice living in Bushwick?
Russ: Yeah, we were fortunate to move into a place where the landlord was comfortable signing into our lease that we can make noise here. So we have a studio in the house. Dan works as an engineer and I work as a producer. The space we have here isn’t huge, but it saves us the expense of renting a spot and schlepping gear around.
Do you record from home or at a studio?
Danny: Our first album we recorded in a cabin with all my gear. We brought all my gear out to Pennsylvania and we recorded pretty much the entire album out there. We did overdubs back in our studio in Bushwick. For the EP that we’re just releasing now, we recorded that at my parents' house in Long Island and we did the overdub here again.
As a fairly straightforward rock band, do you find it difficult to play with the wide range of bands around here?
Russ: We’ve been on some pretty eclectic bills and I think that it kind of speaks to the gamut of what Bushwick or North Brooklyn has to offer. There are a lot of people doing a lot of different music here and I think comparatively we are probably a much more straight-ahead rock band than a lot of other rock groups around here.
I think interestingly enough, that is almost the best part because we are honest guitar-driven rock and roll. I don’t know if there are that many other groups doing what we do, but I’d like to think that our sound is not a lazy one. Just because it’s straight-ahead rock and roll, I’d like to think that it’s not a cop out.
Do you think Bushwick concertgoers are thrown off by your straightforward rock sound?
Russ: I do think that people might be a little consumed in electronic music in 2014, but that’s not to say that we don’t love electronic music. A lot of what we listen to is electronic-based music. I’m a guitar player and I love great guitar sounds. A majority of the stuff I listened to growing up was guitar-driven music. I really appreciate the organic-ness of it. I love the art of recording guitar and getting interesting sounds from that. I think we all love the power of guitars, not to say that there is anything wrong with synthesizers.
And there are a lot of synthesizers on our recordings, but we try not to use too many.
Danny: Pretty much all of our synth sounds are actual keyboards.
Russ: Yeah, all of our synth on the full-length and the EP that we just released are the actual synthesizing. All of the organ is real organ with a rotating speaker and I’m just inspired by real instruments. There’s nothing wrong with working in the box. The physical accessibility of using real guitars, real synthesizers and real amplifiers just kind of excites me.
How do you write your music?
Russ: It depends. For the first record there were a lot of songs that Sam sang the lead on, and a lot of those started as sketches that he brought in and we worked on them together. There were songs that I did the same way on the first record and there were also some that we sat and wrote together.
On the EP, I sat down and had a basic sketch of basic harmonic structure and lyrical concepts and I brought it to the band and we all punched out our own parts and the arrangements like that.
Where did you come up with the name Glass Elephant?
Russ: That was just something while I was driving in Queens one day. I was stuck in traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and I just thought it was an interesting idea. Glass Elephant is so formidable yet fragile.
Danny: It took us years to come up with that name. Every time we came up with a name, we would go online and our band name was taken. That was the first time that we came up with one and nobody had that name.
Russ: Unfortunately, you can’t play dumb and down the line find out that some other band has been using the same name.
Visit Glass Elephant’s Facebook page for information on how to download their new self-titled EP.