New Glock Too: On The Open Road with Strangefolk’s Bass Player
Strangefolk remains an active, invigorating entity. This is the message that the members of the quintet wish to emphasize as they travel across the country on a co-headlining tour with the Big Wu. The group has weathered the departure of Reid Genauer, while recording an album (Open Road) and subsequently adding a new keyboard player (Don Scott) as well. In the following conversation Strangefolk bass player Erik Glockler reflects on the events of the past year and-a-half, comments on the present tour and looks beyond that as well. Oh yes, and he’s a proud new father, with an infant son awaiting his return (a fact which provides the title of this article, which also references the composition “New Glock II” which he discusses as well).
For updated Strangefolk tour information as well as "“Erik’s Place”:http://www.strangefolk.com/content/band/eriks_place/eriks_place.php3" on the web, visit www.strangefolk.com.
DB- You’ve just started a national tour, co-headlining with the Big Wu. How well did you know them prior to that first gig?
EG- We didn’t know them at all. It’s worked really well though because we’re very complementary, we blend very well together. They have the same amount of people in the band, the same make-up as us. They’re about the same age and they have been doing it for the same amount of time that we have. It’s like we’ve been running along parallel lines in a lot of ways.
They’re great guys and we’re getting to the point where we’re hanging out a lot more. We didn’t know each other at all to start out with and now we’re hanging out on each other’s buses and sitting in with each other. Their keyboard player [Al Oikari] sat in with us the other night [Editor’s note: Oikari played pedal steel on In Deep” at the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, CA on 3/17/02]. It was really good. It added a nice element to what we were doing.
DB- How did that come about?
EG- He just came up to us and said, “Hey, that song you guys play, In Deep,’ I’d love to sit in.” As we said no problem. He knew the changes from hearing us playing it and he has a great ear and he knew what to do.
DB- Do you think there will be more of that?
EG- Totally. It’s just like anything, once we get to know each other I would assume that the guys in our band will sit in with their band and we’ll have more of them sit in with us [Editor’s note: this happened the night after this interview took place, 3/20/02 as Jon Trafton, Don Scott and Luke Smith joined the Wu for “Could You Be Loved” at the Gothic Theater in Denver].
DB- You mentioned “In Deep” which appears on your latest album, Open Road. Looking back at that release now, I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.
EG- I’m glad we did it because we wanted to show that Strangefolk was alive and still producing music. It may have been a little hasty but I like it, I'm proud of it. It’s a blink in time of what we were because we’re already a different band. We’re still growing and we have a new keyboard player. But it’s a statement that we’re still out there, moving on.
DB- You mention that it may have been a little hasty. One criticism I’ve heard is that maybe some of the songs didn’t have time to develop as many of them tend to do when you play them out live for a while.
EG- I think there’s some truth to that. But we really wanted to get it out there to show that things are still going on in our world. I think the next album that we make, we’ll have our songs a bit more developed plus everyone in the band is really gelling right now. It’s reached a point where everyone’s getting along well and I feel like we’re heading in the same direction. It’s great.
DB- How would you describe Patchen’s growthwith the band over the past fifteen months or so since he’s been with you?
EG- I would imagine that the first time anyone new comes into a band it’s a little awkward. Especially with us because we were so used to having everything be a certain way. But Patchen is a chameleon, he can play anybody’s song and give his all to it and make it sound beautiful with his harmonies and guitar-playing. It started to feel comfortable pretty quickly and now when I look over I’m just like, “Oh yeah there’s Patchen, he’s the other guy in the band.” It’s been over a year now and it feels great.
DB- It seems like he’s stepped it up a bit more on guitar as well.
EG- When he first auditioned we could see he had some chops playing acoustic guitar, and then after he was already in the band we realized he could play electric guitar too. I think it’s refreshing for Jon to have Patchen step in and take a solo every once in a while so that he doesn’t always have to be the lead solo man, which is cool.
Our new keyboard player does the same thing. He adds a freshness to the songs so that old songs that I might be tired of playing, are fun. There’s a whole new vibe to them.
It’s a whole new world of playing music. Playing with a couple of other guys who make the sound bigger. We have three competent solo players who trade off and switch it up. It’s been fun. Sometimes Jon will say, “I don’t want to take a solo in this song, Don you go for it.” A couple of other songs primarily Don solos on, and on some all three will take a lead and they’ll pass the torch. A lot of times too it's just the vibe on stage and if one of them wants to take a solo he’ll go for it
DB- What’s Don’s background? How did you find him?
EG- He’s from Chico, CA. He was the roommate of this friend of ours, known as one of the Glitter Girls, She told us a while ago, “I think my roommate should be playing keyboards with you guys.” She planted a seed [laughs] So when it became time to have a new keyboard player, he stepped in immediately . He knew a bunch of the songs already and it felt so comfortable. Now Jon lives in Chico as well so they are near each other which helps.
DB- Right now you’re the only member of band still living in New England with Patchen in New York, and Luke in California, so you’re scattered geographically. Has that altered your rehearsal regimen in any way?
EG- Not really because pretty much the way we’ve been doing it is to get together a couple weeks before a tour and practice. So this isn’t all that different. Now with email we all keep in touch every day. It's a wonderful world of communication. We send demos to each other of our songs
DB- In terms of songwriting, Reid was rather active in that area. Now that he has left the band do you feel any pressure to step up your output?
EG- Well I've always had songs, music and melody. The pressure now is just to think about the lyrics a little bit more and say something a little stronger because Reid was a great lyricist. I think we’ve all felt that pressure.
DB- Is there a recent song that you’re particularly proud of in that light?
EG- The song “Anchor” is one where the lyrics just came out and flowed. I think Jon’s been writing a lot better lyrically too. He’s been sitting down and coming up with some really good stuff.
DB- Here’s a related question I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while. There’s a song in the Strangefolk repertoire that continues to be called “New Glock II.” What is the story behind that?
EG- I always have a hard time naming songs. That came out of a particularly good practice session where I had two new songs- one was “New Glock One,” and one was “New Glock Two.” “New Glock One” became something else [“Sad”] and when I was trying to come up with a name for “New Glock Two,” Luke Smith just suggested, “Hey leave it New Glock Two.’” So that’s what it is now but I don’t think there will be any “New Glock Three” or “New Glock Four.” [Laughs]
DB- Who are some of your favorite songwriters, those who have inspired your own efforts?
EG- Paul McCartney and John Lennon jump out. The Beatles have been a big inspiration to me. Also I got turned onto the Dead a little later than the rest of the bunch and the Garcia/Hunter songs have this timeless songwriting element that I’ve loved. I was also a big Led Zeppelin fan in high school. I think they were the first jam band in terms of heavy jams that I got turned on to. But I think everybody in high school goes through a Zeppelin phase. In high school my tastes ran the gamut of classic rock like everyone else. I feel like you can still hear elements of that sound in Strangefolk.
DB- Certainly more so now than a few years ago.
EG- I think you might be right. Jon and I were in a Zeppelin cover band in high school. We’d do all the licks, all the tunes, we were so into to it. I agree with you though, we do have a little more edge to us now and I like having it.
DB- How do you compose your songs? Describe the procedure.
EG- I write on an acoustic guitar. When I’m home I’ll set up the antenna and see what comes my way. I don’t have any problem coming up with song melodies, in fact I think I have too many of them. If I’m lucky lyrics will come but a lot of times I’ll need help and I’ll ask somebody else to work with me.
Right now there are three primary writers in the band: Jon, Patchen and me. On this tour since we’re traveling on a bus with our acoustic guitars, hopefully we can sit down together and work on a bunch of new stuff. Then we can practice on the bus and by the time we get back to the east coast we’ll bust out a bunch of new songs.
DB- How actively do you work on your bass playing?
EG- Not as much as I should. A lot of times when I’m home I’m on a four-track, recording demos. I’ll play bass, a little keyboard and guitar. So I tend to focus on my songwriting. Although somebody recently suggested that I learn some slap so I just picked up an instructional video and sat down with it to help me out in a new direction. It will add another element to throw in there.
DB- Have you been using it on this tour?
EG- Not yet. I don't feel quite comfortable but I do hope to get it out there at some point.
DB- In terms of technique, talk a bit about the dynamic between yourself and [drummer] Luke Smith. How has that evolved over the past few years?
EG- Well I was originally a guitar player who jumped on bass because there pretty much wasn’t a guitar spot left in the band when I joined [Laughs]. So Luke and I have developed together. When we started he hadn’t played all that seriously for a while either. At this point we read each other’s minds and to be honest with you I haven’t played bass with that many other drummers so there’s this comfort zone with Luke
DB- Since you began as a guitar player and compose on the acoustic, have you been inspired to go and play any solo gigs, maybe in a coffeehouse setting?
EG- I haven’t. Frankly, I’m kind of scared. Jon and I were talking about doing an acoustic set in Maine with some of our friends there. I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone else with me. I think I’d have to work up my courage. Playing in a band there’s this buffer zone with four other guys on stage. I can remember watching Reid play by himself a while ago when he was still in the band, and he was scared shitless. At the end of the show I asked him how it was and he said, “Oh man, I missed you guys.” That’s the thing, I’d have to be in the right place at the right time or really just work up my courage to do it.
DB- Speaking of Reid, have you seen him perform since he left Strangefolk?
EG- I haven’t seen his show yet but when we opened up for the Mule in Syracuse he came out, saw the show and hung out afterwards. It was good to see him. He was supposed to come to Portland, ME at the Stone Coast but the show was canceled [the venue closed] so I still haven’t seen it.
DB- I would imagine it took some time before you were ready to even think about checking him out.
EG- For me it was like breaking up with your girlfriend- you don’t want to see her face for a little while. It took me some time to get over it but I feel good now. I’m glad that he’s doing what he wants to do. He’s happy, I can see it in his face. It’s a tough thing, being in a band is like being married to all these people and when someone leaves it’s kind of like getting a divorce. You need a grace period before you can look each other in the eye again. But everything’s alright now.
DB- Looking back, when Reid made his decision to leave Strangefolk was there ever a time when you thought about disbanding the group and moving on to other projects?
EG- Reid has always had a lot he’s wanted to explore with going to school, so we always knew that something might happen. But when it did, Luke, Jon and I didn’t know what to do, we were baffled. Should we keep going on? We had to sit down and really figure that out. Then we realized that we did still want to make music. It was going to be a whole new direction but we wanted to do it. It’s been a tough time getting a new band together but the process has also been fun and now it’s a good thing. We’re in a good place with good people.
DB- You talk about that a bit on the Strangefolk web site where you now have your own area, Erik’s Place. What led you create that section?
EG- I just recently got a computer and figured I’d jump on and do what everyone else in the band has done.
DB- How has the whole on-line experience been going for you? Do you find it overwhelming?
EG- It’s cool. I’ve definitely been sitting down in front of the computer way too much because there’s too much to see. I love the communication factor, keeping in touch with everyone. I’ve been meaning to have a place on the web site where I could say something for a long time because I felt like I was the only one who hadn’t done it.
DB- In that introductory section you marvel at how the band has been together for ten years now. Is that odd for you? In a lot of contexts within this scene that marks you as an elder [Laughs].
EG- It’s great that we’ve been around ten years. I just turned thirty years old and I look back and realize that I’m not a kid anymore. Now I have a kid of my own. But when I see that I’m in Strangefolk still pumping out the music and see that people appreciate it, then it’s all worth it. It’s not always easy going on a bus around the country. There’s a lot of down time and a lot that isn't fun but it’s still one of the best jobs in the world as far as I’m concerned.