[ outshining the stars ]
It's been three years (nearly to the day) since the boys from Glisten have released new material on a national scale. While their debut album, produced by Steve Hindalong (City on a Hill, The Choir), was well received by critics and fans, the band found themselves without a record contract by the turn of the century. Since then, they've been working hard ("as hard as ever," according to a statement from the band), and continue to make a name for themselves in the indie ranks once again.
Because we're enamoured with Glisten's past work, and because we were just plain curious to know what they've been up to since they fell back to the fringe of the Christian recording arts industry, we caught up with lead vocalist Jason Pettit and guitarist Josh Watkins and talked about the group's origins, their label years, and where they're at now.
Not Just Some Punk Kids Anymore...
First, let it be known that the Glisten of today is not the group you knew back in 1999. They've grown exponentially since the release of Starlight Wishlist. Says Pettit, "We have all been through intense personal stuff over the last few years, and life tends to prod a person into spiritual and musical growth. We are not the same band we were."
Asked to describe his band's sound, Pettit finds it difficult to pin down. "We aren't influenced by Clapton or Hendrix," he says, "but we're definitely a guitar-driven band. It's always interesting to hear what other people compare us to. I've heard everything from Black Sabbath to Depeche Mode to Tears for Fears. The latest songs we've written are very rhythmic and spatial. We have focused more on the song than on individual parts. Compared to our older songs, the new ones are less 'riffy' and more toward tonal movements on punchy rhythms."
Not being on a label has also allowed the group to write music that is true to their vision. Says Pettit, "We're just as broke [as we were with a contract], but now we don't have to answer to ridiculous marketers. We don't intend to ever be with another record label. At least not in the traditional sense."
Of the group's mission, Watkins says creating music for them isn't about bright lights and Benjamins, and hints that life as an indie band has enhanced their ability to touch the hearts of their listeners. Though their audience may have diminished with the loss of their recording contract, their integrity to God has thrived. "[Our vision] is to create the sound and expression that God is real and that He affects our lives," he says. "We want to connect with people and their questions and passions in life, and on pursuing a love with Christ. That's easier to do when you're an indie because you sound how you want [and] say what you feel."
Plus, he says, "[You get to be] as busy or [not] busy as you like."
Glisten began back when many of the group's fans hadn't yet graduated from Psalty the Singing Psalmbook albums. Adam Phillips (drums) and Jason Pettit (vocals, guitars) met in a home school support group, and toyed around with their instruments for several years before laying the foundation of the band that we know today as Glisten. They went through several guitarists, but later asked Watkins to join, and became a very tight-knit group. "We have been very close friends ever since," says Watkins. "Our wives are close too."
He continues: "I don't know that we ever decided to make it in the music world [in financial terms]. We just felt a call to write and express how God has affected our lives. We got the chance to spread it across the nation and we took it."
Pettit continues: "We found that we were very passionate about creating music and wanted to share our songs with other people. In the beginning, fame and fortune were interesting, but ultimately, we just love playing to a good audience and having a creative outlet."
So Now That You're All Grown Up, What Do You Want to Be?
One of the disadvantages of being an indie group is the necessity of being in touch with the real world. Each of the members of Glisten has a day job in order to pay the bills. And their current home studio looks about the size of a kid's tree house.
"We don't write music for a living," says Watkins. "Although it would be nice. I am a manager for a small manufacturing company. Jason is a school teacher/youth minister, Adam is a computer fix it guy, and John [Romero, the group's bassist] also works solving computer problems."
Still, it appears as though if this music gig doesn't work out as they'd like, the group would be more than capable of carrying on. "I just want to be involved with people," says Watkins. "I would like to work in a ministry position at some point."
As for the future: Watkins says the group has written an album's worth of material, and will likely head into the studio next month. No title has been chosen, but the sound is apparently "more experimental" than the group's past material. Diehard fans should not dismay, however. According to Watkins, it's "still true to the Glisten vibe."
We'll let you know when the album is out and where you can get it.
- Ben Forrest
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