Q & A with City of Glass

Q & A with Vancouver’s City Of Glass

by Jade Sperry


Michael Champion and David Phu are City of Glass. Photo courtesy of the band.

Jade: What was it like to work with Winston and Shawn Cole? How would you describe the process that resulted in the EP Equations?

City of Glass: Overall, a fantastic experience. The reason we initially contacted Winston to produce the record was for his pop writing and producing, and we figured we could get him to fight with us and help focus some of our more “geek-out” musical moments. We did fight a lot and that was great because we’re very happy with the end product; by halfway through the recording we were all on the same page and having a great time. Shawn is the greatest. I don’t know anyone who’s met him that doesn’t love that guy; a real pleasure to work with and very skilled at engineering and mixing. We consider both of those guys good friends of ours now.

Jade: In 2008 when you decided to put City Of Glass in motion, made the demo, and had it quietly take on college radio in 3 countries/continents, how did that encourage you to find your way in the digital age? What has that demo done for you both personally for your careers?

City of Glass: It is an interesting time to be making music. There’s really no exact model of how to get your music out there so that was definitely encouraging to hear it popping up in some unexpected places. That was also the first time we realized we might be able to actually do this for real, to have people get on board with the music who have no connection to us personally. We work very hard at all aspects of City of Glass, so when good things happen there’s sort of a dual reaction of, “Really? Wow!” but at the same time, “Let’s keep this going, what’s next?” It’s stressful but fun and exciting. Overall, the feedback has encouraged us to continue on the same path and constantly research and develop all the best ways to get our music out there (digitally and physically).

Jade: You currently have toured twice – in September 2009 and this past March 2010 – what venues were your favs based on crowd reactions to your music? What venues (or city) did you personally like the best, and why?

City of Glass: Some of the shows that really stand out in hindsight aren’t necessarily the ones I thought would. On the last show of our most recent tour in Ontario we played in the basement of this cool old mansion called the London Music Club. Now they usually book an opener before the touring band to get more of a crowd but they couldn’t find a band for that night, and the one band usually watches the door while the other is playing. So, we played this show for two guys with no cover and we ended up having a great time, partly because it was really funny and awkward to play to just two people, and partly because those guys were awesome and it was really rare to put on a private show, ha ha. I think and hope that will be the last show with those attendance numbers, but we will always remember that one.

Jade: How did you write the songs for the EP Equations, and how does the writing process generally come about? Is there something you’ve been working on presently for a future release?

City of Glass: Our writing process is strange. We build songs like puzzles, sometimes we’ll start with a drum idea or a bass loop, whatever springs to mind, then we sit down at the computer and build from there. Sometimes we’ll end up building and rebuilding a song enough that we end up with none of the parts we started with. So to answer your question, there really isn’t a set writing process. We have around 150 demos right now, ranging from indistinguishable blobs of sound to fully written songs, and we’re going to continue tweaking and writing more until we have a really strong catalog to pull from for our first full-length album. We’re really happy with the way Equations turned out. It was a mix of songs we played live and a couple that were completed in studio, but, to have the opportunity to road test a whole bunch of songs before we next sit down to record is exciting.

Jade: What inspires you to write music? Do you write about personal experiences or do you write about others’ experiences in life?

City of Glass: I’d say they’re fairly personal songs, not biographical but personal. We really try and take the most intense things we’re feeling, whether it’s frustrations with things in life we can’t change or that overwhelm us, or even love and relationships and the positive things that come from that, and then distill it down to music without spelling out what we’re trying to say. It really appeals to us to make songs that have a bittersweet feeling to them because life isn’t a wholly negative or positive experience. There are sad and happy times but there is always an underlying context. And that is definitely a challenge to try and make that come through in a three and a half minute pop song so we can drive ourselves a little crazy at times.

Jade: What is your view on the Vancouver club scene in general, and how does that hinder or help City Of Glass?

City of Glass: Vancouver is a really interesting place right now. On one hand there is quite a volume of exceptionally talented artists coming out of the city, and they’re making some intelligent and accessible music that we find really impressive and inspiring. But on the other hand part of the nature of this city seems to be quite introspective and isolating, and there isn’t the same sort of interest in going out to shows you might find in some other large centers. But that does seem to be changing a little bit with the recent focus on local musicians, so I guess we’ll see if it’s it a momentary thing or the beginning of a sea of change. But we love this city very much. Vancouver is a big influence on the writing, I think some of that isolated feeling spreads into the music and is a part of why we buried our heads in music in the first place. Vancouver is a very new city and that comes with its challenges and opportunities across all the arts industries.

Jade: And how do you feel about the new “digital” age of the Music Industry? What do you like and dislike about the innovation of the bands being able to “DIY”?

City of Glass: It is an interesting time to be a musician. The old model is gone, the labels don’t have nearly the same money or clout as they used to, and everyone’s still trying to figure out what exactly is the best way to go about making names for themselves. Part of that is really exciting because there are no rules, but for that exact reason it can be a little intimidating and overwhelming. I think what you’re seeing is a lot more intelligent and business-minded artists start to stand out from the pack, and because they’re able to do this cheaply and from home there’s substantially more specialization. The value of music and information in general has changed substantially because of the Internet; people are looking to get something a little different out of their music-buying experience now, something a little more personal. I think it’s great, it probably makes it a little more difficult to make large amounts of money in the industry, but there is room for more artists having careers. It’s definitely an exciting time.

You can find the band on their MYSPACE page. And they are playing a show tonight in Vancouver at the Bourbon. Doors are at 8pm and showtime is 9pm.

3 thoughts on “Q & A with City of Glass

Jade Sperry thanks you very much for any and all comments. JS

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