An interview with: Rowan Pierce (Glass Vaults).

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Since 2010, Glass Vaults’ Richard Larsen and Rowan Pierce have built up a strong fan base thanks to the release of a series of singles and three glorious EPs; Glass (2010), Into the Clear (2011) and Bright (2013). Frequent listeners have become enamoured of the way Glass Vaults builds walls of sound awash with a sepia-soaked guitar that ebbs and flows, twists and collides with delicate grace and joyful abandon. The overall effect has a pop sensibility that is immersive yet intimate, raw, yet soothing and elegantly held together with dulcet, sighing vocals that tell of a collage of personal experiences. September 4th sees Glass Vaults releasing their much anticipated debut album, Sojourn.

The duo, both from Manawatu, first met in design school in Wellington. They initially performed under the moniker Vaults; a name that they felt captured the melancholic feel of the band at the time.  Speaking to me from his home in Wellington, Pierce remembers, “We had never performed live with two people before. It was exciting, nerve-wracking, tense- and that’s where a lot of the initial sound came from”.

As they developed through performance, they found that their sound was becoming “brighter and chirpier.” So they changed their name to Glass Vaults to reflect the progression of the band. “There is a sense of large architecture to our music, in so far as we build layers,” says Pierce. “But there is a fragility to it too. There’s a lot of reverb and spaciousness.” At about the same time, they added more people to their live act. This made performing become a “more celebratory thing, and the music [on Sojourn] reflects where we are now and where we are heading as a band.”

These last two years Glass Vaults have been focusing on producing material for Sojourn, which has been recorded between Wellington and New York City. Aside from new material, it will also include singles and reworked songs from past EPs.

Listening to Pierce discuss their debut, I cannot help but be reminded of Wabi-Sabi, a contradictory design aesthetic that that can see dead flowers artfully arranged amongst fresh ones to celebrate the beauty of ugliness and vice versa. Pierce explains, “There is a density to this album. Sometimes, that density shapes itself into beauty or euphoria; positive feelings that can get tangled into messiness or ugliness, as it were.  The aim [in creating it] was for the people listening to delve into a density that is shifting and evolves- it can be ugly and beautiful at the same time.”

Aside from recording lush songs, Glass Vaults have also garnered a reputation for transcendental live shows. Pierce partially attributes this to the fact that he played in the Manawatu Scottish Society’s Pipe Band growing up. “I never played in rock bands- I wish I could’ve but I was never quite cool enough. So my reference point to performing live was quite immersive- playing in a pipe band you play in small halls, and it’s so loud. Bagpipes have an emotional toll too, and now outside of that world and playing in that indie or pop or whatever you want to call it world, it’s developed from just making a massive noise.”

Pierce’s day job sees him working as a creative designer for performance artists, and has found the role reversal to be refreshing. “I really enjoy that aspect of creating and sharing in the moment, as opposed to creating and sculpting and editing. I really enjoy the immediacy of creating and presenting at the same time. I found it freeing, almost kind of excitingly scary. It’s not premeditated and there’s less of a gap between creation and presentation.”

To promote the release of Sojourn, Glass Vaults will be hitting the road through September. You can catch them live at the Others Way Festival on September 4th, before they embark on their eight date national tour.  What can people expect? “To move. To dance. It’ll be like a joyous ruckus, a beautiful noise,” muses Pierce. It sounds like the perfect sojourn, and just in time for spring.

This article was first published in Rip It Up magazine on August 26th 2015

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