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I strongly believe that deep down, everyone thinks this world is about them. It feels natural to assume so, considering our basic instincts revolve around individual survival tactics. We all want to be the stars of our own production, the protagonist of a timeless story. Who wouldn’t want to be the hero?
The stories of our youth become increasingly fictional as we grow up. Life is slower and far more complicated than we were made to believe, and the random subplots seldom seem to tie back into the main theme. Still, within each of us there burns an unquenchable fire to see our hopes and dreams realized. The struggle between the real world and our wide-eyed desires comes to life in Glass Tactics’ debut single “Pavement,” which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today.
Listen: “Pavement” – Glass Tactics
A not-so-cautionary tale of real life’s challenges, “Pavement” finds Glass Tactics taking a hard look at the surrounding world, and going for it anyway. Based in New York City, the fledgling indie rock band formed in 2015 and consists of Scott Sugarman (guitar, lead vocals), Nick Paldino (bass, backing vocals), Nick Cela (drums), and Danny Kearney (guitar). With their independent debut EP Tactics out February 3, “Pavement” provides a perfect introduction to Glass Tactics’ colorful mix of catchy, big melodies, driving riffs, and thrashing guitars – not to mention their refreshingly fresh outlook on the world.
“Tactics the EP, is a kind of summary statement of what we want to do with our music: craft hooky, inclusive, and energetic indie rock harnessed to thoughtful, intentional lyricism,” explains Scott Sugarman. “We repurpose rock tropes and oppose the sexism, homophobia, and bigotry that has unfortunately often been part of the genre throughout its history. And we make our music in the name of fun.” In the name of fun. This last statement lingers in the air, resonating in the energy and attitude of the band’s first offering.
A warm, hypnotic guitar riff opens the track. Multiple series of short, cascading notes form a vibrant wall of sound that maintains the same chord, despite the note variants. Sugarman’s voice is strong above this bed of sound, cutting like some unanticipated gust of wind through a slightly-open window. In he comes, his conviction strong as he begins a tale of “two protagonists: The first, in the intro and first verse, a young aspiring actor who’s recently moved to Brooklyn; the second, in part of the intro and the second verse, a high schooler who’s lived in the borough all her life.”
She would damn these Christians
Just like Nero did
Send them to the pit
Post office closed,
now her package is hostage
Myrtle Ave’s a graying din,
rain is threatening
But this one girl’s out flyering
She stops her with a
fist, extends an offering
In Comic Sans is writ:
Our church invites you in
The band reaches its first crescendo, and the music abruptly halts: Nothing but a Strokes-y guitar remains, playing a hard rock riff that echoes with the track’s already-growing frustration. The scene is set, the increased velocity awakening listeners as well as the band: Paldino’s bass lines are lively and creative, expressing the kind of chaos that’s perfect for the song’s story.
Sugarman’s voice is level with the guitars around him as he details the harsh realities of the first protagonist:
She snatches the flyer, shudders, and thinks of home
The drop ceilinged chapel, Mom’s chemo, snowbound roads
Studied theater and history for an incomplete degree
Worried about practicality, but she loved those stories
Then she moved to NYC to try to act
Bed-Stuy to be precise, when swine glide she’ll go back
But it’s like giving up a kidney by the way they tax these cigarettes
Cash ain’t exactly raining from the track-marked firmament
She grabs a pack by her place
Finds her roommate
Buying Fluff and mumbling
Yup; we all want to make it, but the road kind of zigzags in all directions, doesn’t it? Glass Tactics excel at storytelling through lyrics with just the right amount of content – dense enough to hold the weight of the real world, but sparse enough to be relatable and relatively universal. Inspired rhymes and clever lyricism allow us to feel the hope and hunger of unfulfillment firsthand. “Both characters hope to find fulfillment — whether through art, school, religion, or family,” affirms Sugarman, “and are also struggling with the obstacles in their way.”
Nevertheless, as the band’s vibrant chorus asserts, you never give up:
All I want is nothing short of more
Is something more than the norm
All I got were some soles more worn
Than they were before
And I feel it feel it feel it feel it
But I like the way they sound on the pavement
Honesty is the best policy, and what is more honest and vulnerable than a maturing millennial, brought up on fairy-tale fiction, coming to realize things don’t really end up happily ever after? “The song stems in part from the hopes and frustrations I felt when I first moved to NYC, looking to find some sort of place for myself in the worlds of music journalism, publishing, and/or music. I imagine like many young people moving to NYC (or any big city), I had a naïve sense that I was going to be able to “make it” in some way or other. There were (and still are) nights staying up, fueled by a ridiculous, irrational sense of destiny, piecing together songs in my head. The chorus (starting with “All I want is nothing short of more”) ties into that kind of hunger, which is only made stronger by its banality. Sometimes you get an unbearable feeling of wanting, but everyone in the city wants something.”
“Pavement” is a young adult’s sobering, but relentless manifesto: The hardships and pains, the coming-to-terms with how the world works, and so on. No matter who you are or what you do, no matter who you want to be or what you want to be, you still tread the same pavement like the rest of us billions of starry-eyed individuals. The name pavement is quite an apt title in that respect, but the rabbit hole is far deeper than eye level. “It can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing other people in the city as a sort of collective mass, especially if you’re feeling thwarted—which is what the protagonists express at a few points,” muses Sugarman “As if everyone else is some sort of monolithic part of the world around you, like the buildings and streets. At the same time, the efforts of others pave the way for you, both directly and indirectly. I owe everything I’ve done so far in NYC, musically and otherwise, to others’ support and help. So there’s an ambivalence—the city can feel uncaring, impersonal, and unfeeling, but it can also convey you to great opportunities—though those opportunities are often closed to many people, which takes us back to the uncaringness, etc.”
The city can feel uncaring, impersonal, and unfeeling, but it can also convey you to great opportunities.
Glass Tactics are thinkers and doers, smart writers and activist creatives with open eyes and an ear for solid, catchy songcraft. Their influences are notable and vast, with obvious drawings from the pop punk, classic rock and progressive canons. Look out for Tactics, coming February 2017, and enjoy Atwood Magazine’s exclusive stream of Glass Tactics’ debut single “Pavement.”
Those in the New York area can catch Glass Tactics live at their EP release show on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Arlene’s Grocery (RSVP here).
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cover: Glass Tactics © Sonny Shaikh