Published on April 12th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Modern Man’s Allen Glenn Documents the Sonic Adventures
It hasn’t even been a year since avant-noise indie band Modern Man officially relocated from the Upstate to Charleston, but the buzz over the quartet’s mesmerizing, guitar-heavy style is already nearly as loud as their amplifiers.
Singer/guitarist Allen Glenn was playing bass in two Greenville-based bands — The Last Van Zant and We Are Now — and occasionally sitting in with Coma Cinema and Birds of Prey when Modern Man started taking shape in 2010. Initially, Glenn stepped out as a sonically experimental solo act. As he wrote new material and made plans for recording sessions, he hooked up with drummer Jeff Perry, guitarist Brian Draper (of Secret Vessels, Back Seat Dreamer), and bassist Jose Davila (of Graven Hand). The quartet cranked out a rattly, delay-drenched, drone-y five-song mini album simply titled ep.
They quickly followed in early 2011with a more sophisticated, heavier-sounding 10-song collection titled Walk Away. Columbia-based timekeeper Nikki Calvert (of Coma Cinema) stepped in as the official drummer shortly after the album’s release, just in time for the band’s move from the S.C. Upstate to the Lowcountry.
Last April, Modern Man released a nine-song album titled Eyes No. The freaked-out, wall-of-fuzz audio quality and tone of the collection accurately resembles the band’s dense and aggressive live sound.
Glenn recently chatted with Metronome Charleston about the band’s music and plans for 2013 and beyond.
Metronome Charleston: Tell us about the beginning of Modern Man, when you adjusted from doing a solo thing to forming and developing a full group.
Allen Glenn: Before I knew it, Modern Man had turned into a real band. We were crammed in a van and on an East Coast tour. The only lineup change after Walk Away was the percussion spot. Jeff Perry pretty much nudged the idea to make Modern Man a full band. After a while, he had to leave for personal reasons so Chris Cryer [of Braindead] and Nikki played dual drums on a summer tour with Coma Cinema. After that, Nikki would commute to Greenville for practice once a week from Columbia until moving there when she completed her bachelors degree at U.S.C.
Metronome Charleston: How did you transition musically and personally from what you were doing as a solo act and with other bands to what Modern Man started doing?
Allen Glenn: When we first started, no one really knew each other, aside from drunken conversations at shows. The music was so fresh we decided to keep everything as simple as possible. I would make mixes after practice for everyone to take home and practice and write with and we would jam two or three times a week trying to nail Walk Away down.
Metronome Charleston: Did you and your bandmates aim for a certain/specific full-band sound right off the bat, or did Modern Man’s style gradually develop over time?
Allen Glenn: I had an idea of what I wanted, but I don’t think anyone can fully anticipate how four people will work together.
Metronome Charleston: When and why did everyone relocate to the Charleston area? What was it about the Lowcountry that drew the band down here?
Allen Glenn: Honestly, we just wanted a change and to see if we could make a move maintaining the band. Venues like the Tin Roof and the Royal American are good spots, and the jobs here are pretty flexible to us being on the road all of the time.
Metronome Charleston: The recent EP, Eyes No, seems to be a strong representation of what the band does on stage — sonically, musically, and atmospherically. How do you describe the songs and sounds of that collection?
Allen Glenn: We feel that Eyes No is a transitional record. Most of the songs like “Stops” and “Lush Trap” are arranged, loosely recorded, and then distributed at practice to recreate and then take shape. Songs like “TOS” and “Eyes No” are written much like most of our newer recordings, during practice, jamming on ideas, and feeling things out.
Metronome Charleston: Reverb, delay, distortion, and other special effects play into the textured guitar tones quite a bit. When and how did you first start experiment with such stuff?
Allen Glenn: When writing for the EP, I wanted to act as a three-piece but have that filled-out sound as a much larger band, so the addition of little reverb and delay helped to try and reach that goal. At practice, we just kept turning up the knobs and adding distortion here and there, and the swirling just happened.
Metronome Charleston: Were you influenced by any bands or songwriters who utilized echo, distortion, and “wall-of-sound” methods? Maybe Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or the Birthday Party, or the Fall, or My Bloody Valentine?
Allen Glenn: The wall-of-sound thing just kind of happened — like everything else in this band. Before Brian joined, I had no idea what shoegaze was, or who bands like My Bloody Valentine were. That’s what I love about playing in Modern Man; we all come from such different backgrounds and musical tastes that when we write songs, they all collide into one thing. Every band practice is an exiting new experience.
My personal influence comes from friend’s bands, bands that I was playing in early on, or just listening to records at friend’s houses. I never pick anything out, and I hardly remember the names of the records played, but I’m way into it.
Metronome Charleston: What are the band’s main goals for 2013 with recording, writing, and touring?
Allen Glenn: We recently finished recording for some new releases that should go through the summer and into the fall. We have a single coming out soon that is going to be lathe-cut by Rah Rah Records and accompanied with a book of some cyanotypes that I’m currently working on. It’s going to be a small run, like 25, I think. Later, we plan on having two EP releases on tape that equal the full-length to our next LP. Throughout this summer, we also plan to write and record new material, putting new music out on the regular.
As far as touring goes, we usually do that in the summer, but this year we’ve decided to play weekend bangers here and there while sticking around town during the week and writing new material. We’re on the go so much that it’s hard to keep up with all the new stuff happening and plan for the future.
Lately, there is so much music being created. I try and compose at least one or two songs a week, and at practice new songs happen pretty frequently.
Metronome Charleston: How do you record your home demos?
Allen Glenn: I record with a four-track through two condenser mics dangling from the ceiling, so we can go back after and hash out our jams. I’ve also been experimenting with practice tapes, recorded with a four-track, and running them through my pedal board into a digital interface. That creates some really rad sounds, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet.
Metronome Charleston: Where and with whom did you record some of your new material?
Allen Glenn: We have some new material in the works that will be released by Custom Made Music in the near future. I recorded it all live, even the vocals at our recent practice space in Mt. Pleasant. After that, I went to visit my brother in Oakland for a while and mixed everything there. Musical genius Michael Barksdale of Greenville graced us with a final mix before sending it off to be mastered by Jarrett Pritchard.
Metronome Charleston: How has Modern Man’s performance style changed or adjusted the most since settling in Charleston?
Allen Glenn: We recently acquired some PA speakers that we’re using live now instead of going through the house system at venues. I got that idea seeing Thee Oh Sees while out West. We can set up wherever we want and also have full control on the amount of volume produced. Could be a good thing or bad, I guess, depending on the night and how many drinks are consumed before setting up.
Metronome Charleston: Can you imagine what an “unplugged” Modern Man show light sound like — with all three guitarists playing acoustics and Nikki on bongos?
Allen Glenn: Ha! I doubt that would ever happen. I have often thought of ways to do it, but I don’t think it’s in the cards.
Metronome Charleston: So far, what are the coolest “accidental sounds” created through the two-guitar/bass/drums instrumentation on stage or in the studio — the noises created unintentionally by the clash/mesh of tones that resemble something completely outside of the band’s instrumentation?
Allen Glenn: I’m always amazed at the abilities of Brian, Jose, and Nikki. To me, the coolest accidental sounds are created at every moment that we are in the room together playing music.
Modern Man shares the stage with Athens, Ga.-based band Twin Tigers at the Tin Roof on Tues. April 16. Modern Man headlines the Royal American on Fri. May 17. Admission to both shows is $5. Visit modernman.info and facebook.com/modernmanmusic for more.
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