The first time FACT makes a call through to LA to talk to Cameron Mesirow, the singular force behind Glasser, we’re greeted with surprise. “I didn’t know…I forgot.” It was probably the latter.
It’s entirely in keeping with Mesirow’s personality, that free spirited appropriation of hippiedom that is particular to Los Angeles. Despite not being able to hold down interview times, Mesirow’s Glasser project has caught the ear of tastemaking labels Young Turks and True Panther, with records like latest single ‘Tremel’ and ‘Apply’ from her debut EP channelling her free flowing sensibility into a rolling GarageBand primitivism that’s pitched somewhere between High Places and Arthur Russell, Panda Bear and Bjork. Paired with her distinctive voice, it is electronic pop that seems to ache with a kind of half consciousness – a highly instinctual sound that comes from not having any formal training.
Currently working with Fever Ray’s production team The Subliminal Kid and Van Rivers on tour, Mesirow is putting the finishing touches on debut album Ring and enjoying the kind of blog fame which comes with being remixed by of Tanlines, Delorean and Jamie xx, with whom she toured when she supported the xx on a UK jaunt. If only people would forget the fact that she made a living as a commercial singer before her Glasser project got underway – it kind of spoils the vibe.
“I went through the many phases of punk and ska and hardcore and riot grrl music; there are many incarnations of a young person, things change so fast.”
Hi Cameron, what are you up to?
“I’m just having an apple actually. My favourite food is green apples. I eat them constantly, I love them. I just think it’s really incredible that it grows naturally out of the ground, or from a tree. And it tastes so good, what a wonderful coincidence.”
I guess so. Let’s talk about Glasser. It’s a solo project right?
“I guess it is yeah. Guilty. It is just me, but when I play live I have people that play with me, it’s kind of a different cast of characters every time. I have with me now Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid of Fever Ray fame and they’re playing a show with me tonight, in Los Angeles. It’s actually my last show in Los Angeles as a Los Angeles because I’m moving to New York.”
What’s your musical background?
“My parents are both musicians or involved in music somehow, my dad’s been in his own band for many years and my mum was in a band called Human Sexual Response which was sort of an art rock new wave in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. I’ve just been around music a lot in my childhood. I became, at a pretty young age, an active listener and consumerof music. I guess maybe I didn’t start applying all of that until my 20s, I guess I felt the need to accrue a bunch of knowledge and experience before I embarked on that part of my musical career. I was just a consumer for a long time and I felt proud of that and at the same time sort of insecure about only being a consumer and not producing anything to give back.”
What sort of stuff were you listening to?
“When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Motown and soul, basically what my parents were listening to, and new wave. Good stuff, good classic stuff. Then I got older and I was listening to rap and R’n’B; all of that stuff still sticks with me so much. When I got to be maybe 11 or 12 I wanted to be my own person and decided to go on the rock route, got really into grunge music and then punk. I was really hooked on punk and that was my identity. I went through the many phases of punk and ska and hardcore and riot grrl music; there are many incarnations of a young person, things change so fast.”
;hl=en_GB&fs=1&” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”>Glasser – ‘Tremel’
“It was [Joni Mitchell’s] album Court and Spark, which is an amazing record made in 1974 or 1973 and it just changed me forever.”
But the music you actually make as Glasser seems quite far removed from the sensibilities of punk….
“I know. In my later teenage years I was still involved in the punk scene but I was coming around to thinking my mum was cool again! My mum introduced me to Joni Mitchell and I had a sort of epiphany – I just really, really related to it. It was her album Court and Spark, which is an amazing record made in 1974 or 1973 and it just changed me forever. I guess I realised I was outgrowing the rebellion of punk and I only listened to Joni Mitchell for, like, two years. I was just obsessed.
“I think people generally love her or hate her, she’s one of those people, like Bjork. Sometimes it takes someone you love to introduce you to something like that to make you understand it. She almost has an embarrassing quality to her, to her songwriting and her singing because it’s really quite vulnerable. I came to love that about her.
“At first it was the kind of thing that made me uncomfortable as a listener, like how you can feel embarrassed in front of yourself almost, I felt that way with Joni Mitchell’s music but then I came to feel it was amazing that she would make sounds like that with her voice, or say the things she said and had the gumption to follow through and put it out. I think listening to her music opened me up to listening to Kate Bush’s music which I think really brought me to Glasser.”
Talking of vulnerability, you also put yourself out there in how you use your voice, with the yelps and odd little noises.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. If you listen to ‘Woodstock’ by Joni Mitchell, the outro is just unbelievable what she does with her voice.”
“Sometimes our bodies make involuntary sounds, you may be in a compromising situation, some kind of emergency and you’ll cry out without realising you’re about to. I was kind of drawn to capturing that.”
One of the intriguing things about your sound is your duality – the way you combine tribalistic percussion with a very floating, melodic sensibility. Is this a conscious decision?
“I’m assuming you’re talking about the song ‘Apply’? It’s about sleep actually, something very internal and I think that’s why I was drawn to the heavy percussive sounds that you’ve heard in it. I wanted it to be extremely guttural. Actually, that song is the most strongly connected what I was talking about, being vulnerable, you can’t help being yourself especially in your dreams when you’re sort of just doing whatever you’re doing, you may end up naked in front of a lot of people or something. Sometimes our bodies make involuntary sounds, you may be in a compromising situation, some kind of emergency and you’ll cry out without realising you’re about to. I was kind of drawn to capturing that. It’s hard to be purposeful about that, but I wanted to open my mouth and let it rip. Because it’s about struggling with these nightmares I was having, there were times when I was trying to shake myself out of sleep to end the dream.”
What sort of things were you dreaming about?
“Oh, well anything. I’ve had a lot of vivid dreams in my life. You know a lot of dreams where nothing which we’d consider in waking life to be horrible happened, but we’re terrified of a normal setting, which is really confusing. You know when you wake up from that and you’re like “oh I had the worst dream!” and someone says “oh what happened?” … “Well I was in my house….”
“Anyway, I guess that’s the primitive, tribal thing. I actually didn’t – this is going to sound so naive – I didn’t actually think it’s tribal, I thought this is guttural. But I suppose that’s what tribal means.”
But you can be self-conscious about it. There’s a fine line between trying to create a mood or a consciousness, and then just using certain signifiers and being weird for the sake of weird.
“There’s a lot of that going on. I think it’s actually a good thing, I mean we’re going to have to filter through quite a bit of crap but people are tired of making regular old rock music. What it comes down to is people are trying to find something new – I am trying to find something new. I would love to hear other people to find something new. I don’t know if anyone is achieving it yet, but I think it’s a good thing, weird for sake of weird is a necessary evil, unfortunately.”
What inspires you?
“This might be disappointing but mostly visual things, not musical things. I’m inspired by art, I love art, I look at a lot of it and try to immerse myself in it.”
“I’ve never felt that I fit in within the world of musicians and I guess my music might feel similarly in the world of genres. I don’t really belong anywhere.”
Do you see yourself as an artist more than a musician?
“Yeah I guess I feel more at home with that title since I don’t actually play anything. I’m a decent noodler in many instruments, I can sit down at almost anything and can get something out of it but my attention span is so short for those types of things unfortunately. I did take piano lessons as a kid, I also learned guitar from my dad but neither of those stuck, I just wanted to sing.”
Talking of which, tell me about this curious clip which is on YouTube of a song called ‘Save Me’, am I correct in thinking that’s you?
“I don’t want to talk about that! I’m trying so hard to get that off, it’s just a commercial that I sang in and someone thought that it was Glasser. I don’t want to talk about my commercial singing because it has nothing to do with this, it’s just how I’ve made money in the past.”
That’s fair enough. How would you describe your sound?
“I’ve never felt that I fit in within the world of musicians and I guess my music might feel similarly in the world of genres. I don’t really belong anywhere. My manager has been calling it Future Pop.”
On tour you’re working with Van Rivers and Subliminal Kid – how did that come about?
“I was in New York in the fall doing performances with Tauba Auerbach, I’m part of a collaboration called Hourglass with him, he did the cover of my ‘Apply’ EP and we made a giant two person pump organ…Anyway I went to see Fever Ray and when I met them after the show, I invited them to come see a performance the next day and they came and we talked afterwards about doing stuff together and the rest is history.”
“It was just hilarious to see these Birmingham women in their hotpants and their eyelash extensions and they looked so…they reminded me so much of drag queens. They probably didn’t see it that way.”
Is anything else going to come out of it?
“Yeah, we’ve been recording this week for a new project that I won’t say too much about and they have a hand in my record as well.”
What are they doing on the record?
“I worked for several months with Ariel Rechtshaid who produced Cass McCombs’ last couple of albums, he’s a good friend of mine in LA. Then I went to Europe to do that xx tour and to see my dad in Berlin, and when I was there I wanted to get back to work on my record. What I ended up doing with Van Rivers and Subliminal Kid in their studio in Stockholm was we recorded the transitions between each songs. It’s actually continuous music on the record, the song breaks are still musical.”
What was behind that decision?
“Lots! I wanted the album to have no beginning and no end so the idea was that each song would lead into the next including, if you listened to the CD and there was a first song and a last song, they would still feel connected. The album is called Ring. There’s more to it but I think I have to explain in visuals on my record sleeve.”
Talking to you it sounds like visuals are an important to what you do, is that a big part of your live show?
“We have costumes made by my designer friend Ida Falck-Oien and she’s been making my outfits on stage for a long time, she does amazing work, she’s made some stuff to wear on stage. When we were on tour with the xx we had these triangle hats! As of right now, the stage production is pretty small, we’re trying to keep everything as light and portable as possible. I would love ideally to do a much a bigger production with pyrotechnics and all.”
Like Lady Gaga’s tour or something?
“We saw Lady Gaga when we were on tour. It was amazing. I have never seen anything like that, I saw her play in Birmingham, it was amazing because the show was so gay but Birmingham didn’t seem like such a gay friendly place. It was just hilarious to see these Birmingham women in their hotpants and their eyelash extensions and they looked so…they reminded me so much of drag queens. They probably didn’t see it that way.”
But back to now, what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
“The album should be coming out in September hopefully, I may be back in Europe before then, well I will be back in Europe but there maybe shows before then in the Europe and hopefully the UK. Yeah, probably touring and maybe a couple of other irons in the fire but we’ll see.”