Adrian Glynn’s fresh new sound is the best of exciting urban city life mixed with the contemplation that comes from being in nature. The kick drum that starts off Adrian Glynn’s new album MoreLightThanNoLight is in itself a departure from his 2011 stripped back folk album Bruise – an album with no drums at all.
It is with these steady rhythms and unique blend of catchy synths and banjo that MoreLightThanNoLight forges its own path into a genre that can only be described as electro-folk. A catchy and innovative mix of bright synths and Adrian’s powerfully captivating melancholy vocals, MoreLightThanNoLight is an honest and ambitious must-listen album.
I caught up with the Vancouver musician/actor to talk about his new album, working with his buddies from The Zolas, and how nice Leonardo DiCaprio is for not wanting to shoot him.
Since there has been a shift in your sound – less acoustic instruments – was that a conscious effort on your part to change the sound from Bruise?
I didn’t sit down and go “How can I make an album that sounds different from Bruise ?” it was more an organic evolution I guess.
It actually started in Toronto. I went there for a month or two a couple years ago, I rented an apartment and just wanted to write some new stuff. For the first time I was using a midi keyboard and on the wall the person I was renting from had a banjo so I decided to take that off the wall. It was kind of an old piece of shit so it would only play in a minor key- which I thought was funny because people always accuse me of being too morose and here’s this banjo which won’t go in a major key, I’m like “Hey I tried! It’s not my fault!”
So I wrote a couple songs – they’re on the album, one’s called “One Light No Wake” and one’s called “Old Cadogan Hotel” and those two songs were put together using synths and banjo lines, which I thought was kind of a weird pairing but it sounded cool, and that was the beginning of it.
I had those songs and I showed them to my buddy Zach from The Zolas who’s my best friend, and he was like “This is really cool man, it would be sweet if The Zolas produced it for you” because they are obviously more in the Indie pop vein and that seemed to be more the direction it was going.
So you sent the Zolas your song and that’s kind of how the collaboration started?
Yeah, I just played Zach (Gray, The Zolas) those two songs that I had, and Tom (Dobrzanski, The Zolas) has a beautiful studio in Vancouver called Monarch Studios, it’s amazing, so we got together and did one song and were super happy with how it went, so we did another four and six months later we did another three and six months later we did another three, so we kinda just chipped away at it and kept liking what we had so we eventually had a whole album.
So were you involved with Swooner at all (The Zolas new album)?
No I wasn’t involved with that record- I love that record- but I wasn’t actually involved.
What was the inspiration for this album?
Vancouver is such a beautiful kind of naturesque city while Toronto is a much more urban feeling city, and I think that’s reflected in the record since that’s where it began: the urban, neon, more modern feel. That’s what the record sounds like to me and more what we were going for with the production and I think that all started from writing in Toronto.
You said that it is your most deeply personal album- in what way?
Previous records like Bruise had a lot of almost third person stories and there isn’t really a lot of that on this record. There are a couple pretty personal love songs or breakup songs, songs about close friends that passed away. “Guardian” is about depression and the desperation that comes with it, which is something that I’ve known and known in friends. So most of the songs are either first person or quite close to home, I didn’t do too much writing about other characters or other people- with the exception of “Old Cadogan Hotel” which is all about Oscar Wilde.
So there’s “Jumping the Gun” and “Jumping the Gun II,” what made you want to put two different versions of it?
Basically we had two versions and I liked them both. The original version was actually the quieter one (“Jumping the Gun II”) and I wasn’t sure if it would fit on the record because that’s a song that would almost fit more on Bruise because it’s a bit more quiet and harmony-ish. It was Zach (Gray, The Zolas) who listened to the song and thought we could speed it up and make it into a pretty catchy rock pop song. So we recorded the more upbeat one first (“Jumping the Gun”) but I still really liked the slow one, I really liked the harmonies, and I was like, it will take me probably an hour to record the whole thing so we just did it. We had a bit of time and we really liked it so we thought we can just put both on, I mean they sound completely different even though the words are the same, so that’s what we did.
You’ve done a lot of acting as well as music- what do you get from acting that you can’t get from music and from music that you can’t get from acting?
I moved away from acting for a couple years because it’s easier to feel gratified as an artist doing music because it’s just you, or you and your bandmates, and you have such creative control: you write the song, the melody, the lyrics, and you figure out how you’re going to perform it, and then it’s a direct communication between you and the audience, whereas with acting it was feeling tricky to feel gratified as an artist, especially doing film from television because a lot of time stuff that’s shot in Vancouver isn’t what I would call great art, it’s not great film, TV shows where the scripts aren’t particularly good, and you could work on a character for weeks and then show up on set and they’ll change everything on the spot and make you wonder why you spent weeks working on it which is frustrating. So I remember hitting a point where I was like “Why am I going through the struggle of trying to be an artist when I don’t have any control?”
So that’s when I started writing a lot more songs, getting a lot more enjoyment out of that. For years music was my main focus and I just did a bit of acting on the side but the last couple years I have been reinvigorated by acting. I started taking some classes again and there’s a therapeutic power to delving into your own emotion and having to dig that up in front of people, there’s something really cathartic about that and something really amazing about getting into a different character and I think a lot of creativity can happen there. So now- it’s stressful sometimes- but I’m juggling both.
Well, folks, sometimes you shoot some stuff but it doesn't make the final cut. Still, it was a pretty unforgettable experience to spend eight days on the set of @RevenantMovie this year, working with masters like Inarritu and Chivo and shooting a scene with DiCaprio himself. Should be an incredible flick [but don't blink or you'll miss me].
How was it working with Leonardo DiCaprio on a large production like The Revenant?
Well I only had the one day with Leo and he was great, I mean, he keeps to himself a lot but he came up to me and introduced himself which I thought was very gracious of him. He was extremely focused on set and this was at a point where they had been shooting this film for about a year. I actually overheard him say to somebody, as he was taking a toke from his e-cigarette, and he said “Man I can’t wait for this thing to be over”.
I didn’t have to do any of that insanely hard stuff but I heard all the stories. They lived through an Alberta winter in the mountains, they weren’t faking any of that stuff, they were really getting in rivers. And he (Leonardo DiCaprio) was really nice because he was really aware of my safety, like there was a scene where I was in his hut burning it down and he comes in and finds me and basically fires a gun right me. They obviously have a fake gun with blanks but it’s still dangerous because little projectiles can still come out so he was making sure and asking where he should aim the gun because he didn’t want to aim it at my face and I was like “Aw you’re so nice! You don’t want to shoot me in the face for real, what a guy!”