In the wake of the Paris attacks earlier this year, South Carolina pop-punk band Death Of Paris found themselves struggling with the moniker they had given themselves. Out of respect to those killed and injured, as of January 1st 2016, they will re-emerge as Glass Mansions and are determined to help people around the world remember that the power of music can get them, and anyone else struggling, through the hardest of times.
With plans in the pipeline for new music and lots of shows, the quartet - made up of Jayna Doyle, Blake Arambula, Patrick Beardsley and Johnny Gornati - kindly agreed to this interview to discuss Paris, performances and perfect show line-ups.
PW: How did you all meet?
Jayna Doyle: I ran into Blake out at a show in Columbia, SC. We were in different bands at the time and I soon joined his band when they were in a pinch for a singer. That band had a lot of fun for a few years and we started writing more music together, so when that band ended we started a new little project that would grow into this band. After we'd been writing for about a year, and had recorded a little bit without a full line-up, I was introduced to Patrick at the coffee shop were I work. The three of us clicked instantly and while we were searching for a drummer we ended up doing an acoustic tour because we were too impatient to stay away from the road. We went through several drummer line-ups since day one, feeling cursed we'd never find the right fit - until Johnny reached out to audition last October. We feel super lucky that we found him.
PW: Whose idea was it to place an ad on Craigslist in order, as luck would have it, to recruit Johnny?
JD: It was either that or Tinder. Craigslist is a dark place - but it sometimes makes for funny stories. Johnny had just moved to Charleston, SC and was still trying to meet other musicians - we had happened to place an ad right when he had checked the site.
PW: You originally went by the name Death Of Paris - where did that idea come from and how badly were you subsequently affected by the tragedy in Paris in November?
JD: The name Death of Paris was a moniker we came up with in 2010 - when you didn't have to worry about or even think twice about a terrorist attack on live music. The name came about after a lengthy conversation one night about hook-up culture and the current state of love in a world full of iphones and hook-up apps and everyone hiding behind social media. The city of Paris came up, since it's so universally seen as the city of love and romance… and then the death of conversation came up - and we sort of merged those two ideas. The "Death of Paris" was meant to be an abstract on the death of romance, the death of love - and it made sense with the ongoing theme in all our songs since I tend to write about love, lust, revenge, sex, and the chase.
On the night of the tragedy in Paris, we were gearing up to release a video to celebrate the two year anniversary of our EP "GOSSIP." We blacked out our social media accounts for the weekend, out of respect, and held off on posting our video because we instantly knew that our name would be offensive. We didn't get any negative backlash from fans or any traffic that may have come across our page after the attacks - except I did get one very threatening FB message from a promoter who thought we chose that name AFTER the attacks. Ultimately, I think we have a very close relationship with our fans, who have been very understanding and impressively supportive of us since the start - they knew this is something we would know how to address eventually. Now, it's just become too big of an elephant in the room and moving forward with all the exciting things we have in store to release in 2016, we don't want to be a reminder for tragedy. We feel for those victims and their families and anyone affected - we want to inspire people and other musicians to express themselves more and to not let attacks like these discourage anyone from what live music can do. Live music is meant to be a safe place to escape from our daily struggles, and to heal. All of this has reinvigorated us to give more of ourselves to our music and live show now.
PW: It's often been said that music is therapy for a lot of people - notably after the events in Paris, do you believe that to be true given that the likes of Eagles Of Death Metal wanted to prove music can survive in the face of such horror by returning to the Bataclan?
JD: ABSOLUTELY. I organized a benefit show when I was in high school to raise money for a non-profit in NYC that was an art and music therapy program meant for abused and troubled kids. Music therapy is something very, very close to me and one of the reasons I am an artist. Music does heal - it stirs us and makes us emotionally face things, it helps us heal our souls. There's no way to talk about it that doesn't sound cheesy or like a hallmark card, I don't know how Bono does it. But there is some sort of magic in music that brings people together and helps us survive. I have so much respect for Eagles of Death Metal for being so strong throughout all this, I can't even imagine all the things they must be feeling, but they're right in not standing down and fighting back against terrorism by playing out louder than ever. I think that's all we can do as musicians now.
Blake Arambula: EODM taking to the Le Bataclan stage again tells us all that we can't be afraid - we can't submit to the fear that an attack could happen again because that fear would consume us. Bands have to be strong and continue to play in the face of that fear, and audiences have to be empowered to attend shows again.
PW: You've since renamed yourselves Glass Mansions - is there a story or idea behind the name?
JD: Yes. In the wake of any tragedy, we are made soberingly aware that we are not invincible. There's a humility in this awareness that is the beauty of being human. -- We are all immense but fragile. Powerful but vulnerable. We are all Glass Mansions.
PW: You've been working on and creating music since 2010 so how do you think the industry has changed in the past five years and what impact has that had on your own music?
JD: Social media has been a huge game-changer for the music industry. I think that has had the biggest impact on us as a band - promoting online and learning new marketing techniques in the tech world and then trying to blend those with old school promo as well.
Johnny Gornati: I think it's probably changed more in the past 5 years than we even know of or have seen yet. Things rely more heavily on social media "stats" now, which is dumb since bands can buy those. Since everything went digital, hard copy music has been on its way out, so it's awesome seeing that vinyl is now making a comeback.
JD: I think women are starting to take charge of how they're perceived more than ever and the industry needs that kind of shake up. With bands and artists being able to do so much on their own now, the industry may be a bit confused. Our band can do so much more on our own terms than we could 5 years ago. Maybe someday we'll all meet in the middle...maybe in another 5 years.
BA: If anything has changed since 2010, it's been pop music. In 2010, the top ten artists were Kesha, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna - now the industry is taking risks on having more bands rather than solo artists. I think in today's world it's easier for us to find our place.
PW: Who are your own personal musical influences and how have they blended to impact what you create as a band?
JG: My number one musical influence is Springsteen. My favorite drummers are Stewart Copeland, Mick Fleetwood, Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. and Dave Grohl.
JD: Emily Haines/Metric, The Wombats, Jimmy Eat World, Butch Walker, The Killers, Third Eye Blind, We Are Scientists - I'm drawn to clever lyrics that have weight to them. I'm kinda obsessed with how well some of these artists sneak heavy lyrics into such lush pop distractions. I grew up on No Doubt, Alanis Morissette, Garbage, Mariah Carey, Goo Goo Dolls, Whitney Houston and tons of 90s dance music. I try to learn from what I listen to every day.
BA: Bloc Party, Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats, Daft Punk, Porter Robinson, Butch Walker, The 1975. I admire the combination of smart song-writing, vivid lyricism and the ability to resonate.
Patrick Beardsley: Bauhaus, NiN, Trent Reznor, Placebo, Charli XCX, Joy Division, Lady Gaga, Tom Waits, Butch Walker, Marvelous 3...
PW: Is there any one band or artist you think you're most similar to?
JD: I think the closest comparisons we've ever gotten would be if Pink fronted Muse or if Hayley Williams fronted The Killers or if Shirley Manson fronted Bloc Party.
BA: I always thought we were more like what would happen if Annie Lennox started going steady with The Neighbourhood.
JD: Fuck, dude I love that description.
PW: Who or what inspires your song-writing and what topic or issue are you finding you write about the most?
JD: I've always ended up writing about love, lust, revenge, sex, death, and the chase. These are things most fascinating to me. All my lyrics end up being an open letter to exes of mine or personal experiences where I didn't get to fully express myself - I'm always singing to someone in particular.
BA: Every moment in life inspires me, from the spontaneously adventurous to the banal. They say art imitates life, and our music is almost a tell-all of the life we live. With that being said, our lives are constantly evolving, and Glass Mansions' music will be evident of that evolution.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
JG: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" - Tears for Fears - self explanatory!
JD: "Motorcycle Drive By" - Third Eye Blind, it's just perfection, one of those songs that's just bigger than us, for me. I have so many bitter-sweet memories attached to this song.
BA: "Like a Rolling Stone" - Bob Dylan, not only because it's a damn good song but because it was a pop song that defied commercial convention while retaining the honesty and passion that makes it a six minute piece of rock n roll history.
PW: Of the shows you've played so far, could you pick a favourite?
JD: Burnside's in Austin, TX last SXSW. It's a smaller place but that particular night everything was perfect - the bar, the crowd, the vibe was magic unlike anything I've ever felt. I'm chasing that same feeling now.
JG: House of Blues a few months ago opening for IAMDYNAMITE.
BA: Warped Tour last year. It was an awesome achievement in its own right, but I think it's my favorite because the experience really taught us that a band with our kind of local hustle had a place on a national level. That idea still drives me today.
PW: Which venue would you most like to play and why?
JD: The O2 Academy Brixton. I saw a picture of it several years ago and have mentally marked it as a milestone I'm working towards. It's a beautiful venue in London.
JG: Red Rocks would be sweet.
BA: Red Rocks, I've heard it's beautiful and a one of a kind experience.
PW: You get to share a stage with four other bands or artists who can be living or dead. Who do you pick?
BA: Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin.
JD: Metric, The Wombats, Butch Walker, Amy Winehouse.
PW: Whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
JD: Madonna or Lady Gaga - artists who have stayed true to themselves throughout their careers, artists who say fuck the rules every now and then.
BA: Madonna, for her longstanding career and the ability to continually reinvent herself. If there is an artist out there who simultaneously can hustle, be a business person and keep people talking, it's her.
PW: How has social media impacted the way you reach an audience and build your fan-base? Would you agree that bands and artists must be socially interactive in order to get their foot on the ladder of the music industry?
JD: Social media and the band are interconnected and an every-day part of life. I don't know how a band could survive nowadays without being socially interactive online. I only started a personal Facebook BECAUSE of the band.
BA: Ever since the band started, I knew social media would be crucial. I didn't want to leave any fans of the band in the dark - and when did anything like record, tour, and or even go on a taco run during SXSW, I wanted them to feel like a part of all that. Many of our fans have been with us from the start and have come to our aid time and time again, helping us fund records and voting us to play great opportunities. I would never want to keep them out of the loop on anything we do. I think while our social media statistics aren't overly inflated, our fans are passionate. There's this numbers game at work when you're being looked at, and sometimes it feels like a double edged sword. On one hand you feel as a band that you need some sort of representation - a label, booking agency, or manager - to assist in helping you reach that fan-base and widen your audience. On the other hand, that representation wants you to already have that audience before they get involved. In the end, you just have to have that online presence so fans can put a face to the music.
JD: Although keeping up with it can be a headache when you're a DIY indie band and there's so much else to do - I love social media for the fact that I can instantly connect with new fans and can learn about the people who our music is resonating with. I'm very close with our fans and try to speak with everyone personally as much as I can - I don't do this for stats, I do this simply because I love and appreciate everyone who takes the time to listen to us. I think if you get too caught up in stats as a young band, you forget who the "stats" are - they're people, they're fans, they're friends. I think bands need to stay focused on music and getting to know their fan base, because social media stats are becoming irrelevant.
PW: Finally, what does 2016 have in store for you? Can fans expect to see you out on the road and perhaps put out a record?
JD: Yes! 2016 will put us out on the road more than we've ever been. We already have about 80 shows booked, and we'll be trying some new set designs and lighting out, too! New music is also on the way, sooner than you think!