by Mely Duong
Idiot Glee. Although the name sounds unassuming, this act resonates with a peculiar, playful, and passionate vibe. The inspiration for the name of the group originated from an interview with Brian Eno in the ’70s, wherein Eno describes the feeling he embodies when creating music and art. James Friley, founder of Idiot Glee, related to this same inexplicable feeling when writing and recording. And so, in 2009, Idiot Glee was born.
Inspired by a variety of acts such as Harry Nilsson, Scott Walker, Fleetwood Mac, etc., Idiot Glee is able to stand on its own and bring a raw energy to live shows. Furthermore, Idiot Glee is one of those bands that is capable of evolving from album to album and even song to song effectively without isolating their fans.
In 2009, Friley’s focus was on vocal harmonies and layering, resulting in a doo-woppy vibe with sparse instrumentation. Following his debut, everything thereafter has been very different. “Life Without Jazz (2013) took a more upbeat and synthy turn and the instrumentation started to expand. Four (2014) is my only release without keyboards on it. Just guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. I started to get a bit twangy on that one. Probably from all the Fleetwood Mac. The Prairie (2014) is totally different – extremely chill, ambient piano and synth pieces, without vocals.”
Having explored a variety of sounds in previous albums, his new self titled LP, to be released on January 29th via Hip Hop Records, is a more cohesive album that combines influences from his previous record ideas and styles. Furthermore, this LP is the first time Idiot Glee has recorded in a legitimate study, which forces the LP to sound less minimalistic than in previous albums.
Approximately 95% of the album’s songwriting is completed by Friley. On occasion a bandmate or producer Stephen Trask (Hedwig & The Angry Inch songwriter and co-creator) would spark an idea for Friley, facilitating an open and cooperative environment. Most frequently, Friley begins with a beat and writes around a beat or loop, and the melody almost always comes prior to the lyrics. The lyrics are inspired by Friley’s thoughts on love, anxiety, his future, and even the most random of topics.
“’What’s That Smell?’ off of the new LP, for example, is literally just that…me wondering what that smell is? I couldn’t figure it out. I try not to take myself too seriously. ‘Evergreen Psycho’ started as a made-up German fairytale about a tree and a cactus falling in love, only to end with the tree cutting the cactus in half. It wanted the water inside all along.”
This just gives you some insight into the peculiarity of Idiot Glee. Musings that amuse, as that is the singular vision of Friley. His goal has always been to put out interesting records that don’t bore and that allow emotions to run the gamut from being happy to sad to feeling connected to being overwhelmed. Any of those emotions are okay with Friley, as long as the audience isn’t bored by his songs.
The biggest challenge for Friley during the recording of this LP was moderation. As any musician or artist knows, it’s often easy to get bogged down by the most minuscule of details, and Friley fully admits to being a little obsessive when recording. One strength of this LP is the production, to which Friley is thankful for Trask’s guidance and effort in taking Idiot Glee to the next level. Friley also believes that this is his best songwriting yet. On the contrary, the weakness of this LP stems from lack of horns states Friley seriously. There’s no simple over arching theme to be depicted in this LP.
“It’s just a good little time capsule about my life and brain at the time it was writing and recorded.” During this time, Friley got married, his parents went through some difficult times, and as a result, Friley’s ponderings of life and future is all reflected on the LP honestly.
For those who have not listened to Idiot Glee before, Friley suggests trying “I Don’t Feel Right” on the new self titled LP, which is a good middle ground. Personally, however, he loves “Personal Computer Television” as it is a bit more experimental. Friley thanks Robert Beatty for the great cover and also fans for their support. To learn more about Idiot Glee, check out their Facebook page or website!