Despite the rich history and the fact that it has outlived many other trends, bands that are stuck with the "goth" label seem to spend much of their existence and beyond trying to duck it. From Bauhaus to The Sisters of Mercy, All About Eve to The Cure — very few of the originators proudly and loudly proclaim themselves to be goth, letting their vampiric flag fly.
And sure, the desire to sub-sub-sub-genre everything has been a blight on music for decades, so it’s understandable when those first-wavers prefer to use a term like "post-punk" or, to boil it down to the absolute core, "rock & roll." They have a point too; most of the goth bands dealt in a deft combo of morbid and romantic lyrics, often blending orchestral or even operatic elements with the moody rock, resulting in something that was both dark and beautiful. But the movement was far more eclectic than many imagine. The similarities were often more aesthetic than sonic.
All of that remains the case to this day. Los Angeles band Glaare have enough in common with those that came before them to comfortably carry the "gothic badge of authenticity." Yet there’s so much more going on. The husband-and-wife team of Rachael and Brandon Pierce designed it that way when they formed Glaare in 2012.
“Eight or nine months into Rachael and I dating before we got married, she was playing in a jazz band,” Brandon Pierce says. “I had recently gotten sober, and I had been removed from a band prior to that. When I met her, she expressed that she wasn’t content doing standards. I had kind of given up the prospect of being in a band or starting one — it sounded exhausting. But we talked and then I told her that I would give it a go. We met Cameron [Carlin], who also recently got sober. There were three years when we were in a black hole. We took a yearlong hiatus, and somewhere around year two, Rachel had lost her mother and for a number of reasons it was a difficult time but we managed to retool the band after that.”
After a period of trying to beef up the band with more personnel, they decided to put their heads down and work as a creative trio. Experimentation followed, as they worked at figuring out what “their sound” was, blending all of their various influences, which include Kate Bush, M.I.A., Aaliyah, Madonna and black metal.
“I don’t necessarily think that we’re a run-of-the-mill post-punk band that listens to post-punk all the time,” Pierce says. “I like The Cure but I don’t listen to it every day. It’s become more organic and natural to play this way, but it’s a mix of a lot of different influences. If anything, our record is a lot softer than it comes across live. Maybe some of that more aggressive music, black metal and stuff, comes out performance-wise. We don’t stand up there subdued. A lot of these goth rock bands are emotionless and deadpan. That’s not the vibe. We don’t want to be bored, and we don’t want anyone else to be bored.”
There’s no chance of that. Glaare’s gorgeous take on darkwave weaves lush dreampop elements with moody, ’80s-ish electronica and, of course, post-punk, without ever sounding dated. Rachael’s vocals are simultaneously strong and delicate; like Nick Cave or Peter Murphy, she delivers her stories with depth and passion, but with the sort of ethereal prettiness associated with the aforementioned Kate Bush. And yet it’s Rachael who brings much of the black-metal influence to the project.
“She likes the folklore behind it quite a bit,” Pierce says. “She had gotten into it shortly after we had gotten together. I had my black-metal phase years ago — I do still love it for what it is, and I still listen to it too. But her intrigue was vastly different. She had a Christian upbringing, and it was so in the opposite direction to all that. I think it spoke to her on a lot of different levels.”
However the Glaare sound comes together, it all works beautifully. The sounds traditionally associated with goth marry seamlessly with the contemporary. Still, one of the problems when you have a unique sound is finding other bands to play with.
“I feel like it’s a male-dominated genre,” Pierce says. “We’ve just played with Protomartyr, which are nothing like us. Not in the wheelhouse. I feel that we have a goth or metal fanbase, despite not being a metal band. That’s generally the people that gravitate toward it. But we don’t really play with bands that sound like us ever. That makes me feel good, like we’re unique in some way. I love that. But there’s also a sense of longingness to belong.”
Glaare’s debut full-length album, To Deaf and Day, dropped in October via Dune Altar/Funeral Party Records. The band had sat on it for a while as they ironed out some mastering issues, but the three members, now complemented by live bassist Rex Elle, are happy with the way it turned out.
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“We don’t have distribution, our label is small,” Pierce says. “But we sold a lot of them. I feel accomplished — it’s the word-of-mouth thing. We’re working on the next one and we’ve picked up the pace in a lot of ways. It’s more extreme in every way.”
On Thursday, Glaare perform at the Union Nightclub, and that should warm them up nicely for a tour with similarly dark project Black Mare. Brandon Pierce and Carlin will performing in both bands.
“So we’ll be doing a double set, which is always exciting-slash-exhausting,” Pierce says. “You have to also change personalities. It’s a very different band. But I’d like to think, with Glaare, we can hold our own in a bigger venue.”
Glaare play with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, at Union Nightclub; and with Black Mare and Brass Box at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, at the Moroccan Lounge.