The February release of The Glitch Mob’s new album, Can’t Kill Us, is described by edIT (one if the group’s members, born Edward Ma) as having a more “grandiose and epic overall story and picture” than their previous albums. It was written seamlessly on Albeton in a way that would capture the same storytelling aspect of Drink the Sea, but make it more adaptable to large stage settings reminiscent of the groups’ first experiences of the electronic music scenes of their hometowns.
The dawn of the rave scene in the 1990’s may have been discounted by the media as nothing but underground warehouse parties full of drugged ravers, but for Ooah, edIT and Boreta of the Glitch Mob, there was something indescribably magical about those nights. The mystery of “a guy behind this table spinning records and these crazy ass sounds are coming out of it in this completely dark warehouse with crazy flashing lights” made the story of raves not about the drugs for the three of them, but rather about the emotions and experiences the music invoked through the foreign process of beats and sounds. As Ooah explains, “[The music captures the] feeling or emotion almost like the perfect mistake because even though technically it doesn’t sound right, it does something” to the listener.
“Part of the reason I got so into instrumental music as a music lover coming from punk and metal and rock and hip hop,” recalls Ooah, “Was that when I found dance music and electronic music that were just instrumental, I got so into it and lost in it because I didn’t have to be told what to feel or what the song’s about.” The absence of lyrics in those songs became an emotional escape for the teenage Glitch Mob as each note distinction and chord progression came to equate personal memories, innermost thoughts and feelings. The freedom of electronic music that first intrigued The Glitch Mob allowed them to discover themselves and transition from rave attendees to DJs/producers almost instantaneously.
Boreta says, “I actually DJed in 10th grade. I was 14 or so. I had my first pair of turntables and I DJed in my high school lunch quarters for the talent show. The girl before me did a little cheerleader thing, and I came out and played my five favorite Jungle records and everyone was like, “What the hell! Get this guy out of here!” For Boreta, as well as edIT and Ooah, (whose peers and family did not see electronic music as “music”) the goal after seven years as a group remains to hold onto the magic of the early rave days and bring light to emotions everyone has felt before, while leaving those emotions ambiguous and purely subjective.
According to Boreta, “There is a story, there is a narrative and there is a specific emotion and themes and stuff that we are exploring in Can’t Kill Us, but the way we chose the titles, the artwork and everything is left to be up to interpretation.” The Glitch Mob is well aware of the fact that a song may not have the same meaning to one person as it does to another, as often is the case among the three of them. As Ooah mentions, “There are certain songs and moments on the record when I’m listening to it I get these chills… my body is flooding with some emotion, where maybe Ed or Justin don’t feel it at the same time.” Meanings and stories are never predetermined for the listeners by The Glitch Mob. Even though edIT points out that, “Obviously, to us three, we discuss it and fantasize and think about it and try to convey all the emotions that we are trying to convey through the songs. We talk about or paint little scenes in the songs. We will paint those little scenes in the tunes to help us visualize it, but we normally never convey that to the listeners. We always let them determine what the song means to them.”
The ambiguity of the music of The Glitch Mob, as Boreta observed on his trip to Ethiopia with the water filtration companies Soma and Clarity, exemplified the belief that music really is a universal language. He says, “I could be in the middle of the desert in Ethiopia hanging out with people that don’t speak the same language and take out the drums or my phone and play one of our songs and it brings a smile to everyone’s faces and it speaks to everybody and breaks all barriers.” The effects of Boreta’s experiences in Ethiopia, as well as the group’s efforts with Haiti and their various other causes, are clear influencers on the recording of the new album in Joshua Tree and throughout the tour. Many of the snip bits of recordings that begin and end the featured songs were previously recorded, as Boreta explains, as “Part of our process of putting in our life [and] intentions into the music.”
To the band, the power of their work is perfect evidence that the music is bigger than the three of them. It is a reminder that “when you can positively impact people with what you do, there’s a magic in that” and you begin to “realize how music can help make the world a better place.”