Toronto-based musician and student of neuroscientist, Ben Shapiro, is stretching, warping and reinventing music in a way that has led to the birth of his first record, Glugen Frau. The record is out now and Glutenhead will be performing October 18th in Toronto at Sneaky Dee’s. We discussed everything from how the phrase “glugen frau” spanned music and the mind to influence the creation of the record, to how his study of neuroscience influences his music.
MFL: Looking back at the moment when the phrase, “Glugen Frau”, came to you originally, and the following years: when did that phrase and music come together as one to create your debut record?
Ben Shapiro (BS): I had already begun writing the songs before Glugen Frau materialized to wrap it all together conceptually. The songs are dreams, in both senses of the word. On one hand, they are made to mimic the subjective quality of dreams – off kilter, hazy, disjointed, impressionistic. On the other, they represent latent desires for the future, echoes of cries to the future to bring answers. The album is about the looseness of meaning and comprehension, how words and concepts can drift in and out of understanding, flowing from comprehensible to incomprehensible seamlessly. The memory of that phrase – Glugen Frau – had bounced around in my mind for ages and I just had a strange urge to look up if it had any concrete meaning in the real world this past winter. I found out that it roughly translates to “Glimmering Woman”, a fact that I find fascinating. To me, the idea of a Glimmering Woman captures all that I was writing about. It’s loosely comprehensible, yet also a dream, an ideal. It also contains so many meanings wrapped up in itself that as soon as you try to unpack them, you lose your way. It kind of all just snapped together.
MFL: Who else is part of Glutenhead and how did they get involved?
BS: Technically, Glutenhead has been a solo project so far. That isn’t to say that there have been a ton of hands on it, and I truly cannot take the credit for what it has become. I live in a house called “Casa Del Crusto”, which is also where my studio is. It’s a big Victorian home in the middle of downtown that’s seen some better (and worse) days, and there’s constantly people coming in and out all the time. The character of the place and the people who surround it really bled into Glugen Frau, literally and figuratively. August Kay’s gorgeous cover artwork captures the aesthetic of the album so perfectly and is one of my favourite parts of the whole piece of work. My friend and roommate, Rachel Asevicius, is the angelic voice on “how it feels” and “Ambient Love”. I was looking for a sweeter vocal sound and just had her come into the studio one day and told her to go for it. What you hear on the album is pretty much the first take from that, she really killed it. And Griffin Pickel’s mastering brought the whole thing to life, he is truly talented. And that is only a fraction, it goes on – from all of the people who lent me their ears throughout the process, inspired me with ideas and friendship, helped me with everything from press to videos to pictures to conversations. I better stop here or else I’ll never stop.
MFL: Everyone has a unique answer to this question but for you, when and how did you know the record was finished and ready for release?
BS: I had been working on the songs for a long time, and at some point I realized that I needed to get organized or else it was never gonna come out. I made a list of all of the songs that I wanted on the record, wrapped them all up in the conceptual framework for the album to tie them together, and put notes on what specifically needed to be accomplished for each track to be considered done. From there, it was as simple as checking off the list of items for each track that I felt needed to be done. Once I got there, I sent it off to a whole bunch of trusted ears for some feedback and then it was out of my hands. I’d probably still be tweaking away now if I never did that. I’m glad that I got it out when I did so that I can start developing Glutenhead off of that base.
MFL: Where has the release of this record taken you both within and outside of your musical life?
BS: The process of creating a record is such a wonderful experience. It’s like taking an auditory photograph, storing a segment of time in this thing that can then be re-lived whenever you listen to it. That being said, finishing an album feels like wrapping up a chapter, both musically and in life. I feel like I can now move on to explore what other directions I can take Glutenhead as a project and as a sound. I got to meet such great people through collaborating on this thing and I’m so excited to continue watering those relationships so they can keep blooming. This release has taught me the immense value of collaboration and working with others, a lesson that is bound to be fruitful moving forward. A record is a village.
MFL: Along those lines, as you listen to Glugen Frau now, is there anything about the record you would like to change?
BS: I’m pretty happy with how Glugen Frau came out, as a document of this moment in time and the state of things that I’ve been seeing. I don’t think I’d change much. Except maybe some more yelling on the track “A Torch”. The other day, I was listening to it and I thought, “I kinda wish I was yelling on this song”. I like the idea that this album will always exist as it does for myself and others to come back to, a time capsule of this space, how it is right now.
MFL: You talk a lot about the merging of neuroscience and your music. What does this merger do you for you as a musician?
BS: Sometimes it can be really useful, and other times it can kind of get in the way. I sometimes find myself caught in thinking about low level constructs like how to tease and reward, play with familiarity, memory, attention, etc. Thinking about those things too much can get in the way of creative expression, so I have to be careful and try to, as much as I can, just let the music write itself.
MFL: Finally, what is next for Glutenhead?
BS: I’ve already got some new material in the works, and it’s definitely a development on what is on Glugen Frau. I think I’m making the best stuff that I’ve ever made. Also have got a live band together and we’re rehearsing for our debut live show in Toronto at the legendary Sneaky Dees on October 18. This is going to be an exciting year, I think, for anyone who is intrigued by Glugen Frau. I’m just happy to be making things.
Big thanks to Ben for working with me on this interview! Follow him on his official website, Spotify, Bandcamp, Instagram and Facebook. You can find tickets to their upcoming show on October 18th here!