One of the most difficult things for a broken human spirit to embrace is a vulnerability with those we trust. Sometimes, it’s even with ourselves. We are terrified of being seen completely, afraid that our flaws and our trauma will further isolate us, and our attempt at community will leave us more broken than before. For many, “vulnerability” means “I’m fine!” is no longer an answer they can leverage. It’s easy to forget the implication of living in a glass house – it’s not that you don’t throw stones, it’s also that everyone can see inside.
The underground music scene and its progeny are no strangers to heavy conversations and difficult topics. Some bands are extremely talented at getting to the heart of the matter in their music, and some bands have made it a tentpole around which they’ve built their band. Glass Houses – and their lead vocalist Josh Haider – has done just that. Haider is a genuine human being who lacks pretense and enjoys entertaining meaningful conversation. When I spoke with him, right from the start, he didn’t shy away from talking about the heaviness of life, hitting on “mood-killing” topics, a stigma he is trying to shed from them. There is an intentional, underlying humanism to their musical and lyrical approach.
The metalcore pulsing through your eardrums is almost a trojan horse for, “What’s going on in your life?” Sometimes that means talking about mental health, sometimes doubt, family troubles, trauma – sometimes all of the above. Whatever the topic, it’s refreshing to find artists – nay, people – who wear their hearts honestly on their sleeves. Andrew Voigt, a contributing writer for HM, sat down with Haider to open up about life and its emotional-inducing fallout. They talk about the band’s recent singles, the life experiences that have shaped the lyrics in their music, and their approach to producing music in a world where the “album” is becoming a dinosaur.
Where are you guys based?
I’m in Bismarck, ND. Our guitar player, Tanner, and I live in Bismarck. Our other guitar player lives in Fargo, and then our drummer and our bass player, Mark and Lucas, both live in Minneapolis.
Are you and the guys self-producing your recent work? You’ve released a few singles in the past year that are absolutely incredible.
We dropped a song “Bled” and “How to Breathe.” We did “Lost Choices – Reimagined,” which one of our friends down in New Orleans helped us produce. We were really happy with how that turned out. We have a song out called “Li(F)e.” All of that music was done with a guy named Josh Schrader out in Midland, MI. He works with bands like Burials, Dayseeker, and The Color Morale. He does a lot of metal stuff, and he’s got such a good punch. We have a whole demo right now that we’re talking to a few different people as to who’s going to master it. We’re not as concrete as we used to be because we’re trying to do as much as we can in-house.
This year, you released a song called “Bled.” What was the inspiration behind it?
I was talking with my friend Matt (McAndrew) who plays in a band called Slaves. It was really cool because we got to let go and explain how a lot of other people in bands don’t understand being a lyricist. He was saying, “I’m in the studio, and you’re just having a good time with your friends. Am I really going to bring up this really (sensitive) subject that’s going to be essentially a mood killer?” The reason I mention that conversation is that it was the first time I ever came to terms with and had someone to relate to and say, “Hey, this thing I’m about to say is really heavy and I know they’re things I’ve never talked to my bandmates about but it’s something I want to talk about to our fan base and want to express through our music.”
“Bled” was a song about physical abuse and, specifically in my life, a lot of stuff my dad has done to my family and things I grew up around and (was) kind of normalized more than should have normalized. The song is discussing how people can, at one moment, let their anger out so maliciously at you and then in the next moment act like it didn’t happen or swear that it wasn’t their fault. The whole song is basically about physical abuse and me coming to terms that this is the thing that I’ve dealt with in my life but also the type of thing I don’t think we should be so quiet about.
It’s something we also shouldn’t be as forgiving of. I know that’s a point of contention I have with some friends and some people I talk to, because some people say, “Hey, it’s family. You should always love them no matter what they do.” And I’m over here thinking, you know, I get it. Blood is blood. But there comes a point where the people who are your true family, who truly love you and who will truly be there for you aren’t the same people who are causing your trauma, and they aren’t the same people hurting you. It’s a song about breaking away mentally and understanding that maybe we shouldn’t be forgiving these people and letting them so voluntarily back into our lives.
It’s a heavy topic, too, because it’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done as much to me as it has been done to others in my family while I watched, and I didn’t know what to do or (how) to facilitate my own feelings about it. It’s something I hope others can listen to and feel less alone – if that makes sense. The best-case scenario is that you realize, through your art, that you’re not as alone as you once thought you were. Maybe, to you, this is something that only you have dealt with, but, once you share it with the world, so many people… Which is the case: I’ve gotten multiple messages on Instagram and Twitter where people are saying, “Wow! I really relate to these lyrics. The same thing happened to me.”
It’s really cool because you write it for yourself and hopefully it ends up reaching other people. That’s been true of some of my favorite songs I’ve heard in my life. I’ve been helped by the alternative music scene, so I want to make sure that I help in return and contribute back to it.
When it comes to Glass Houses, what influences have inspired your work?
Tanner and I are the primary writers. We’ve been friends since middle school, and we came up doing The Devil Wears Prada covers. I was just screaming into a Walmart microphone while he was playing riffs (laughs). The Devil Wears Prada’s early work, I Killed The Prom Queen, Bring Me The Horizon, Norma Jean – kind of like that 2005-2006 scene of metalcore. Obviously, the precursor of that would have been our mutual love of Linkin Park. I was a bit more of a nu-metal kid than he was. He was obsessed with Linkin Park and I was super into Slipknot and Limp Bizkit and I had every Korn album at the time.
In my opinion, when I discovered bands like TDWP, I was like, “This is unhinged! There are no rules anymore!” (Laughs) Since then, I’ve listened to more punk and a lot more precursors like that, such as Zao and At the Gates. Darkest Hour, I love. We have a mutual love of that metal music.
“You have to always make one song your grandma can respect, which is actually funny because my grandma did end up hearing ‘How to Breathe’ and was like, ‘I didn’t know you could do that!'”
How do matters of spirituality and mental health play into your lyrical writing?
What we have created with Glass Houses and the things we continue to create really do dive into mental health. That’s our ballpark. We never really had the talk before our first show as a band, but I went on stage and all I talked about was mental health. I didn’t care as much about trying to push merch sales. When I watched bands play live, I think, if I had that stage, I would love the opportunity to speak on some experiences.
I look around every time I’m at a show and think, None of these people are your typical people. Like, why, on a Saturday night, would you rather be here than at a football game or at your school dance or something? It’s a very diverse amount of people. I was talking with my girlfriend about that not too long ago. I’m like, “You go to a metal show versus a lot of other types of scenes… Yes, you have a lot of metalheads in black there, but you also have some guy in cowboy boots and some dude who just got off working at 7-Eleven. You’ve got the short alternative girl and the volleyball girl. Everybody is there to experience something. I believe, personally, that everyone has something that is in them that is different, but these people are at a point in their life where they’re trying to engage with their true selves.
When people start being candid and stop trying to perform, I think there’s a lot of truth and transparency in the punk and metal scene. I have been graced with amazing friends who are very talented and we’ve been able to build something out of it. I became the type of person who is much more introspective and a lot more open-minded, understanding, loving, and believing that we’re all one; it’s not me versus you.
“We never really had the talk before our first show as a band, but I went on stage and all I talked about was mental health. When I watched bands play live, I think, if I had that stage, I would love the opportunity to speak on some experiences.”
Do you guys have any new music on the horizon?
Yeah, we’ve had every song ready to go and we were going to drop it as an album, but we realized that it just won’t go over really well as an album. I’m very confident about the new music; I love it. I think we just got to the point where every song was a single. Dropping an album of singles, it doesn’t really flow and mesh atmospherically the way a traditional album would. So, that’s why we looked more at the idea of just dropping these. Just release these all as singles. Even with the new stuff we’ve got written, it’s looking like it may be an EP.
Our first album, called Wellspring, we dropped in 2016. I love the album and it has some of my favorite lyrics we’ve ever written, but it is not diverse whatsoever. Every song is just metalcore into metalcore into metalcore. So we’ve been challenging ourselves. We like so many different styles of music, and, sometimes, we want to do something a little bit more melodic. I’m just like, you know what? We should just do it all. We should start writing whatever feels natural to us. Since it is us, it’s not going to sound like (it’s out of) left field; it’s going to retain our sound.
You have to always make one song your grandma can respect (laughs). This is actually funny because my Grandma did end up hearing “How To Breathe” and was like, “I didn’t know you could do that!” That’s the dream of every metal musician. We just want one thing that our extended family can look at and be like, “Oh. He’s not just screaming.” Then we can go back to screaming (laughs).
Glass Houses was posted on November 3, 2020 for HM Magazine and authored by Andrew Voigt.