Blood and Glass get art pop right

We spoke to frontwoman Lisa Iwanicky Moore about her band and their new record, Museum With No Walls.

blood and glass darren curtis Montreal band Blood and Glass is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Lisa Iwanicky Moore, her bass player/producer husband Morgan Moore and an always fluctuating crew of associate musicians. When I saw them at the FME festival in Rouyn-Noranda, Thus Owls singer Erika Anderson was singing back-up, her vocals filling in for Melanie Bélair’s violin — this switch-up is standard for Blood and Glass, and it worked out beautifully. The show as a whole was one of the most memorable sets at a festival with no shortage of outstanding performers, for the power of the songs, the players and the curious theatrical feel of what was actually one of Blood and Glass’s more stripped down gigs.

I spoke to Lisa (who you may remember as the singer for Creature) about how Blood and Glass works, and what to expect from tonight’s launch for their debut album, Museum With No Walls.

Lorraine Carpenter: I understand your band membership is always in flux. How do you guys work this out, live and in the studio?
Lisa Iwanicky Moore: It’s really become a collective where people come in and out and we feature different guests and instrumentation. The idea is to keep it fresh all the time. Morgan — who is my husband and the producer and bass player in Blood and Glass — comes from the jazz world, but he also plays with Thus Owls, he’s been friends with all those guys. He brought Robbie Kuster in on drums. I come from the pop mould, where we’re a band and these are our songs and we’re taking them on the road. Morgan has more of a jazz philosophy, it’s like, work with musicians who you love and are a fan of and have them surprise on stage. The songs are there as structures but to keep certain parts open has been completely life-changing for me. To just go side-stage and watch these musicians having fun together is amazing — it’s such a treat.

LC: In the songwriting phase, what does the collaborative process look like?
LIM: It always starts out with me writing an idea in my head and then I lay it down and I record a demo, and then I play it for Morgan. He always has ideas right away, so for instance the first single we put out is called “Paper Heart,” it’s about a world made of origami and the paperboy delivers the news to every house of cards and so on — everything is made out of paper. He’s the brain behind the idea of using scissors instead of a high-hat and using a stapler and tearing paper and flicking lighters and sampling that. Then as the paper world burns down, the girl tears out her paper heart and crumples it up and begins to play with fire with the paperboy. So Morgan’s like, “Then we’ll get Robbie to come in and just do something free and these meaty organic instruments will come through and then Melanie’s violin will keep hinting at the fire and she’ll sound somewhat Japanese to wink/nod to the origami.” She even bought an erhu instrument she wanted to play but it didn’t work out (laughs).

The process starts out with a visual metaphor so either it’s a paper world ’cause it’s a song about a fragile relationship or it’s a merry-go-round because it’s a song about addiction whatever the metaphor is everybody starts to think about that visually so they create sonics around the storytelling.

Robbie Kuster, he’s such a creative force, he’s not just a drummer. He’ll come in and say, “Okay, this is about a merry-go-round — I’m gonna bring in my marimbas and glass trinkets and toys we’re gonna sample all these carnival-sounding things and I’ll bring in my massive kick drum, I’ll hit it with mallets like a marching band,” and we all get into it. [Each song] ends up being this very passionate, idea-filled thing and then Morgan has about 160 tracks to sift through after so it’s hours and hours of work and really hope that people can hear that and get immersed in it.

LC: I know you guys have theatrical tendencies. What do you have planned for the record launch?
LIM: We’re working closely with the artists at Phenomena, and it’s why we decided to launch our album within this festival, because it’s a multidisciplinary arts festival and that interests us. This is not just a band; it’s about the music and the songs first but it started to feel like these songs are little paintings with little visual metaphors, so we started to say it’d be cool, for each show, to pick an element in the music and visually welcome people into that world. The head of the festival, D Kimm, she saw us when we were having a funeral for a tree, which is based on one of our songs. We called it In Memory of a Tree. Alexis O’Hara made this tree that I was able to sing into, and we totally immersed people in this world. Members of the audience were actual members for that night — there was no division

At Sala it’s going to be more difficult because we’ll have to create a vibe and a world on the stage, and hopefully it’ll leak out into the crowd. Because the album is called Museum With No Walls, we decided to decorate and transform Sala into a surreal world. There’ll be hanging hats and a paper wedding dress and eight musicians on stage, which is a first, plus some special surprise guests coming to celebrate with us. ■
Blood and Glass launch Museum With No Walls, with openers 10,000 Horses, at la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) tonight, Saturday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m., $12