A Chat With: Soft Glas
If you're like me, you might have first seen Joao Gonzalez on stage this year with Overcoats. Gonzalez has spent the better part of 2017 on the road, playing drums for the electro-folk Brooklyn based duo, all while also mixing his own sophomore album. Under the moniker Soft Glas, Gonzalez crafted Orange Earth; a dreamy, nostalgic haze of an album that contains both groovy and tranquil melodies which he wrote, recorded, and produced himself. It's a record full of candid narratives and hometown memories, and one that vividly paints colors with its emotions and tones.
Last week, I met up with Gonzalez before the final Soft Glas show of the year, following a nearly month long stint with Sports, during which he learned to perform his songs as a one-man band. During his set, Gonzalez explained some of his inspiration and the nostalgic nods behind certain songs, saying "The past is rose colored and romanticized." This presence of hues in his stories weaves throughout Orange Earth as a common theme, as does Gonzalez's willingness to be vulnerable and transparent with his lyrics. To find about more about the journey behind Orange Earth, the story of Soft Glas collaborators, what's next in 2018 for the project, and even how Gonzalez prefers to spend his New Years Eves, tune into our chat with Soft Glas now!
ANCHR Magazine: Do you remember what your first musical memory was, and what made you fall in love with music?
Soft Glas: My family is extremely musical. My dad plays piano, his dad played piano...I remember being three and my dad getting me this baby drum set, and just being extremely drawn to the drums. I remember playing a beat or something and just knowing this is what I want to do.
AM: Wow, from age three! So you had your sophomore album out this year. What was the process behind it, how long did it take to write, and where did you record?
Soft Glas: So I actually started conceptualizing it almost exactly a year from now. I was home for the holidays in south Florida where I grew up, and I remember just being overcome by all this nostalgia. Being in my hometown...A year ago I started working on it. I did most of it in my bedroom, my home studio. Then the last couple sessions were with my audio engineer named Adam Straus , and we housed ourselves in this old church in Boston, and made this impromptu studio. We recorded a lot of the live instrumentation, so the strings, and the drums, and all the orchestral stuff and the piano. It was like an 8 month long process cause after that... I had to mix it and master it.
AM: Oh wow, so you did all that yourself?
Soft Glas: Yeah, I was actually on tour with Overcoats at the time. So we would mix in hotel rooms after the show. We’d come back to the hotel and mix.
AM: So how do you balance being your own artist, working on your own material, and then touring with Overcoats so much? Besides mixing in hotel rooms…
Soft Glas: It actually almost helps, as weird as that sounds. It’s like having a lot to do makes you appreciate what you’re doing in the moment. So I never got bored of working on the album, or frustrated because whenever I did come back to it...whether it was mixing or recording or writing, it was always really exciting. Cause it was like I have x amount of time to work on it. Having a lot to do helped me focus a lot more.
AM: Cool, and then you also have a a few collaborations on the album, like "Glass House" with Sunni Colon. How did those collaborators come around...was it just friendships, or how did you decide who to work with?
Soft Glas: I think every collaboration I’ve ever done is with a friend of some sort. So I always love to have an actual relationship with people before sending ideas and stuff. With Sunni specifically it was funny, cause I had just put out my first project. This album called Late Bloom, and he had randomly reached out and was like “Hey man, I really liked this album, I’m Sunni!” It was like through Twitter or something. Then literally the day after he messaged me, a mutual friend of ours asked if I wanted to help him shoot Sunni. So the following day we were like what’s up, guess we’re friends now! Then that was just how it usually goes. I have a friendship with people and it just becomes a given that we’re eventually going to work together on something.
AM: Is there anyone on the top of your list to collaborate with next? Whether it be more realistic, or a fantasy Beyonce collaboration?
Soft Glas: It’s funny that you say Beyonce because top of my list is Solange. I’d say Solange and Frank Ocean.
AM: I was gonna say, I pick up some Blonde vibes in Orange Earth.
Soft Glas: Oh my gosh, Blonde is my favorite album! It’s incredible! Also, Radiohead [is on my list] to work with.
AM: Yeah, it’s cool that you pull from different genres, and I can definitely pick up on a little bit of overlap. So, now talking about playing live, you’ve been on this tour with Sports for a few weeks. How did you translate something that you recorded and mixed and produced yourself into a live show? Was it a challenge?
Soft Glas: Yeah, it was so daunting. Just because while I was working on the album, I was simultaneously learning how to play guitar. I taught myself so that I could record guitar.
AM: Oh wow, so rather than get someone else you decided to do it yourself?
Soft Glas: Exactly, which is most of process. I don’t want to wait on people, so I just learn myself. When I’m recording though, I have unlimited takes. The biggest thing for me, especially with guitar and my voice, was I have one shot to get it on stage. That’s been kind of a crazy adjustment. Having that focus...and I’ve had to practice a lot.
AM: Has it been okay so far on the tour?
Soft Glas: I think so! I’m having fun, but I’m my biggest critic by far. So I come off the stage every night just like ahh, I missed that one note on that one song, or I messed up the timing on this.
AM: Everyone’s in the moment though so they probably don’t even notice! If you’re having a good time that’s always better than a perfect, rigid musician. So what about tour highlights with Overcoats? Any favorite moments?
Soft Glas: Touring with Overcoats has been the most absurd experience of my life. The touring itself was so intense. Literally we would do a 4 week run and have a total of 3 off days. It was so intense, and as a result we’re all stuck in this van together for the entire day.
AM: Yeah, I see their Instagram stories. They’re pretty entertaining...
Soft Glas: Yeah, you kind of lose touch with reality and how to interact with people. I’d say the whole thing was a crazy experience. It’s one big haze.
AM: So we’re coming up on New Years Eve. Do you have any best and worst NYE experiences you want to share?
Soft Glas: It’s actually--So best New Years moments, my family is very family-centric. We value family a lot. So New Years in my household has always been a very intimate event, where we want to bring in the new year together. So I don’t have too many crazy stories, since I’m usually with my parents, chilling at home and counting down together. There have been a couple times, like New Years in New York 4 years ago, where it was kind of crazy. I remember just seeing this DJ... It was the most ridiculous night because everyone was like let’s see how absurd we can make tonight. People were wearing the craziest stuff, we were in Bushwick in Brooklyn. I barely remember it.
AM: So that would be the craziest one?
Soft Glas: Yeah, I’m boring by the way! I’m so boring.
AM: That’s cool though, just hanging out. Do you have any advice about how to have a safe NYE?
Soft Glas: I would never tell anyone to be boring like me, but I would say ring it in with people you love. Do whatever you want to do, but just make sure you’re surrounded by people you love.
AM: What are your goals for next year then?
Soft Glas: I think I want to tour this album a lot more. I’m just now kind of scratching the surface of what the show could be. I could get my band together and have a bigger ensemble on stage, rather than just be me myself.
AM: Oh wow, so it’s currently a one man band? So hopefully you can get some touring members together.
Soft Glas: For sure. Also, I’m working on new stuff, so I’m sure I’ll record an album at some point next year.
AM: Last question, I always like to hear what my favorite new artists are listening to as their new favorites, so what are some of your recommendations on what to listen to?
Soft Glas: I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Hakim. Nick Hakim was probably one of my favorite albums of the year. Moses Sumney is incredible. I’ve been listening to a lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. They’re inspiring. A lot of my friends, like Zack Villere, you should check out. Alex Szotak. Cheryl. J'Von. Mulherin. Check all these people out! Honestly, they make my favorite music right now.
AM: Cool, any last closing remarks?
Soft Glas: I’m very happy to be in Chicago! It’s one of my favorite cities!