The Glass Notes are the latest offering from Seattle musician Robb Benson. Bassist/writer Jake Uitti feeds Benson words and poems that Benson sits with, ingests, and fashions into songs. The tunes are snug, up-tempo, and marksmanlike in their well-crafted lit-rock phrasing. Benson constantly creates, and has been for his 20-year musical history. His previous work can be heard in the Nevada Bachelors, Dear John Letters, and more recently with Dept. of Energy. The Glass Notes recently put out a full-length on Seattle-based Roam Records called Dust and Hours. If Benson were anything else, he'd be a college English professor lecturing on the magnetism between Romeo and Juliet. His class would be full of Juliets, 30 of them. Juliets cloned from Verona's original Juliet. It's Juliet University, JU, where Benson is tenured and occasionally plays a lyre. At JU, hundreds of DNA-cloned Juliets are taught the art and skill of being Juliet, the musing muse. Through a two-year program, the Juliets become fully accredited Juliets, and are dispersed across the world to find true love and Leonardo DiCaprio.
What led to the formation of the Glass Notes?
Robb Benson: Dept. of Energy had been taking time off while the amazing Ty Bailie (B3 guru) was on one of his numerous tours with other groups. I had just met Jake Uitti at my favorite local pub. Jake is quite the poet, but at that time I only knew him as the bartender. He was really into the idea of collaboration, with his words and my songwriting. He started sending me stuff, and I would write and demo them into songs. Later he would come over and record bass lines.
What part of your sonic self is new in the Glass Notes? Are you taking new drugs? New pets?
The biggest difference is the number of songs we write. We've written about 70 songs in just over one year. Drugs? No, man, beer. IPAs, and keep 'em coming. Pets? Hell, yeah—French bulldog/Boston terrier mixes, two of them. Frankie and Johnny. They're my best friends. I love my pups.
How have you changed musically over the years?
My writing styles fluctuate constantly and are hard to nail down. It ebbs and flows. Lucky for me, Richard Ray at Roam Records has been very cool about encouraging and supporting me to develop my styles in any direction, and is always up for releasing material. I have 14 CDs out now, 11 of them on Roam.
There's a new guitar in your possession, a custom-built Benford from Wisconsin—the only one on the West Coast. How did you get it? What's it like? Does it shoot jizz like Prince's guitar? Tell me there's jizz.
I am very lucky to have met and befriended Ron Raygun, a buddy of my wife Darla's from Wisconsin. He introduced me to Benford Guitars; as it turns out, Ron and Steve Benford (owner) are old buddies. Benford is a very up-and-coming custom guitar shop out of Milwaukee. Steve Benford took me in and gave me the artist friend of Ron deal. My Benford "RNB," my initials, is a custom Tele-styled Thinline with three pickups and 15 different sound options. No jizz, but I love it. It's perfect. I love the Tele style, so I took that make and ran with it. Jake is having Steve make him a custom bass now as well, so the Glass Notes will be a full-on Benford guitars band.
Walk me through the making of your song "Thunderous."
I get Jake's poems in my e-mail, print them out, sit with them and my guitar, and start strumming. I don't know how to explain it other than that. Some nights I get on a roll and write three in a row. Some I record on my Droid real quick to work on them later. When I do the real demo, I record a few guitar tracks, stereo left and right, add some vocals and some backing vocals, and get a rough mix. Then I e-mail the rough mix to Jake. Jake learns the tune, and adds bass lines later in my studio when he's ready. After that I add production stuff like keyboard and drums or whatever it might feel like it needs. Or I might call in my buddies to add some tracks. It was this way for "Thunderous."
You're from Spokane? When you think Spokane, what comes to mind?
I grew up in Mount Vernon, Washington, but I lived out my high school years in Spokane. It was great. I played my first shows there and couldn't wait to get out. I don't get back much. If Chad, Jeff, or Corey are reading this, get in touch. I miss you guys. Why are you not on Facebook?
You spent time at the illustrious NAF Studio back in the day and knew Layne Staley?
I lived at NAF for about two years in the early '90s, helping out and doing whatever they needed. It was a massive artist warehouse that included bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Tons of bands rehearsed there. The first time I was ever played on the radio was because Layne Staley from Alice in Chains loved the demo tape of my band Mean Tangerine. Layne went into KISW on his birthday and demanded they play it. We listened live back at NAF and had our ears glued to the radio. The DJ sounded a bit annoyed that he had to play a demo from some band he didn't know, but he loved Layne, so he did it. Layne was a really cool dude. So was his bass player, Mike Starr.
If the Glass Notes were an element, what would they be?
Probably rubidium. The symbol, Rb, is my initials. Rubidium is a soft, silvery-white metallic element and it's highly reactive— like the Glass Notes.
You are a UW football fan. Are you pissed the Huskies are bad?
I am a football FREAK. I love the Seahawks and the Huskies. I think the Huskies will come back to prime status someday, but it could take some time. I think Jake Locker will make a great pro someday. It has to be hard to play on a team that is so young. I root for Jake every week. He is my second favorite Jake.
You're not a face painter–type fan are you? What do you think about the face painters? Do you ever feel sorry for them? Have you ever painted your face for a sporting event?
Face painting is not really my thing, but they add to the atmosphere at games. I am super lucky to have been given a few tickets from my neighbor who works for the Seahawks—thanks Todd and Amy! Otherwise, I could never afford to go. It's cool to see the Hawks fans all painted up like a tribe. Watching my teams lose, I get way too freaked out. My neighbors must think I beat my family because I scream and swear like a banshee when they lose. I get too damn attached to my local teams. I'm personally hurt by a loss. Honestly, that part is pretty lame, how I react. It can literally ruin or make my day.
What do you think about $9 beers at Safeco and Qwest Fields?
Nine-dollar beers are pure crap. Why do they buy kegs for about a buck a beer and mark it up nine bucks? I love beer, but damn. The Mariners are so terrible on the field, they should be giving free beers to us just to watch them. This comes from a person who has a game package. You know, I should really stop complaining. I get a lot of free tickets each year to some pretty great games. I'm a lucky bastard.
Whatever you do, don't paint your face. Or wear fake armor to a game.
The Glass Notes play Thurs Nov 4 at Cafe Racer. With God's Favorite Beefcake.