A WELL-EXECUTED falsetto is the linchpin for a multitude of lauded indie bands, from Dirty Projectors to Here We Go Magic. Like its Brooklyn compatriots, Glass Ghost hinges on a haunting falsetto that warbles with a singularity that attracts attention and then repays the investment. But Eliot Krimsky, the group’s lead singer, hasn’t always stuck to a higher register.
“I kind of knew in the back of my mind that that was me, but I didn’t really trust it,” says Krimsky, as we sit talking in a noisy Carroll Gardens bar with his bandmates Mike Johnson and Dave Sheinkopf.
Before he began Glass Ghost in 2008, he was singing both high and low in the experimental psych band Flying. But when he left Flying with Johnson, the band’s drummer, to start an entrancing art-pop duo with sophisticated off-kilter rhythms, he followed his vocal instincts.
“I was feeling a new type of freedom and just had the space to mess around with a few notes, and I realized that those notes felt really natural,” Krimsky says.
He cites the genesis of a particular song, “Like a Diamond,” as the moment when that vocal range became his comfort zone. In “Like a Diamond,” one of the most instantly memorable tracks on Idol Omen, Glass Ghost’s debut album released last year, Krimsky’s lilting falsetto hovers above warm, melancholic keyboards, which intertwines with Johnson’s skillful, measured drumming. He sings of an open heart, and the plaintiveness of Krimsky’s soulful delivery is enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. When asked about influences for his vocal style, Krimsky says there were many, and then Johnson breaks in, mentioning Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic (an old friend who lends his talents to Idol Omen and has sung Glass Ghost’s praises), in particular.
“Luke was totally an inspiration,” Krimsky agrees.
But in terms of overall inspiration for Glass Ghost, Krimsky and Johnson, who met more than a decade ago in Boston, originally connected on jazz. Krimsky was studying piano at the New England Conservatory and Johnson was playing drums and attending the University of Massachusetts when the two started a jazz trio called Best of Boston that mostly played awkward wedding gigs. Later they bonded over a love of hip-hop, especially J Dilla. And the African roots of both forms of music greatly informed their percussioncentric pop project, which started out simply, with Krimsky on Rhodes piano and Johnson behind the drums.
“It was just really percussive sounds,” Johnson says. “So, one way to approach it was to have it function like African drum music.”
Idol Omen swings with a fluid energy from beginning to end, Krimsky and Johnson’s jazz foundations informing every track. “Violence” begins with an African-influenced bell rhythm and then slides into the low boom of a kick drum mixed with a steady metallic ring, while Krimsky’s vocals rise up. In “Mechanical Life,” Krimsky’s ethereal voice floats on a bed of serpentine synth lines and hypnotic polyrhythmic drum beats.
But when the band toured in support of Idol Omen with White Rabbits last year, Krimsky and Johnson concluded that as a duo, they couldn’t convey the expansiveness of the album, which includes the contributions of numerous collaborators, live. Coincidentally Sheinkopf, an old friend and former roommate, had recently split from his band The Subjects, and the three decided to join forces, with Sheinkopf adding more keyboards, guitar, bass and harmonizing vocals.
It quickly became clear that Sheinkopf was a natural fit; since he was a fellow student of Krimsky’s at the New England Conservatory and had played with Johnson, they all share a history that gives them an intuitive knowledge of each other musically. And though they each found the music school environment creatively stifling at the time, what they learned has been percolating through an indie rock filter for so long that they can now employ its relevant aspects to their advantage. Together, the three are melding their collective backgrounds with a slew of elements from across the musical spectrum to craft a new collection of songs that keeps pop in the forefront, but reflects a global sensibility.
“Everyone has access to everything instantly and it’s such an awakening for everyone musically,” Sheinkopf says. “So [we’re] using that as an inspiration for how to take accessible pop music to a new place.”
>>GLASS GHOST June 9, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (at S. 2nd St.), Brooklyn, 718-599-1450; 8, Free.