It’s impossible to question what a “live electronic” show ought to look like after seeing The Glitch Mob perform.
“You can’t tell us that we’re not musicians or we’re not playing real music,” says Josh Mayer, better known as Ooah. “We’ll show you exactly how we do it.”
The influential production trio, champions of L.A.’s beat scene, perform in a complex stage setup they dub “The Blade 2.0,” a cyberpunk-inspired contraption that includes custom touchscreen MIDI controllers and towering synchronized lights designed to resemble what looks like a futuristic spaceship. It’s an evolution from the original Blade found on The Glitch Mob’s 2014 tour.
“That’s really the DNA of the whole thing,” Justin Boreta says. “It has just gotten bigger and badder and louder and crazier. It has allowed us to play our music in more dynamic ways.”
Indeed, the trio has come a long way since their formation in 2006, when they played a renegade street show outside of Amoeba Records on Haight Street, which earned them an $80 ticket.
“It was at a time when electronic music was seen more as a fringe sort of rave thing. It was certainly not mainstream at all,” Boreta recalls. “We were off in our own corner of this abject part of musical society. But we wanted to go out and say that ‘No, this is actually music, too.’ ”
Challenging the notion that electronic music is not “real” music is a task The Glitch Mob tackles not only with conviction, but optimism.
“We are products of early music tech. The fact that we can play is only possible because of computers and software like Ableton,” Boreta explains. “As the technology gets stronger, as the tools become more evolved, it’s easier for people who never called themselves a musician to become involved in the music-creation process. We love that the music production process has been liberated from major labels and big studios, and it’s easy for anyone to get involved.”
After finishing the tour behind their sophomore album, Love Death Immortality, The Glitch Mob took time to work on side projects while coming up with ideas for their third album, See Without Eyes.
“There’s a lot of phases when writing our music,” Mayer explains. “There’s no hard, ‘this is how we do it’ kind of technique we have. We love to experiment — trial and error and stuff like that.”
See Without Eyes is a decidedly slower and moodier excursion compared to the epic, stadium-filling anthems of their past two releases, but not at the expense of their signature grit, showcasing their improved pop-songwriting capabilities with collaborations from vocalists such as Elohim and Tula.
“All of the collaborations we have done naturally or organically came about,” Edward Ma, better known as edIT, explains. “That’s when a lot of the best art happens — when it’s not something that is strategically engineered for a lot of hits or whatever.”
“The process is very easygoing on our end,” Mayer says. “We always give what we have created up to that point to our collaborators, and let them run with it however they want, and then they give it back and we work from there. Letting artists do their art is really when you get the best results.”
When speaking of The Do LaB and their annual Lightning in a Bottle festival — which they play every year either as The Glitch Mob or via a side project — the trio does not deny its importance, with Ma proclaiming, “This is the one festival we actually look forward to attending.”
Boreta furthers the sentiment, explaining, “The crew has been an integral part of our formation as artists. The reason why the festival is so important to us is the sense of community they have here, the sense of DIY ownership over the art projects, and the ethos of wild creativity that is also woven into what we do, so we have a shared root system with them that gives us a really close kinship to the whole project.”
At the end of the day, it is The Glitch Mob’s dedicated fanbase that gives the trio the motivation to progress and evolve as artists — which they’re sure to do on their newly announced North American tour. (No Bay Area date has yet been set, however.)
“The energy that the fans give us back is ultimately the true inspiration,” Ma says. “The fans are what bring the whole Glitch Mob experience to life, and they are why we do it.”