Interview : Cassi Mergo – Glass Delirium




Interview by Ed MacLaren

Denver’s Glass Delirium is a seamless amalgamation of musical influences. Jazz, swing, metal and straight-ahead prog rock all find a place to jam on their fantastic debut album, “Thanks to a Monster’s Many Heads”. Add male/female lead vocals to the mix and Glass Delirium creates a unique musical style and musical approach that doesn’t fail to impress. Vocalist Cassi Mergo took some time from the Glass Delirium summer tour of the southwestern United States to talk to Femme Metal about how to get retro, the benefits of a good education and why it’s good to thank a monster.

OK. Let’s get straight to the point of this entire interview! Who’s the Monster and why are you thanking his many heads?

There are two meanings behind the monster’s many heads. The title of the album actually came from a lyric in our song “Transfixation”. In Revelation 12, a beast with seven heads is talked about (Satan). The lyrics leading up to “thanks to a monster’s many heads” are about (for me anyway) what life is like without Jesus. By “thanking” the “monster”, I am being sarcastic. Kind of like when you say “thanks for nothing”… does that make sense? The second meaning, and the reason we named the album after it, is because all six (sometimes seven, sometimes even eight!) of us are a wee-bit crazy. We have mood swings and disagreements, so we are all kind of the “monsters”, if you will. So, we are thanking ourselves for putting up with one another and making beautiful music together. I hope all of this makes sense!

Seriously though, “Thanks to a Monster’s Many Heads” is a great debut album. It’s full of fantastic proggy arrangements that twist and turn all over. It makes for a very “active” listen; you want to pay close attention to what’s happening musically. Were you satisfied with the final product?

The final product? Overall, yes. Unfortunately, we can’t all be there for the entire process of making an album so I did miss out on some recording and mixing sessions. There are certainly things I would have done differently, but it is more on a performance level than on a technical level. We had one of the best engineers in the state, JP Manza, track and mix our record for us, and he did an amazing job. The reason it sounds so good is because of his hard work and the hard work of Colorado Sound’s mastering engineer, Tom Capek.

How did Glass Delirium develop their sound? Did it evolve gradually or did it just suddenly rear its “many heads” when the band started playing together?

Funny that you should ask! It definitely evolved gradually. Before Glass Delirium, we were Forgotten Serenade and things have certainly changed since those days. As we all became more comfortable with each other, as well as more confident in our capabilities as individual musicians and as a band, I think we began to develop our unique sound.

The album is also a lot of fun! There aren’t too many “fun” prog rock bands out there but with the unique approach the band takes and the little twists – musical (“Transfixation”) and vocal (“Seeing Double”) – you can really feel the band’s enjoyment of creating music. Is that a fair assumption?

No, to be honest, we all hate music. We are just doing it to hopefully be billionaires one day… Just kidding! 😉 Yes, we enjoy making music and we enjoy each other. I think we could progress even more and enjoy our time together even more if we got to know each other better on a personal level. But yes, we certainly love the music and all that comes with it!

When the band is writing, is there a lot of jamming involved or does everyone come to the table with their own ideas and then you retool and combine the different elements to fit and work together? What’s the Glass Delirium compositional process?

Hmm… it seems to change. Usually David or Scott will come forward with a riff or melody, and then Matt will add his drums and Robi his bass parts, and vocals are last. It can take months or more to complete a song because we switch things up so much. Vocals are definitely the trickiest part, being that there are two of us.

Every song on TTAMMH has a totally unique vibe playing with different vocal and musical styles. The end product still feels like a very unified album. Did you write the music to tie together or does the album celebrate – track by track – the musical diversity of the band?

Interesting question, I’ve never really thought about that to be completely truthful. We knew we wanted to record an album, so we picked the songs we felt were strongest, and trashed the rest. I suppose it inevitably unites itself; the songs, however, were not written to “connect” per se.

Your “theme” song, “Glass Delirium” is a crazy swing-metal mashup complete with horn section. “An Enigma” also has some jump bluesy influences elements. How does a 21st century progressive rock band get that retro?

Easy answer: study jazz! I am a vocal major at CU Denver, Scott just graduated with a music business degree, Robi is a music education major at Metro and David has taken tons of piano classes and currently studies music at Community College of Denver. All four of us have been exposed to jazz and the way it works. So, we thought it’d be fun to take those elements and apply them to a metal song. I think we pulled it off!

With that said, TTAMMH is definitely progressive but stylistically hard to pin down. What music do you and the other band members use to inspire your own creativity?

Sooo many different kinds! David listens to a lot of electronic pop kind of stuff (think Madonna), Matt likes metal (August Burns Red, Killswitch Engage, etc.), Vince likes progressive and experimental stuff (Mike Patton, for instance) and Scott and I like progressive rock/metal (Tool, Fair to Midland). To be honest, I’m not sure what Robi draws his inspiration from, but I think he likes jazz and classical. We all use bits and pieces of our favorite artists’/bands’ music to help make our own.

The vocals on TTAMMH are fantastic but “The Clearing” is a true vocal showcase for you. You have a wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen-esque vocal style – clear, strong and powerful, with sweet emotional undertones. How did you develop your vocal style to match Glass Delirium’s musical gymnastics?

Well thank you! I think I just got lucky. I’ve always been a strong belter and that just happened to be what the band was looking for. I was somewhat “grandfathered” in as well, if you will, because Scott and I had been playing music together a couple months prior to the band’s formation. But, like I said before, I study music in college and my instructor knows Glass Delirium and how we sound, so she has helped me develop a stronger foundation for the kind of singing I want to do.

How do you and Vincent Nunez do the vocal arrangements? There are a lot of layering and intersecting melodies between the two of you – it’s not just “OK – You sing, then I’ll sing” kind of stuff. It must have been a blast figuring your parts out!

Well, when Glass Delirium was new, Vince and I didn’t really sit down and talk through the vocals together. It was kind of just like, “I sing what I want to sing, you sing what you want to sing and hopefully it sounds good”. It works sometimes, depending on the melodies and styles we are both singing. A place where it really works is in “Glass Delirium”, over the chorus. We have made it a goal of ours to harmonize in every song and sing the same words (just not in unison), rather than do our own thing. We need to be a team and we can’t make good music if we are only thinking about our own parts.

Denver seems like a bit of a strange place for a band like Glass Delirium to originate. How did you all find each other? Is your sound unique to the area or are there other bands like yours hovering under the radar?

Scott and I started the band. I met him when he was playing in his old band. We found a bass player on campus (our former bass player) who was looking for a band and she started jamming with us. Then we found Matt on Craigslist, I believe, and he stuck. We used to have a different male vocalist, who we found on MySpace, but he was only with us for a short time. David actually came to one of our shows and we announced that we were looking for a keyboardist and he emailed us the next day! As far as being unique to the area, I think we are in a lot of ways, yes. Female vocalists are more and more common these days, but it’s not often that you see a female and a male, both as lead singers, so that helps us out. Also, the fact that 2/3rds of the band has a musical background and can read and understand music helps a LOT! There are lots of great bands in Denver though; we just happen to add some other elements into our music (i.e. jazz), which helps add to our individualistic type sound.

How would you describe the Glass Delirium concert experience? It must be organized chaos on stage… or maybe not so organized?

It is organized in the sense that we play from memory! 🙂 But other than that, it is kind of crazy. We all move around a lot and walk all over the stage. I always find myself thinking, “Wow I must look like such an idiot”, but I goof off anyways. We have a lot of fun and we just try to keep the vibes positive and enjoy the music and the audience.

You’re touring mostly in the south western United States at the moment. Do you have any plans to expand your touring area? Your music would find an audience anywhere in the US or in Europe and South America for that matter.

We would LOVE to do an East Coast tour, but the time and money it would take to get out there are just not feasible right now. Three of us are in school full time and two of us have jobs that we have obligations to. I think if we ever get signed, we’ll definitely tour the rest of the continental US and hopefully Europe, too!

(Famous) last words?

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