"I don't like bein' retro for retro's sake," says Reuben Glaser from the loft space/recording studio where he's resting between two legs of his tour. He speaks with an almost Southern lilt that has nothing to do with his Cincinnati habitat. "We been playin' the South, so maybe it stuck," he laughs. "New Mexico is probably the one place in the country that has less of an accent than we do."
Like cotton to velcro, the notion of "vintage" sticks to Glaser, too--though in an unconscious way. His band Pearlene, for which he sings and plays guitar, shakes out blues-induced psychedelic garage rock. Pearlene's latest For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality was recorded on gear from 30 years ago: an analog tape machine from the ’70s, vintage mics, compressors and amps.
"People have realized how good that stuff back then sounded," Glaser says. "I like that old warm, fuzzy sound. There's a tendency toward a lot of cookie-cutter digital stuff that doesn't sound good."
Unmarred tracks contribute to the generica of modern records, he says, which no longer capture people making music together, replacing those moments with sterilized perfection. "People used to play music together," he says. "It wasn't about showing your technical flash. That's lost on a lot of new recordings, because they're going for a certain kind of sound."
His new disc is not perfection, he says. There are missed notes. They've only played those tracks that exact way the one time. "We had some rare moments on that record that don't usually happen in practice," he says. One of Glaser's favorite reviews so far said the album sounded like a work in progress—in a good way. "I like that. I'm not ready yet to say, 'OK, this is our sound, let's keep replicating this.'” Glaser points out that in previous centuries, one style would prevail, hardly changing for decades. "As much as things sped up in the 20th century, there's a lot of good stuff that didn't come to complete fruition, either. There's a lot of territory there that hasn't been covered."
Despite his old-fashioned fancy-talk, Glaser knows how to relax in a completely modern way, too. In honor of our videogame issue, we asked him if he ever gets a chance to press buttons and watch the blinky lights flash like the rest of us. And, of course, he does. Glaser's favorite videogame is Burnout 3, where you "just crash cars. I like anything that's about complete destruction." While recording Pearlene's last album, Glaser played State of Emergency, because it was hanging around the studio. "It's a very stupid-looking game, but you can just go burn people and blow ’em up." On the road, he's all about video Scrabble. "I'm a very peaceful person in action, but in my mind, I live in a little bit darker place."