By Margaret Welsh
Pittsburgh Current Music Editor
Cole Tucci kicks off the new Glam Hand EP, Glum Hum with a big question. “Can I live forever if I make a pretty painting?” he sings, his voice sweeping open over a couple of simple guitar strums. On the next line, as the drums drop in, he tightens the lens, shifting slightly away from eternity: “What good is my health if I always live inside?”
These sorts of concerns are, Tucci explains, somewhat recurrent on the EP, which the band releases this Friday, Jan. 31. “It’s sort of about this idea of creating something in the hopes that you can immortalize yourself,” he says. “I feel like a lot of artists do that without even realizing it. They’re hoping for a way to preserve themselves through making something.”
Musically, the song — “Plastic” — is as strong as any album opener I’ve heard in recent memory: it’s jangly, bittersweet psychedelia, simple enough to sing along to on your second listen, with Ray Davies-esque melodic twists that light up the brain’s pleasure center. The Kinks are a major influence, Tucci says, which accounts for the EPs springlike British Invasion elements. There are hints of brainey proto-prog bands like Soft Machine, and a little bit of ’90s slack-rock as well. But, where other neo-psych-pop artists might try to cram every moment full of sound, Glam Hand — like another of its influences, the Velvet Underground — knows how to hold space.
That’s partly because as a three piece, Tucci says, “it can actually be kind of a challenge to fill up space.” But the project began minimally, with Tucci writing songs on his own and experimenting with home recording. “Prior to doing any of this band stuff i was more of an acoustic musician,” he says. “It was very singer-songwriter…it was very stripped down. I think that’s just the way that I thought of performing at the time, just me and an acoustic guitar.”
About a year and a half ago, he started playing with drummer Evan Harris and offered the songs he’d been writing to the project. Tosh Chambers joined the band after the original bassist left town.
Tucci moved to Pittsburgh from Slippery Rock about five years ago, and studied philosophy and psychology at Pitt. “I don’t really want to write about philosophical topics in songs,” he says, prefering to treat poetry as a separate pursuit. But it’s easy to see the influence of both areas of study in Glam Hand’s lyrics, whether in the abstract existentialism of “Plastic,” or in the slightly detached watchfulness of “Dylan.”
“There he goes up and down the stairs,” Tucci sings, recounting the actions of a particularly wild young man he and Harris once witnessed at a basement show. “Dinosaur Dylan doesn’t know we’re here/there he goes walking/straight through the wall.”
“He was sort of just teetering on the edge of being way too reckless with his own body,” Tucci recalls. “So that’s where that song came from, it’s basically [about] enjoyment to the point of being reckless with yourself.”