Glitch: a minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem. It’s a good word for the obstacles that Justin Boreta is encountering as he tries to chat with GT from the road. Frequent loss of reception is forcing Boreta, one of the three electronics fiends who comprise The Glitch Mob, to call back repeatedly to continue our interview.
“We’re always looking for new ways to improve our set,” Boreta explains. “We’ve been doing the whole laptop ksssssssss fraggen whole idea of ldbf mzrssff …”
“Hello … ? Hello? Shit.”
Guess you have to be careful what you put out there: If you name your band The Glitch Mob, you might be tempting fate—not only by inviting digital disasters, but also by encouraging people to assume that you strictly play glitch music, a sub-genre of electronica that makes heavy use of digital “accidents” such as distortion, CD skipping and system errors. Though you could be forgiven for associating Boreta and his fellow Mobsters, Ed Ma and Josh Mayer, with this style of music, Boreta is loath to pin the group’s dubstep/hip-hop/crunk sound down to any single genre.
“I don’t think we’re having a generic conversation in the same sense as a dubstep producer or a house or techno producer, where it’s very confined to a specific set of tempos, sounds and everything like that,” he insists.
When the glitch idiom rose to prominence in the late ’90s, its sounds of digital breakdown seemed to foretell the fatal skid and crash of an electronica scene mired in technological overkill. Since then, techno music has become far more human, with its creators often integrating live instrumentation with synthetic sounds. The Glitch Mob has recapitulated the genre’s evolution: Nowadays the group’s members can at various times be found playing bass, guitar and live electronic percussion onstage. “We don’t stand behind laptops anymore. We’ve removed those from the equation,” Boreta notes.
In an effort to engage with their audience more, the members of the band now play all their parts live as opposed to DJ-ing them. To this end, the group uses electronic drums and controllers designed to trigger sounds. According to Boreta, it’s no simple task to recreate The Glitch Mob’s recorded music onstage. “To have it sound like the record and still be able to fluidly play and have freedom like a regular instrument—there’s not a lot of technology out there [designed for that],” he states.
Things are far simpler in the studio, where The Glitch Mob creates its sounds by way of computer, using a Steinberg Cubase as its main sequencer. The quite satisfying results can be heard on Drink the Sea, the band’s just-released debut full-length album. Though it’s filled with all the colossal electronic drum sounds, crunchy bass and edgy, adrenaline-charged grooves that fans have come to expect from the trio, Drink the Sea also makes frequent pit stops in more ambient, space dust-sprinkled terrain.
“We conceived it as a listening album—something different from our old tracks in the past, which were more based on one-off remixes and dance floor-friendly music,” Boreta says. “This is more meant to be listened to at home on headphones from start to finish.”
The Glitch Mob plays The Catalyst on Wednesday, June 9. Though the band is based in Los Angeles, Boreta keeps an 831 area code as a souvenir from his six years as a Santa Cruz resident, during which he played his first shows as a DJ at venues like the Vets Hall and at Moontribe parties.
“It’s actually a big deal for me to come back to The Catalyst, because a lot of my formative musical experiences happened in Santa Cruz,” he says.
By all appearances, it should be a triumphant return … barring any technical difficulties, of course.