Out of all the recent punk bands emerging in Atlanta, Glare has the most fitting name. To glare is to send an unspoken message, to communicate a foul or hostile mood via a scowl or stare, leaving the target with but a glimmer of intent while lacking specific resolution. Interpreted another way, it can mean a strong and dazzling light, the sort that forces you to avert your eyes or risk being temporarily blinded. In a way, this meaning works as well. Under the guise of a feeling that borders on threat, Glare’s swift, punchy psalms capture a spirit of animosity without direct assault or confrontation.
With undercurrents of coldwave, early goth, and ’80s punk, the group’s brand of post-punk is difficult to fit into a specific box. Amongst the reverb-drenched melodies and banzai beats, a venomous atmosphere stands strongest of all, pressed against infectious hooks that strike like claws — catchy but cutthroat. As songwriter and vocalist Rachel Pagillo explains, “I knew I wanted a band that was aggressive, sort of melancholy, and had a ton of pop sensibility.”
Thus, Glare was born.
Having performed previously as the bassist of Gold Ghost and guitarist for power pop revelers Knaves Grave, Pagillo’s interest in playing music originally focused on instrumentation alone. Known as a willing and enthusiastic collaborator, and for developing a unique tone recognizable to her many peers, Pagillo’s enthusiasm for her guitar playing would lay the groundwork to her future as a solid front person. Although the challenges and responsibilities of becoming a primary songwriter and vocalist was not one she initially felt comfortable with, it was the natural progression for her as a musician, especially as the urge to write more of her own songs arrived with gusto during a rare quiet lull in her otherwise busy life.
In new territory with a fresh focus, Pagillo’s creative drive was not without its hindrances. In a city cruxed by the brutal redevelopment happening without consent of its surrounding communities, many in the Atlanta music scene suffered immensely when practice spaces, most notably Thunderbox, were torn down in favor of condos and lofts.
Still, her major obstacle wasn’t city redevelopment or finding bandmates to actualize her ideas into full songs. Over the past couple of years, Glare took an indefinite hold while Pagillo’s 70-hour work week in Atlanta’s rapidly growing film industry took precedence. In time, however, the desire to return to return to music became a motivating factor she could no longer ignore, and she was forced to make a life decision. “I actually would meet a lot of musicians in the industry who would tell me, ‘You can’t have this job and be in a band,'” Pagillo reveals. “I tried to make it work but then eventually was like, ‘Fuck this! I want to play music.”
To keep her finances afloat, Pagillo picked up a bartending gig and in 2016 began pursuing Glare in earnest, sketching out early demos in her bedroom. Once she had few songs under her belt, Pagillo linked up with Tyler Walters on drums and Chris Alley on bass. With the blessing of accommodating roommates, Pagillo’s living room doubled as a rehearsal space. Each practice the trio would carry down all their equipment stored in a tiny loft and rearrange the furniture in order to make enough space.
Although this lineup would go on to record Glare’s self-titled debut, anyone who has spent time in the local scene understands that many musicians juggle multiple projects, and lineups are never guaranteed to be permanent — another hurdle primary songwriters are often forced to contend with. As such, the group currently finds itself in a new iteration comprised of Nick Goode on bass and Bryan Scherer on drums. (Glare’s recent members also make up the band Cashmere — except with Pagillo on drums, Goode on guitar, and Scherer on bass.)
Honing in on the real work, Glare’s debut EP is a crucial marker in Pagillo’s musical actualization. Engineered by Seth Bolton, the record’s six songs capture the group’s deft balance of exuberant energy and haunting dissonance. With lyrics that hint at both romantic and social conflict, Glare is a crafted exploration of turbulent emotions through a stoic stance rarely seen in music this challenging and stormy. Each track alludes to some difficulty: playing unwanted roles, culture’s revolving door of mindfucks, the burden of performing emotional labor for undeserving lovers, and so on. Throughout it all, Pagillo keeps the content shrouded in ambiguity, never wearing her heart on her sleeve. Of the six tracks, “Pedestal” is the only song that slows in pace. Comparatively, it is the most wistful track in the collection, where Pagillo speaks of the need for validation followed by self-redemption.
“Trying to get this person to give me the adoration I was starving for and how my views of them progressed as I knew them… everyone was putting this person on a pedestal and I realized they weren’t the person everyone thought they were,” she reveals. “It’s about reclaiming my self worth through realization.” The final line appropriately coos, “last in line to praise you,” a terse admission that shows Pagillo walking away with the power of gained knowledge as protection.
Whereas there is no fault with the deep, heartfelt expression of emotions, the conciseness of Pagillo’s cool, almost cold vocals combined with a calculating approach to communicating conflict makes Glare stand apart from many local indie acts. Beyond this dynamic, Pagillo’s songs are testaments to the problematic nature of choice. Our best lives are not always padded by the biggest paycheck. Our hearts are not always served best by staying wide open. In decisions, we make sacrifices. We cut out the fat, tell what’s fake to fuck off, and hone in on what we honestly want. Taking risks is taking steps towards our true selves, and Pagillo has never stopped pushing forward.
Glare will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP tonight at the Drunken Unicorn when they play in support of Institute, Uniform, and Mutual Jerk. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is $8. All ages.