“An introvert in a very loud and crazy world, ideally that’s what the sound of Shoegaze is to me," says Joshua Garman of the Crash City Saints. "It’s finding beauty, in kind of, the storm.”
Crash City Saints is one of the bands that will play at the show Kalamashoegazer on Saturday. The show will feature bands influenced by Shoegaze. The genre is hard to pin down, but Shoegaze musicians usually use a lot of effects from guitar pedals, ambient sounds, and what Mark Morris of the Kalamazoo band Glowfriends calls “a drone element.”
“Like if you were looking at it, if it was something you could see, you would probably be looking at it through cellophane or something," Morris says. "It kind of has that washy kind of element. So not everything is crystal clear.”
The name Shoegaze comes from how band members would look down at their feet, or more accurately their guitar pedals, instead of moving around the stage. Shoegaze had its short-lived heyday in England in the early 90s. Though modern Shoegaze bands might dance on stage, Garman says the pedals at their feet are still more important.
“You won’t be seeing any Pete Townsend windmills or split-kicks or fireworks in the air," Garman says. "Yeah, it’s very much about experiencing the sound and the atmosphere that the band’s creating.”
And unlike star-powered rock, Garman says the lyrics are often intentionally hard to hear, so they act as more of an instrument. He says the music itself is supposed to bring out an abstract emotion, kind of like a David Lynch film.
“A couple years ago, my friend Chris…we were talking about Inland Empire, Lynch’s last film. A movie that we really liked. We were talking about the ending, we both got choked up and kind of teary eyed at the ending, but we didn’t know why. It was really strange, there was no reason to and yet there was this emotional connection," says Garman. "And Chris described it as emotion removed of logic. And I always thought that was a really good way of putting it.”
Garman says the downplayed lyrics might explain why American Shoegaze is popular in other countries like Brazil and Japan. April Zimont says her band Glowfriends may be the exception to the lyrics rule…maybe.
“According to our mom, she still can’t understand what we’re saying in these songs,” says Zimont.
Zimont and her brother Mark Morris started Glowfriends and have organized Kalamashoegazer for six years. She says the lineup will have Shoegaze, but also bands influenced by Dreampop, such as the Glowfriends themselves.
“It’s kind of catchy, but at the same time there’s something more ethereal about it,” Zimont says.
She also says some of the bands have elements of Slowcore, like the Chicago band Brief Candles:
“A very kind of low-key, kind of bedroomy quality to their music,” says Zimont.
And, of course, every band has their own unique sound. Zimont says she understands that Kalamashoegazer might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she encourages people to take a leaf from her father, Powerpop musician Jeremy Morris.
“I mean, you don’t grow old when you continue listening to new stuff," Zimont says. "It’s like picking up new books and reading constantly. And it’s not like he’s compelled to do it because he’s got to stay current or something, it’s cause he really loves it, which is the same for us.”
Glowfriends, Crash City Saints, and other Midwest bands will be at Kalamashoegazer Saturday at Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo. The event is open to all ages. The show starts at 4 p.m.