“10 Years Down the Drain”—Glocca Morra’s ‘Just Married’ (2012)

by Maximilien Luc Proctor

Five seconds into a catchy (but off-kilter) four chord riff played by a single guitar, the album’s first word is uttered. A genuine and focused ‘Fuck!’, as if to exclaim there has been a technical mistake in the playing. Yet there is no real discernible error, and instead it functions as a cue for the rest of the band, filling in the sonic field with a roll on the snare, and a collective ‘Woooo!’ By the twenty five second mark we have already lowered the all-out intensity and exchanged it for a snare-led buildup into the infectious, unrhyming chorus—in which a shouting of the name of the philosopher ‘Derrida’ is shredded with total abandon into a word which sounds closer to ‘Doritos’—and into one of the finest rock records of the 21st century, and the greatest emo record in existence: Just Married.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3914936245 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=7137dc tracklist=false artwork=small]

Aforementioned opener “Y’all Boots Hats? (Die Angry)” slides seamlessly on the back of a slick guitar riff into “Irrevocable, Motherfucker”, the back half of which thrills with its stops and starts, surprise horns and—again—group ‘Wooo!’s, before letting out an unguarded ‘I miss you’ in clear speech (after a mountain of shouted and less discernible lyrics, bringing to mind the call-and-response tactics of Two Knights). Finally, the track decrescendos on repetitions of alternating cadence: I’’m not saying that/I’m not/saying that’. Here, as on every single track, frontman Zack Schwartz screeches from the bottom of his soul. 

Glocca Morra began in either 2007 or ‘08 (depending on the accuracy of wikipedia versus discogs), founded in Miami by Schwartz and bassist/backing vocalist JP (Jean-Paul) Casanova, who were high school friends. They were soon joined by drummer Arik Dayan (their former high school substitute) and guitarist/synth player Ruben Gallego—both of whom would go on to perform for a brief stint in the punk outfit Beach Slang. In Miami, Glocca Morra spent 2009 releasing one full-length, two EPs and a split, before moving to Philadelphia by the end of the year. These first releases—in particular their debut LP The Working Bones, A Health Decline—echo the experimentation popular with indie-famous groups at the time, with meager but apparent influence taken from bands like Animal Collective (there’s a melody in the backend of “Fake Teeth” reminiscent of 2007 track “For Reverend Green”) and Abe Vigoda, albeit with much sharper edges. “Weekend Fires” from their Fucking Miami EP also hints at both influences, with its repetitive, tropical opening riff and backing synthlines. Despite the parallels, here was a fledgling band that had already settled into a style very much its own and began to refine their approach. The prog-lite (and long runtime) tendencies of The Working Bones would soon be sublimated into adventurous turnarounds within short songs. The lo-fi sound of their 2009 releases remain surprisingly clear: each instrument holds its distinct spot in both the arrangement and mix.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2059900786 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

Once in Philly, 2010 marked the beginning of the writing and recording of Just Married, far and away the one project they invested the most time in assembling. By the time the album released on July 24th, 2012, the band had already traded Ruben Gallego for Nate Dionne (formerly of Snowing) on guitar, and prepared a sturdy EP follow-up for release that they seemed more excited to unleash upon the world, An Obscure Moon Lighting an Obscure World. Released on October 16th of the same year, and recorded by Peter Helmis (vocalist/bassist of Algernon Cadwallader, and who would go on to front the one-off super group Dogs on Acid and still-active Yankee Bluff with Dionne), its six tracks seem to deliberately push back against any polish found on Just Married. By vague and secondhand accounts, the band seemed to resent Just Married, and the pressure of its ‘magnum opus’ status in their discography. Subsequently, they also refused to play the songs live for a while, until Dionne convinced them they should. 

The only release to slip between the Miami material and Just Married was the 2011 EP Ghoul Intentions, a six-track parallel to An Obscure Moon, both of which sound distinctly more lo-fi than the clean full-length released between them. And for the conspiracy-minded among us, it’s worth noting that Ghoul released on October 15th (then again, according to the bandcamp releases, Just Married came out on April 20th, 1969, so it would behoove one to take all of their release dates with a grain of salt). Similar shenanigans include the group’s propensity for various variant covers: the Ghoul Intentions EP had five different (limited) vinyl pressings, and three different album covers: CD, cassette and vinyl releases. Ghoul opens with “Professional Confessional”, the vocal track of which clips slightly from the all-out screaming, before giving in to an almost surf-rock laidback ditty. The middle of track 2, “Little Man” introduces a looping riff-and-chant which would feel perfectly at home within the songwriting context of Just Married. Track 4, “Nostalgia, as a Place” stands out as most memorable, with a startlingly catchy bass-and-then-guitar riff. The unbridled invention and energy of its mere minute and a half astound. Shrill feedback abounds, swimming in anticipation of their next LP. 

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=91491903 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

When playing live, the band typically preserved An Obscure Moon’s one-two punch “See Through Person” and “Gun Control” as a sequential pair. Crying out ‘Stay away from me!’ has never sounded as melodic as on “For Lauren Lee”. The following track, “Kaspar Hauser Lied”, launches off of an uncharacteristic organ tone into Schwartz’s description of a cataclysmic car crash, ‘The bus explodes…’. Penultimate “The Void” is two of the strongest minutes in their (or any rock band’s) catalog; chugging, ecstatic, danceable, confident, lost, life-changing. Closer “Deep Pockets” opens with almost 30 seconds of ethereal reversed and yarned-out utterances of the title phrase before giving way to the band’s signature pounding and descending wall of guitar chords, complete with neighboring accidentals and positively howled renditions of the title phrase. In the final third, it takes another signature turn into sweeter melodies and lyrical ideas:

Wait until the seventh, that’s when I get paid
I will take you out to dinner and we won’t get laid
You can come over my house and we can stay up late
You can talk about your problems with your dad that day.

Driving home the similarities between the two EPs, Ghoul Intentions clocks in at 11 minutes and 36 seconds, while An Obscure Moon Lighting An Obscure World runs 13 minutes and 23 seconds. 

Track 3 of Just Married, “Hot & Informed” ends up with the lyrical wordplay ‘Hold the door/Open the door’, looking ahead to Schwartz’s continued fascination with gateways in Spirit of the Beehive’s non-album singles “The Door is Open” (2020) and “The Door Is Closing” (2021). Eventually the question is posed: ‘American homes, what do you do when you’re alone?’, followed by an outright nonverbal scream, counterintuitively bringing the track to a complete close, once again descending into “Anniversary Song”. It’s incredible what the band can accomplish in a matter of two to three minutes. Only two tracks on the entire album cross the four minute threshold. Solemnly the twin vocals (one clear, one screamed to emphasize the final words) proclaim ‘Here’s your anniversary/Ten years down the drain’ several times throughout, until the final refrain near song’s end is closed out with a four-snare hit to thread it through the listless breakdown. Then comes ‘everyone/knows everything/about being alone’, in a near sing-songy fashion which in the hands of most bands would’ve become a big, repetitive chant-along, but with Glocca is never repeated and resolves on a drawn out ‘but I…still…’ and precipitous ‘don’t.’ 

L to R: Zack Schwartz, Arik Dayan, JP Casanova

On “Why Am I Not Going Under Walter?” (a reference to the Snowing song “Why Am I Not Going Under Water”), Schwartz belts out an ‘I can see/You here with me’”’ which, purposefully or not, always reminds me of JET’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” The band seems to always pull out a surprise in the final 15 to 30 seconds, and in the case of this track, it’s an irresistible melodious twin guitar riff. Throughout the record, both guitars, the bass and drums whirl through and around one another consistently in perfect counterpoint. Most emo records are lucky to have four riffs as good as can be found in any single track on Just Married. I have grown to love every song the band ever wrote over the years, but as a completely realized work, it remains unmatched. The clarity and purpose of each instrument across the album is first-rate, without giving up any of the collective punch of their energy and tone. Side A ends with the repeated rhythmic shrieking of feedback on “My Black Dog / Cosmic Being”, mirrored by a different style of feedback which opens and closes B-side opener ‘Broken Cigarettes’.

In terms of influence one can essentially draw a straight line from Cap’n Jazz to Algernon Cadwallader to Glocca Morra. Each picked up the previous group’s harsh shouty vocal style paired with noodly guitar riffs which often verge on math rock without giving up on the forthright chunk of a good old fashioned power chord. Clearly beloved in their scene at the time, Glocca played shows with Owls, Joyce Manor, Hop Along, and various other higher-profile indie/emo groups. (It’s worth noting here that Tom May, guitarist and vocalist for The Menzingers, sits in plain sight on the cover of Just Married, seated just to the right of the man with his mouth agape and arms outstretched.) Still, as DIYers, the paper trail proves harder to access fully via the internet. Yet for the select few, interest remains high. “Y’all Boots Hats?” has inspired no fewer than two chiptune covers. At the time of this writing, there are two vinyl copies of Just Married listed on Discogs. There exist 1050 copies of the record (across several printings) in the world. One can imagine what this has done for the price of a record which has not been repressed since 2013—those two discogs copies are currently listed for £295 and $481. 

In the third of its fourfold structure, “Broken Cigarettes” slows down like a train losing steam, and in that moment we almost believe the whole record could actually fall apart and unravel completely in those few seconds. The tightness of the band’s playing ensconced within an apparent looseness comes to the fore in “Theories on Relativity by David Nichols by Glocca Morra”, when at the forty-eight second mark, the band comes to a complete and silent halt before picking up the next segment—only to pull the exact tactic yet again only nineteen seconds later. On paper, all the starting and stopping scans as a slog, but the reality of the sounds involved makes for a continuously propulsive drive. “Theories on Relativity” offers the highest point of jubilation of the album, ‘I’m so happy I could die!’ This line aside, the lyrics spanning Just Married are principally concerned with vignettes of angst, insecurity, fear, excess, and loneliness. 

L to R: JP Casanova, Nate Dionne, Arik Dayan, Zack Schwartz

“Eat the Fucking Snow” adds a short vocal sample and nostalgia to the mix, kicking off with a humorous recording of someone preparing to quit a job, noting he’s ‘tired of being treated like a dirtbag, this company’s a joke, this job sucks, I’m out! Big ups to my boy Stephen.’ The lyrics recall being snowed in, and ‘Listening to old Green Day records/All by myself.’ Harking back to the foremost word spoken on the record, final track “Me + Geniene” includes in its first few seconds the studio sound of a band member letting us know ‘I’m gonna fuck this up.’ Correspondingly, the relationship indirectly described by the song’s narrator is fucked up—manipulative and abusive: ‘Young hearts beating violently/Eating each other alive, faster than eyes can see.’ After just over the halfway point, we’re treated to another sampled recording, of a real-life 911 call of a man requesting an ambulance, claiming—desperation palpable—that he and his wife have overdosed on marijuana. When asked by the operator how much they had, he responds, ‘I don’t know, we made brownies. I think we’re dead, I really do.’ One wonders if the preceding lyrics are meant as a further mockery by inventing a background story for the man on the phone. All of this scored to a looping crescendo (complete with brass backing), which ends on wallowing feedback and a gradual slowed down detuning, the last gasps of a struggling record needle, until we return to nothingness.

In November 2014 the band announced an amicable breakup, by which point side and future projects Dogs on Acid, Gunk, and Spirit of the Beehive were already rolling along with new releases. Of all the Glocca-adjacent projects, World Tour by Vietnam remains the most secretive and satisfying as a continuation of their intensity. Apart from the fact that it released (exclusively digitally) in August of 2013, the only clear information to be found about the album is that its performers include “Zack, Tim, Ruben”. Some things are just meant to stay a mystery. As for why the band came to an end, it was seemingly just ‘one of those things’ that had ‘run its course’. They had toured a lot and remained a relatively obscure band. You get older, things change. Glocca played their final show on May 30th, 2015. Dayan’s girlfriend proposed to him. The set ended with “Y’all Boots Hats?

In researching this piece, the single most revealing resource was the band’s no longer active facebook page. Never interviewed, most of the band’s oral history remains familiar only to those who were on the scene as it happened. In 2021, Schwartz stated in no uncertain terms on an Instagram Story that a Glocca reunion will never happen. Luckily he had the foresight to write the band’s own epitaph, as the closing lyrics of their final words to the world (found on b-side “Secret Drinker”) tell us (albeit sarcastically) that 

A stand-up guy of Appalachian highs
In mother’s eyes
Could do no wrong
Could never die
Could never die.

For a more sincere poetic closing I’ll defer to the end of a note from the Just Married insert:

“even when you wonder why this night has to end
it does
because everything ends
because if things didn’t end
new things would never start.

– some drunk asshole alone on july 4th 2012”

Maximilien Luc Proctor (MLP) is a French-American filmmaker and critic. He is the founder of Ultra Dogme, a contributing editor for photogénie, and the avant-garde instructor at Berlin’s Art on the Run filmschool. [Vimeo][Twitter]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *