Local Noise: Root Glen

“We have a bear suit that we bust out at almost all of our shows,” laughs Andres Gonzalez, who plays bass and sings in the fast rising central New Jersey band Root Glen. “Some guy in the crowd at Fontana’s in New York City tried to fight Dave when he was wearing it. Luckily the guy was pretty trashed and got distracted after a few seconds. If you’ve never seen a 6’2” dancing bear, that alone would be worth coming out to a show for. It tends to throw off some of the other bands we play with, except for Yarn, from Brooklyn. Those guys handled it like champs.”

If you think that sounds like a comedy act, it’s actually just an aspect of a fun group that takes its music seriously, but has fun as well. The band played all over New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and New England.

Andres is joined in the band by Eric Blank on drums, Ross Griswold on guitar and backing vocals and David Moroney on lead vocals and guitar. Eric and Ross first got together in the summer of ’09, with David joining shortly after. Andres was added after he and Eric guested with another band, and in spring of 2010 Root Glen was officially formed.

In the jam band spirit, Root Glen incorporates a variety of genres in their songs. “It’s rock,” states Andres. “With elements from a ton of other genres mixed in; funk, southern rock, folk, salsa, you name it. I could waste a lot more words trying to describe it, but you’d be better served by just giving it a listen.”

The band members each draw from all over the map, in terms of musical influences. Ross is a big fan of Neil Young, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket and Band Of Horses. Eric is partial to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dave Matthews Band, and Incubus. Andres has gotten inspiration from the legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson, as well as Led Zeppelin and Jamiroquai. Dave cites Queen, David Bowie and the Talking Heads as favorites.

It’s very much a collaborative effort when Root Glen works on new material. “It’s largely based on group improvisation, and always starts with the music,” Andres explains. “Other than that, we have two main methods. Usually one of us will show up with an idea, and we’ll jam on it together and see if it goes somewhere we like. Once we have a framework that we like, we’ll get a little more formal with it, arrange the structure to taste, write new parts, etc. For every song we like and finish, there’s probably two to three others that we’ve started this way but abandoned because they weren’t holding our attention.

“Every now and again though, we’ll come up with a theme first and write the song to fit it. That was the case for ‘Fortune Cookie’ and ‘Powdered Toast’ on the Summer EP, as well as ‘Throw It In The Bay,’ which will most likely be on the new one. ‘Throw it in the Bay’ was actually inspired by our friend Jenna, who has a penchant for disposing of things in the bay near her beach house. Don’t give her small objects when she’s drunk, or you’ll never see them again!”

Fans have gravitated toward the song “Dieting Bears,” which Andres attributes to the fact that it’s too goofy not to like, and could almost pass as a children’s song if it weren’t for the fact that the bear eats a girl near the end. “Mileage” is another big crowd favorite, and along with “Dieting Bears” gets the greatest number of people singing along. As a band, their favorite to play is currently “Powdered Toast.” According to Andres, the song just came together naturally. “It has three very distinct sections, which keeps it from ever feeling boring or repetitive,” he says. “Overall, it just has the fullest, most unique sound. To be fair though, there’s a new one that we’re working on that could surpass it. Its working title is ‘The Salty Pepper,’ although we may very well change it before it goes on the new EP.”

The name of the band actually came from a place where Dave and Ross spent a lot of time. They went to school at Hamilton College, and The Root Glen is an arboretum in the middle of campus. They actually wrote the song “Dieting Bears” there, along with another friend, Chris Sullivan.

For the future, Root Glen has some modest short-term goals, with some bigger ones down the line. “Ultimately, we’d like to join the growing musical middle class, and maybe get a sound check,” Andres laughs. “It may seem a bit low to set the bar, but it just plain sucks not having one. We’ve run across a lazy sound guy or two at some of the last places we’ve played, which is just no fun. Joe at the North Star Bar in Philly deserves special mention though, he does good work. Other than that, we’d love to sell out a venue, to make some quality music videos, be able to tour in some capacity on the West Coast and overseas.”

You can find out more about Root Glen, including checking out music and upcoming shows, at rootglen.com. You can also get a link to the Summer EP at rootglen.bandcamp.com/album/root-glen-summer, and contact the band through band@rootglen.com.