From Title Fight to Glitterer with Ned Russin

Interview by Danielle Chelosky
Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky

The title was fight—but for Ned Russin’s latest band, there’s a new sound, new city, and new title: Glitterer. The musician, previously based in Kingston, has been giving Brooklyn a preview of his next unpredictable focus. One album and one EP deep, Glitterer uses synths, ruminative and abstract poetry, and tranquil rhythms to portray themes of brevity and introspection. After years of post hardcore bands including Title Fight, Stick Together, and Disengage, Russin doesn’t consider Glitterer to be too different.

“I’m not writing electronic music, in my opinion,” Russin states. “I’m writing music with electronic instruments—but I’m writing guitar music.” In reality, the listening experience of Glitterer and that of bands like Title Fight are incomparable. There exist few indications that the music is related in any aspect, but Russin argues that there are enough commonalities to draw in in the same listeners. “To me, it’s the same mentality,” and even if the sounds differed, the lyrics and ideas are conceived by the same source. “I’ve always been interested in the same things,” claims Russin, which might not show amid the first listen to the sonically more laid-back and surreal Glitterer, but the songwriting technique doesn’t stray from the way it’s always been. The only difference is that this time around: it’s purely and explicitly Ned. “There’s less editing because I don’t have anyone to edit with,” and although he could spend ample time to nitpick every song, every line, every rhythm, he’s simply not interested. “The energy that I have for it is very quick energy and I want it to be moving fast and keeping up with my thoughts,” he explains, and immediately debunks any notions of perfectionism. “Ruminating on things make me anxious.”

Along with the minor distinctions in the songwriting processes, Russin’s performances with Glitterer immensely deviate from what he’s used to. “The house music goes down, the lights go down, I’m up there completely by myself, and people think that a band is gonna come out and they’re kinda waiting around,” Russin recollects, illustrating a moment that can merely be summed up with the word ‘awkward.’ However, while Russin fights the uncomfortable energy on stage with only his mic and laptop, he is able to overcome a challenge. “This shouldn’t be a nerve-wracking thing,” he says. He denounces any sense of self-confidence—even as a performer who’s been at it for years—but the result of playing music is always worth it once the agitation dwindles down. “It’s like a public act of concealing yourself; I’m not up there to be seen, I’m up there to disappear.” With Glitterer specifically, he describes the worst obstacle to be the confrontational manner of the performance. No instruments, no white noise, and no company on stage, and, still, he endures. “I’m up there because it feels right and I really like it,” he says. “When it’s really good—like, the best it’s ever been—you kind of forget that you exist, and it’s like the music is just there.” And suddenly, all the anxiety and awkwardness is lost and forgotten.

Another upside to the ambivalent live shows is the audience. When it costs a few dollars to get a post across social media and to actually reach people, Russin prefers the old-fashioned method of marketing: letting people come to him. “It’s just like—I’m not gonna put my money into that shit,” he admits, and he similarly doesn’t bother hiring a press person or getting anyone to do anything for him. “I wanted to maintain the power myself and if people wanted to talk to me about things, I’m happy to talk to them. But I’m not advertising it.” He’s not too concerned about who his music reaches, nor is he obsessed with the idea of it reaching anyone at all. Glitterer was conceived from an inner passion to satisfy—whether others are fond of it is merely a bonus. “I’m not standing on a mountaintop trying to get everybody to come over to my side,” and this can partially account for Russin’s undeniable and inimitable unpredictability. No matter what music he’s creating, he’s doing it for himself. He has made it clear with every direction he’s gone into that he does not strive to be a people-pleaser.

He doesn’t care if listeners understand it either. Lyrically, he views Glitterer to be at the same level as Title Fight in terms of abrasiveness—the only distinguishing factor between bands being Glitterer’s softer, more playful pace. Even though Russin only raises his voice occasionally on Glitterer tracks, he’s still continually disturbed, conflicted, and overwhelmed throughout the whole album. Most of it derives from complex concepts discussed in his creative writing education at Columbia with often pretentious demeanors.

“I took a lot of these conversations from class and I tried to synthesize it in my own way,” he says. “I want to create things that people think about, but I don’t want to create things that complicate the matter worse.” The articulation in Glitterer is definitely succinct and transparent, such as in the song ‘St. Ignatius, Young and Standing’ in which he uses a metaphor of dental health followed by the immediate explanation of the underlying meaning: “You have to hurt to heal, it’s been said.” There could be more to understand, or there couldn’t. Instead of taking complete ownership himself, Russin generously passes on the responsibility of interpretation onto the listener.

As much as these lyrics look, sound, and read like poetry, Russin refuses to claim the title of a ‘poet.’ “To write specifically lyrical poetry without having a song in mind makes me very anxious and it’s very unsettling to me,” he says, creating a divide between poetry with music and poetry by itself. “Writing songs is so different from writing poetry,” and when a rhythm plays in the back of his head, his capacity to write lines grows. Still, he doesn’t quite believe his writing is formulated to be poetry. “A good poem says as much as a novel says in a fraction of the space,” he explains, and then denies his own ability to do so. He finds that lyrics can only spring from his fingertips in rhymes and rhythmic patterns, and he doesn’t particularly see that working in a poem—“Not that I know what’s really going on with poetry,” he disclaims.

In addition to integrating pensive themes into his songs, the whole story behind the band name ‘Glitterer’ and the EP title Not Glitterer also comprises of deeper meanings. “‘Glitterer’ is the rejected title of a book that never came out,” Russin shares, and the novel was unfinished because of the author’s, David Foster Wallace’s, death. On the other hand, ‘Not Glitterer’ is a comment on the excessive use of contrast in everyday language. “The title and a lot of lyrics on that record are based around the way in which we perceive of things and about how so much of our definitions of anything rely on comparing it to other things, specifically contrasting it to other things, so when you say ‘this is a bagel; it’s not a sandwich,’” he says. Recognizing the harmful nature of this is nearly impossible when it’s so deep-rooted into daily conversations. “It creates this hierarchy of what’s good and what’s not as good and what’s bad,” and Russin believes that there is no clear line between good and bad. “The idea of Not Glitterer is kind of a lie—the idea of Not Glitterer is like I’m defining Glitterer by saying it’s not Glitterer, but the point is to subvert that, and a lot of the song is about struggling with that because it’s so ingrained in you.”

The purpose of Glitterer is for Russin to express what he personally wants to, but that doesn’t mean listeners won’t get anything from it. Russin’s insights are endless, and his creativity shapes them to hold an engaging, thought-provoking effect. He’ll be performing at Trans-Pecos in Ridgewood, New York on October 6th, and whether or not he’ll be working on anything new soon is entirely up to him. | Not Glitterer