Smashing The Glass Ceiling: Alice Glass
Wrestling a sense of identity back following her deeply troubled time in Crystal Castles, Alice Glass’ solo debut ‘PREY//IV’ finds the singer finally in control of her own destiny.
“Crystal Castles WAS. Alice Glass IS.” Every survivor’s journey is different, but in tweeting such a statement in December 2021, it became clear that Alice Glass was ready to place her stake in the ground. With ‘PREY//IV’, her long-awaited debut album, she is the guardian of her own rebirth, laying her story down in one place.
“It’s a cliche to say that it’s cathartic to write music when you’re going through something, but it really was,” she says. “It’s a pretty emotional record; the process was very time-consuming. I wasn’t really planning on it being an album, but this cluster of songs really encompassed the time period. Hopefully, people hear them.”
To be heard is all that Alice has really asked for. After eight years as part of electronic duo Crystal Castles, she quit the band in 2014, citing unspecified professional and personal grounds. In 2017, bolstered by the #MeToo movement, she summoned the courage to issue a statement against her former bandmate Ethan Kath, accusing him of various psychological and physical abuses, detailing the degree to which her life and contributions were controlled under his eye.
“I was getting used to a way of living that was really hurting me a lot,” she says today, summarising things plainly. “I knew that my situation sucked, but I think I was a little bit closed off to the industry, because there was always this person speaking on my behalf. It’s kind of isolating, especially in the music industry; you can’t throw a rock without hitting a creepy predator, and that predator is usually going to be more powerful than me. So with everything, the lawsuits, it was a rude awakening.”
The lawsuits she is referring to are the ones that were first served to her in December 2017, suing her for defamation and conspiracy. Kath denied all abuse claims against him and continues to do so, including the testimonies of other women who have since made similar allegations. His case against Alice was dismissed in court by the following February (as was a later appeal), but the swirling torrent of hatred aimed at her by Crystal Castles fans and angry opportunists alike took much longer to dissipate. “Everything I did, it felt like there was a lot of people that wanted me to crash and burn and kill myself,” she says. “It’s horrible, especially this picking of sides, because people label you a liar for attention and that’s that. Seeing all these fans that you’ve met in person now harassing you online… It’s just like, I don’t know… surreal…”
“In the music industry, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a creepy predator, and that predator is usually going to be more powerful than me.”
For anyone who grew up in the noughties, it goes without saying that Alice Glass has long been a star. A microcosm of the fucked-up Tumblr cool that capitivated young millennials, she was an icon of the Skins generation, topping cool lists and raising awe for her whiskey-chugging, stage-diving antics. It’s painful to realise that she was merely a teenager herself, joining Crystal Castles at the age of 15 and instantly coerced into the fabrication of ‘enigmatic’ PR folklore.
“There was that whole thing of, ‘Oh, it was a mic test’,” she says, recalling the infamous origin story of her ‘Alice Practice’ vocals. “No, it wasn’t. Everything was an allegory; how we met reading to the blind and all this fucking bullshit. None of it matched up; how could I be this fucking feral creature but also be playing hundreds of shows a year all over the world? It just didn’t make any sense. It was hard to keep up, so it was easier to back down.”
The more her ‘damaged’ onstage persona was praised, the further Alice retreated. “When I was crowd surfing, I wasn’t trying to, like, be hype and have fun,” she nods. “Honestly, it was more that I was a bit suicidal that whole time, and it was like, fuck it. If anybody wants to… I don’t know. That was my mentality.” Like a feeling of having nothing to lose, we suggest? “Yeah, exactly. I mean, I was around a bunch of dudes that were all like, at least 10 years older than me, where everybody treats me in a really weird way. It was not very pleasant.”
With the internet abuzz with a so-called ‘indie sleaze’ revival, Alice’s own feelings of nostalgia are understandably complicated, but she remains proud of the musical contributions she made to Crystal Castles and her subsequent growth since. Though ‘PREY//IV’ definitely makes use of the cathartically-dark narrative and ethereal electronics with which she has become well known, a distinct melodic knack shines through her newly-undistorted vocal, breaking down the notion of any ultra-hip pop snobbery.
“Definitely not!” she laughs. “I just did this radio show where I played a Babyshambles song, ‘Fuck Forever’, which I’ve loved for years. I really like Ariana Grande too, the vocal tone on some of her songs. I don’t really like major chord music, you know? Nothing too happy. But the perfect mix is despair, sprinkle a bit of hope in the chorus, and then back to despair again.”
Nowhere does hope hit harder than on recent single ‘FAIR GAME’. Working closely with Jupiter Keyes (previously of HEALTH), she uses spiky synths to reclaim manipulative sentiments once aimed at her by Kath (“Where would you be without me / I’m just trying to help you”), stating them slowly in order to remove their sting. “It sounds silly now, but when I first left and started to talk to a therapist, she said that he treated me as if I was in a cult,” says Alice. “You stay in a situation like that because your self esteem is crushed, but then ironically, the only thing that could make me feel like I was worth anything was writing music and performing. I didn’t think I was going to put it out at all, but Jupe was like no, you should. It was SOPHIE’s favourite song too; SOPHIE was going to remix it. I wanted to do it in respect for her.”
Given Alice’s previous brushes with online trolls, her nervousness was more than understandable, but the response was overwhelmingly kind. “People started writing me back; people who had been gaslit by similar phrases and could relate to it. So now it’s like that song doesn’t really belong to me anymore. And it feels good.”
As ‘PREY//IV’ meets the world, Alice is determined to hang onto that good feeling, enjoying the sensation of being completely at her own helm. “For years I just accepted that my artistic contribution was just going to be music, never talking about my personal life,” she says. “I think a lot of people got used to that. If you like a band for a certain amount of time where the front person doesn’t really talk, it’s a different feeling completely when she starts talking about things that make you uncomfortable. This time, I just want more humanity to be seen. More humanity, and less aesthetics.”
‘PREY//IV’ is out now via Eating Glass.
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