When Sylmar released its last EP Telford in 2019, guitarist Luke Glaser described the collection as toned-down, showcasing each member’s individual songwriting abilities. Now, the band is returning to its indie-rock, stoner-jazz, dream-rock roots with the release of its sophomore album Glass Ladders Nov. 5 and an accompanying release show at the Woodward Theater Nov. 19 with support from Louisville’s Bendigo Fletcher.
“[Glass Ladders] is a little more eclectic. It’s a little more touching back to the first record, but with maybe a little more chaos,” Glaser says. “It’s a little more swampy, I guess.”
Despite the similarities to Sylmar’s debut self-titled album, Glass Ladders showcases the continuous growth and maturation that the band strives for. Glaser adds that the band took more risks and spent more time on precise details with the sophomore LP than it has in the past.
Sylmar was also forced to adjust certain parts of its recording process due to COVID-19 restrictions. Guitarist Dan Sutter says typically, Glass Ladders would have been recorded at Sylmar’s favorite recording studio, Marble Garden, in Pendleton. However, following social distancing guidelines, some of the instrumentals were recorded remotely instead.
“I actually preferred [recording remotely],” says drummer Ethan Kimberly. “I record so much of my own music on my own, so this was actually more intuitive for me … I feel like the process was a little more natural and flowed better.”
Bassist Dominic Franco echoes his bandmate’s sentiment. As one of the band’s newest members, Franco says recording pieces of the album remotely and having down time during the pandemic gave him more time to learn Sylmar’s catalogue and ease into and enjoy the recording process. It also gave him time to settle into the band’s dynamic.
“This period of time allowed me to get more acquainted with writing styles and the whole process … it’s nice to finally settle into what our group sound is like,” says Kimberly, who is also a recent addition to the band.
Exploring the group sound in a live setting is a crucial and exciting part of the Glass Ladders release process. Over the years, Sylmar has become renowned for its live shows, and while the band has enjoyed its recent outdoor sets, frontman Brian McCullough says they aren’t quite the same as an indoor headliner.
“[In a club], we’re able to use the space and connect on a different level,” he says. “We can hear each other better, and I feel a little bit more free as a frontman.”
Hosting the release show with Bendigo Fletcher at The Woodward Theater, Sutter and McCullough add, makes the experience even more exciting. Sylmar has built and nurtured both a long-standing friendship with the members of Bendigo Fletcher and a partnership with The Woodward Theater and is eager to introduce the city to its new sound with their support.
Still, the band and venue are conscious of the impact COVID still has in Cincinnati’s communities, and the Woodward has issued certain precautions to keep staff and guests safe. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event are required at the door.
But McCullough is confident this will not negatively impact the live Sylmar experience for fans. “Feel free to sweat. Feel free to have a good time like it’s the old days,” he says.
Glass Ladders is the beginning of a new era for Sylmar, Franco says, and he hopes the eclectic nature of the album allows the band to reach a wider audience.
“It feels really good to be back in the groove,” he says. “The tunes just keep getting better and more creative the more that we gel as a group and the more time we get stretched out on stage. Sylmar’s got a lot to share … and we’re stoked to share that with everybody.”