It Holds Up: Glocca Morra/Summer Vacation-Split
Posted: by The Editor
While 2013 was a time of renewal and culmination for emo, with it comes death. Things must perish. Nothing will last forever. In the years before, we saw the genre moving ever so slowly as much of the initial emo revival was beginning to dissipate. We were moving from DIY spaces to proper venues. There are a lot of different things you can point to on a macro or micro level as indicative of a change. But when looking back to emo and punk from a decade ago, a throwaway split from Glocca Morra and Summer Vacation is a demarcation of what came before and what is to come later.
At the time, for Glocca Morra, it didn’t seem that way. Leading up to 2013 was an especially fertile time, giving the chunk of the discography that most people cherish today. Nate Dionne, who joined sometime around the breakup of Snowing, describes this time as a feeling as if the possibilities were endless. Even before the starkness of the two songs on Glocca’s side of the split, An Obscure Moon Lighting an Obscure Moon was purposefully trying to push away from Just Married and what came before it. Dionne himself had already done the twinkly thing to death. He would spend countless hours practicing in the Snowing days and didn’t want to keep doing that. And in some ways, Glocca Morra closed the book on those early days of the emo revival. “Irrevocable, Motherfucker” in particular, presented an entire movement of emo into a compact two-and-a-half minute song, and one whose echoes you can still feel these days. Any guitarist tapping away on his guitar to bridge parts together in their emo song is in some way referencing Glocca Morra.
Though there might have been some intentions to shift from the uptempo punk and emo before, “Burning Love, Burning Desire” makes a shift feel way more apparent. The sort of shredded shriek that Zack Schwartz had mastered earlier is dissipated. The fast-twitch movement that was a signature on “Professional Confessional” was stripped away. What you have is a scuzzy and mid-tempo rock song. It isn’t exactly pretty and pristine; the tones from the guitars are layered with muck. In “Song 2”, you can hear the feedback ringing out several times, just waiting to escape the speakers. Only in the last fifteen seconds, when the song is done, do you hear the amp ring out.
Every part on Glocca Morra’s side is a bit more stretched out. In some ways, it was a completion of an arc. Dionne’s journey with emo started in high school when he joined Street Smart Cyclist. He had been playing a specific tree of music for very long. There have been plenty of examples of a shift away from emo throughout the genre. Promise Ring makes Wood/Water. Get Up Kids makes On The Wire. Or you can even look at the punk bands that came up in the era of Punknews making vaguely country-tinged indie rock, as we’ve seen with Talking Kind this year. You get older, and suddenly, playing at a fast tempo above all else is not as interesting. It is a story that repeats itself and one that Schwartz himself would show with Spirit of The Beehive.
It is hard to approximate the response to the split at the time ten years later. According to Dionne, in his close circle of musician friends, most people were positive. He recalls a couple of comments online that seemed a bit negative, complaining they don’t play the old stuff. All I could find was one review from Funeral Sounds on the split. The kicker sticks out: “The band is certainly growing; I’m just not totally convinced it’s in the right direction.” It is far from gathering any kind of consensus, but it at least gives a window into what some fans from earlier were feeling.
There is a feeling of what could have been for Glocca Morra. The two songs that followed in 2015 were from the same recording session as the songs on the split. Before breaking up, Dionne said the band had nine songs written and practiced with some documentation on a voice memo or something like that. But even without that knowledge, it did feel like there was still room for new exploration for Glocca Morra. And as the 2010s grew on, the sort of noisy 90s indie rock they were traversing was becoming more common.
Summer Vacation stands in some contrast to Glocca Morra. Their side is workman, continuing what they had been doing since forming. Though nearby neighbors to emo, Summer Vacation would never be uttered in the same sentence. Their lineage could be traced to California punk of Recess Records with an obvious throughline to Toys That Kill. It’s no coincidence that Todd Congelliere recorded the songs Summer Vacation did on their split with Hard Girls. You could play the influence game, but it would be pointless. It was just the result of it being many of the members’ first real band. Before Summer Vacation, singer Mark Chen had a folk-punk project called CDXX, which was shorthand for 4/20. Summer Vacation was really just pop-punk in the older sense in that it was punk that just happened to be melodic. And the band stayed within that original inclination.
The ideals of Summer Vacation were of the DIY punk nature that felt ripped out of a Heart Attack zine or MRR. Everything was done by the band, from booking to press requests, which stands in contrast to what was happening around the time, with many bands jumping towards professionalization. It was a topic Summer Vacation felt so strongly about. They even did a podcast with Razorcake about the ethics of DIY, highlighting the car company Scion sponsoring shows at the time and how corporations use subculture for their gain. It’s an issue that is still present and can be quite a divisive topic, such as PBR’s strong presence in hardcore right now.
Taking away some of the context of Summer Vacation, I don’t want to discount that the three songs on their side of a split, for lack of a better word, rock. “It’s My Birthday” may be one of their strongest songs, especially in the last 15 seconds where the line “I’m not your x-ray/I’m not your closest door” rings out. As some of the last songs Summer Vacation ever put out, it highlights that few were better in the early 2010s at writing a two to three-minute punk song. They turned the typical punk fodder and manifested it into something extremely physical, bursting with energy that still can gather me to make silly arm movements on a walk. You can see at least a version of it in this video, with the band slowly bursting forth while playing “I Know What You Want.”
The song I ruminate the most from Summer Vacation on the split is “Boycott Will Smith.” It starts with a little twinkling riff before moving into its barrage of punk fury. Riffs and hooks are thrown and done away with without much thought. And though the lyrics are ostensibly about a relationship, one line works just as well as a summation and epitaph of the band: “I’ve been long forgotten/cataloged to fade away.” Summer Vacation was only meant to last for a short burst of creativity, as some of the best punk does. It was sticking to that original punk stance in the truest way. Winter Break would come to continue to explore the punk impulses of Summer Vacation in a more refined way anyway.
Now, ten years later, the split is a good example of what gets remembered and what slowly gets forgotten. I’m sure there are plenty of people who fondly remember Summer Vacation; I’m one of them. But it gets lost that once upon a time, they and Joyce Manor were peers to the extent that the latter said, “After the first time I saw Summer Vacation, everything changed.” Glocca Morra benefited from being boxed into the emo revival, which has a much more self-sustaining online community. When I was rediscovering emo in 2012, I was constantly reminded of Glocca Morra’s existence on r/emo and other message boards. Just Married is one of those impossibly expensive records. There is no documentation of the band, and Schwartz hasn’t spoken much about Glocca Morra since their breakup. It adds a mystique that emo can sometimes salivate over. The more impenetrable you seem, the better. As evidenced by the band See Through Person, people are still interested in exploring Glocca Morra for inspiration. But that is part of the game, ultimately, with any kind of vaguely punk or emo music. How it carries from generation to generation is no one’s business. All you can do is play these five songs repeatedly and be transported back to a decade ago.
Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5
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