"Sexuality is part of being an adult," declares Ida No, who provides the alluring voice that swells inside Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre's dark and sexually charged rock and roll tension.
Since 1999, the Portland, Ore.-based group has led unapologetic strut-thrusting glam rock and new wave sounds into some very trashy places. Core members, No and guitarist Johnny Jewel, along with a rotating lineup, have crafted a sound that evokes everyone from Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Plasmatics to David Bowie and Christian Death.
The group has cultivated a sinister sex appeal shrouded in primal beats and riffs, evident in several singles, EPs and a ravenous stage presence. But Glass Candy is much more than the sum of its parts. Now, touring with its debut full-length, Love Love Love (Troubleman Unlimited), and stripping its lineup down to a two-piece, Glass Candy is offering an unfettered look at what makes the music throb.
At first glance, Ida No is an intimidating player in underground music's lineage of strong female figures that includes Wendy O. Williams, Siouxsie Sioux, Kathleen Hannah, etc. Gender and sexuality play a large role in her presentation. Many women in rock music contend that being a female performer is a challenge because they are judged not just on their music but on their physical appearance as well. But No embraces her femininity with a sense of artistic responsibility.
"Rock music has always been a complete package," says No. "You're not only a creator of music but a performance artist as well. How you dress, your physique, your hair and how you carry yourself is all looked at. People want to identify you as a hero and as a role model. Therefore, it's important that male and female performers stand up for who they are, whatever nature gave them, and show yourself to be the uncompromising, unsolicitous, rock and roll gladiator, defender of your gender."
It's with this attitude that No has seamlessly crafted the group's lustful presentation via album cover art and live performance. No's phantom wail and scantily clad image clawing at Jewel's plodding and rough-hewn guitar assault give the group an edge over its peers, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Kills and the Epoxies. But there's much more than sexual exploits at work in Glass Candy's music. Throughout songs like "Crystal Migraine," "Hurt" and "Empty V," images of self-destruction and love gone awry push the music but are shielded by No's domineering presence. "My performance reflects all the emotion and experience inside me," she adds.
Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, Love Love Love is hardly long enough to be considered a full-length recording by most standards. But it's Glass Candy's most substantial work to date. Keeping the recording short was a deliberate move, limiting the material to only the strongest and most representative songs the group had written. The result is a solid recording that spans the group's body of work. "It's the best of all the material up to that point," No says. "Anything else put on the record would have been filler."
The percussions on Love Love Love were performed by Ginger Peach, but Jewel and No have embarked on the current tour with a drum machine.
"Live performances are more like alter egos of recorded material. The interpretations of the songs aren't strict," says No. "Being just a two-piece, we have a lot more room to improvise. Johnny and I can react to each other without having to worry if the drummer is paying attention."
Sex is best when it's one-on-one.