While 2017 left many of us speechless, Christopher Glover of Penguin Prison is speaking louder than ever. His forthcoming EP Turn It Up— from which we’ve already heard the titular lead single and its remixes—works with heavier messages than some of his previous work. That said, the EP still contains the DJ and producer’s signature sound: a blended cocktail of speedy guitar licks, bouncy pop melodies, disco-tinged percussion, sweet and sour vocal manipulation and upbeat bass, all molded into a cohesively sunny yet sophisticated addition to his repertoire.
As with his last album, much of Glover’s new work remains an enormously doting love letter to the city of New York, where he was born, raised, and drenched in eclectic cultural influences. “I’m glad I grew up in New York. I developed a certain attitude that a lot of New Yorkers seem to have...there was never a sense that anything was too far out of reach,” he explains. “If something existed, I could probably do it.”
On the 2015 LP Lost In New York, Glover transformed his hometown endearment into an electro-pop soundscape that, all at once, encapsulates senses of bafflement, vulnerability, and awe. Like many healthfully formative relationships, Glover’s intimacy with the city is anything but overly comfortable; New York is inspiring, but also so incredibly ripe with fresh artistic discoveries that the musician finds it hard to leave. “I still haven’t lived anywhere else besides New York,” he admits. “Some people think that’s crazy, but I don’t think I can really imagine living anywhere else. I love traveling, but I always want to call New York my home.”
In addition to a deep loyalty to his city, there’s a plethora of reasons for which Glover stands out amongst his peers. Perhaps the most significant at this time is his acute awareness and incorporation of social issues and politics in his music. “Keep coming alive, even when they try to cut you down to size,” he sings in “Keep Coming Alive.” The song is about remaining positive and hopeful in the face of what Glover refers to as “daunting recent developments,” referring to the US’s current political and social climate.
“On the night of November 8th, 2016, I initially wondered how I could even keep being an artist,” he recalls. “It seemed like making art was trivial at that moment. Upon further reflection, I realized that of course the world needs people to make music and film and all kinds of art.” For Glover, music during these tumultuous times can simultaneously be both a relieving departure from and enhancement of the present. “I always like my music to be escapist, but with reality as the subject matter,” he explains. “For me, one of the best things about music is creating a world that is a heightened version of the mundane reality we live in day to day.”
Glover’s new EP carefully treads the fine line between stylistic uniformity with his previous material and fresh yet subtle innovation. “I wanted the new songs to be an evolution in sound while still maintaining consistency from my previous releases,” he mentions. “I feel, from playing these songs live with my band, that they seem more emotive and immediate than the previous material I have released as Penguin Prison.”
Part of this has to do with the aforementioned political climate; the rest, from his desire to write from a less objective point of view, or to stop avoiding being overly personal. “I collaborated with my bandmate Benjamin Grubin (formerly of the band Hockey) and producer Andy Seltzer,” he says about the EP’s lead single and namesake, “Turn It Up.” “I came up with the chorus with Ben in my studio and fleshed out the rest with Andy at his studio in Brooklyn. [The track] is a response to all of the troubling things happening right now—trying to remain positive and encourage other people not to give up.”
When it comes to live performances in 2018, Glover will continue to push his shows’ boundaries. “I am trying to bridge the gap between the DJ world and the live band world,” he says. This is because, unlike many other electronic artists, Glover can perform either alone or with others. “Sometimes people get confused that I perform as a band and also as a DJ...at my DJ sets, I sing my own songs and go into the crowd so it’s more of a live performance, and I try to treat my live band sets as more of a DJ set keeping the tempo of the songs in mind and piecing them together the way a DJ would.”
The goal of these shows, on an artistic level, is to manifest “an atmosphere where a moment can be created which would never be able to exist in ‘real life.’” But on a personal level, an audience is simply a way to gauge the response to his music IRL, as well as for Glover to enjoy himself. “Happiness and success happen when I am in the process of making a song that I am excited about and then again when I am performing that song to an audience that seems equally as excited as I am.” Turn It Up will be available as of February 9, 2018 via Act Normal Music.