“You can know something is wrong and still try to justify it.”
Allison Gliesman of Mess
When Allison Gliesman starts writing a song, it’s often with the intent of wrapping her head around something: the way dynamics between people can shift, someone else’s headspace, universal elements in human experience.
Gliesman is one fourth of Mess, the KC-based indie rock band whose first EP, heartswithholes will be released Saturday, August 12th. Before meeting Kevin Briody (guitar/bass), Tanner Pinkerton (guitar), and Evan Velasquez (drums), Gliesman was writing alone in her dorm room at the University of Kansas, recording into an iPhone. As she’s moved into a more collaborative space as a writer and musician, Gliesman’s become more “extro-spective,” using the medium as a means to delve into other mindsets and understandings of the world.
"I realized that maybe I should try to step outside myself and try to explore."
Gliesman on writing songs from the perspectives of other pepole.
“I wanted to push myself, writing-wise,” Gliesman tells me in a crowded coffee shop in Kansas City, where we can’t help but pick up pieces of conversations unfolding around us. “I wanted to write about experiences that weren’t necessarily mine. Up until that point, writing was very selfish for me. I realized that maybe I should try to step outside myself and try to explore.”
Gliesman tells me the story of some of the songs from heartswithholes, which is more or less a 5-song study in human relationships.
“‘Soak’ is the first song we ever wrote,” Gliesman says. “And it’s more or less a love letter based on a relationship I had with someone who is asexual. I didn’t know it, and I don’t think she really knew it when we met. We were both trying to navigate that and sexuality in our relationship.”
On ‘Bloodlines,’ Gliesman examined the influential nature of parent-child relationships, and the process of self-discovery that happens when a teenager begins to realize that their worldview is shaped by that of their kin.
“Where you came from can have as much or as little to do with the person you are as you want it to,” Gliesman says. It’s not uncommon to grow up and challenge the worldview that you were raised with as you come of age and bloom into an autonomous adult. We often try to justify things that we know are inherently misguided because it’s the way our parents raised us.
Leading up to the release of ‘Bloodlines’ last month, the band posted photographs of Gliesman’s childhood house in the process of being built on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The imagery functions as a literal representation of the shelter that parents build around their children to keep them safe. But that same shelter can become a confinement, and eventually families and children outgrow their homes. Gliesman’s parents sold that house last year.
Whereas ‘Soak’ and ‘Bloodlines’ were written as means of comprehending the experiences and mindsets of others, Gliesman turned inwards when writing ‘Innocence.’ A frank examination of a failed relationship and the harm that it caused both people involved, the song is Gliesman’s most personal track on heartswithholes.
“I could see the difference between who I was before I wrote it, and who I was immediately after,” Gliesman says about ‘Innocence.’ “I needed to write that so I could move away from that headspace.”
"I could see the difference between who I was before I wrote it, and who I was immediately after."
Gliesman on writing 'Innocence.'
To accompany the song, Mess recorded and released a music video that follows the collapse of a romantic relationship, a very literal interpretation of its lyrics. The video follows these characters through distinct phases of falling in and out of love, eventually coming to realize that though they’ve both hurt the other, it’s possible to move forward without blame.
“The song is about recognizing the flaws in your relationship,” Gliesman says. “It’s okay to just not be right for each other and kind of walk away from it in a bittersweet kind of way.”