Gloss transform their image

L-R: Sean Neppl, Jordan Bleau, Jeff Cornell, Jack Woolsey, and Emmy Carter
Ben Swanson

Growing up together in Eagan as indie-music-loving outsiders, three of Gloss's founding members were far from the toast of the town.

"We didn't really have very many other friends growing up," admits singer/guitarist Jeff Cornell sheepishly of himself, bassist Jack Woolsey, and guitarist Sean Neppl, now in their early 20s.

The statement elicits laughs from Woolsey and keyboardist Emmy Carter over cups of hot chocolate at Cahoots in St. Paul. Cornell works there part-time as a barista when he's not studying at Augsburg College or making music. "We were definitely the music geeks at our school. That was the only thing that mattered to us, and we couldn't really understand how people could even have other interests. So it was weird trying to make friends who weren't big music nerds like us."

No longer music geeks confined to their parents' basements, the trio of lifelong pals eventually linked up with Carter and drummer/producer Jordan Bleau to go public as Gloss.

Featuring shimmering six-strings, rubbery high-toned bass, and chilly synthesizers, their debut EP, Between Themselves, recalls dream-pop practitioners like Wild Nothing as well as '80s U.K. icons like Echo and the Bunnymen.

It's an instantly ingratiating sound that's already won them plenty of admiration from high profile local talents both long established and freshly crowned. Ed Ackerson got the band their first official club gig as part of last year's BNLX fest, and they were on the bill when Howler first re-emerged from their hiatus at an underground house show.

While many other modern dream-pop purveyors are one-man recording projects masquerading as bands, Gloss is a democratic unit.

"These songs wouldn't be half as good if they were just one person's ideas," says Cornell. "Whenever I have an idea for a single guitar part, Sean comes back in response with something I never would have never thought of in a million years. I might be the singer, but Gloss is no more my band than any of the other members'."

"We've just played together so long that whenever someone starts exploring a new idea musically it's never confusing," claims Woolsey.

The pair aren't just paying lip service to group creativity. Part of what sets Gloss's EP apart is that each song has a different instrumental focal point. On wordless album opener "Rachel" this task is left to swoon-worthy spiraling electric guitar fills; on "Hesitate" the dynamic drum-led introduction gets things going.

Happy for now to enjoy the local spotlight after years creating in the shadows, Cornell speaks openly about Gloss's next steps, which include taking time to figure out their still-in-flux musical identity. For an eventual first LP, the group wants to focus on honing a more specific aesthetic.

"We see the EP as lovingly all over the place," admits Cornell. "We basically tried to tackle every subgenre of vaguely British alternative music that came out in the 1980s. We had our post-punk song, our shoegaze song, our synth-pop song. We're trying to focus our sound more now. Is it better to be simpler? Do we want more dramatic chord changes? We still don't really know what our strengths are, and we're excited to figure that out."

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