QOTSA’s Michael Shuman on new project GLU: “There are no rules, there are no boundaries”
Queens Of The Stone Age and Mini Mansions’ Michael Shuman has shared ‘NIGHT SHIFT’ – the latest single from his new project GLU. Check it out below, alongside our interview with Shuman.
‘NIGHT SHIFT’ is the third track from Shuman under the moniker GLU, following the release of ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘My Demons’ earlier this year.
“I don’t wanna live another day like this / In a never-ending crisis / Just leave me alone with my vices,” he sings on the hip-hop-led track. The new single details the feeling of “impending doom” the current chaos of our world elicits but, instead of focusing on the future, living for today instead. It’s an attitude that Shuman said he’s always had, but also nods to sticking with pre-pandemic habits in the midst of lockdown.
“I hate to use the pandemic, but it really made you shift your priorities, your outlook,” he told NME “I was still stuck in my old ways, but without being on tour or being able to party with other people – my vices stuck around even though I was by myself.”
GLU began life during that period of isolation, with the musician using the time to explore new things. “With Mini Mansions, we haven’t done anything musical together since our last tour on the last record [in 2019] so there was that gap for me, and although there’s new Queens stuff coming and we have shows coming up next year, there was time for me and I just needed to do something,” he explained.
After coming up with June single ‘My Demons’, which features vocals from Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel, tracks “started to come quickly” and occupied similar territory. “A lot of the songs I was writing were all lyrically within the same world,” Shuman said. “Because I had nothing else – I just had my thoughts and my OCD. These thoughts just went over and over and over in my head.”
Using the name GLU rather than his own was part of a challenge to have his music taken seriously and not be considered as a side-project to his other bands. Although he said he knows people will work out who he is and what he’s done in the past, he took hope from Damon Albarn’s path since the ‘90s.
“He was the frontman of one of the biggest rock bands and then just immediately shifted to this totally different thing that people accepted with Gorillaz,” he said. “It was this brand new sound and you could accept it for what it was. I think that’s probably why he wanted it to be all animated – it wasn’t about him, it was about the music. That’s what I wanted as well.”
In this new project, Shuman has also jumped into a brand new sound, bringing the hip-hop influences that have simmered in the background of some of Mini Mansions’ output to the fore and delivering his vocals in a rap flow. “Sometimes I hate to use the word ‘rapping’,” he said. “It’s not exactly hip-hop music, but when I played it for some friends the response was that it was maybe the best thing I’d done and didn’t sound like I was putting on an act.”
Making sure the songs didn’t cross into parody was important to the musician. “There’s a fine line when you’re doing this kind of music as a white male,” he acknowledged. “It’s not a joke, and I want people to actually take me seriously for the rhymes and production that I’m doing.”
‘NIGHT SHIFT’ contains elements of all sides of Shuman’s artistry, from the “punk rock side and guitar player” in its guitar solo to the “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ three-part harmonies” alongside his rap. On paper, those three disparate ideas have the potential to be quite jarring together, but his challenge was to work out how to make them feel natural.
“There are no rules, there are no boundaries is my biggest thing with everything that I’m doing, but especially with ‘NIGHT SHIFT’,” he explained. “The hardest part is making it not feel cheesy and forced, but I think I achieved that.”
Although GLU is relatively new, fans in the UK might have already seen Shuman bring the project to live on stage for the first time at a residency at London’s Sebright Arms in June, or at Glastonbury. Deciding to kick off the project in London was in part to be free of the judgement of friends and family in LA, and also because of his past and current connection with the country. “The UK has always been my second home with whatever band I’ve had so I really, really want to build in the UK,” he said. “I’ve also been living half the year in London now so it just made sense.”
Unlike with QOTSA or Mini Mansions, GLU gigs find Shuman as the sole musician on stage – just him, a guitar and a microphone. Those shows at the Sebright Arms were the first time he’d ever been alone in front of an audience, something he described as a “learning curve”. “I’m learning about myself and about what this is and what it means and how to do it,” he said. “It’s been really fun. I’m on tour by myself – no tech, no nothing and it’s a lot to have it all be on you to have and everyone just focused on you. It’s a lot of work but I’m really enjoying it.”
Whether he continues to do it all himself or bring other musicians on board to help in the future is “the ultimate question” right now but, on record at least, Shuman will be helped out by fellow artists. As well as appearing on ‘My Demons’, Barthel features on another unreleased track. Having different voices on his songs is something Shuman said he wants “as much as possible”.
“Because [the songs are] all from me, I think it’s nice to have some other voices,” he said. “I also want to have some femininity in there – I don’t want it to feel too male-driven or macho. I’ve always liked in ‘90s hip-hop or that Eve song with Gwen Stefani [‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’] rapping and then a girl singing the chorus. It’s just ear candy.”
One of the other vocalists confirmed to appear on a future GLU track is Miles Kane, who appeared on stage with Shuman in London this summer. “He’s one of my closest friends,” he said of the collaboration. “We’ve spent a lot of time together since I’ve been living in London – we’ve worked on some other stuff together too. He’s just so fun to hang with and to write with – just a really positive guy with a lot of positive energy. I’m sure we’re going to do more together.”
Right now, Shuman is on the road in the US supporting Phantogram and has a UK headline tour coming up in December. Playing full-length shows suggests there’s a full-length record ready to go, but the musician said he was “trying to figure out the best time to release everything”.
“I’m trying to do it smart where enough people have heard about the project so it’s not just going to get lost in the abyss,” he added. “I really want to be aware of the timing and be intentional with it, but I have the material and there’s tons more that I’m going to do as well.”
‘NIGHT SHIFT’ by GLU is out now. Check out GLU’s upcoming UK tour dates below, and get tickets here.
7 – Muthers, Birmingham
8 – Oporto, Leeds
9 – The Garage, Attic, Glasgow
11 – Yes (Basement), Manchester
12 – Louisiana, Bristol
13 – Hope & Ruin, Brighton
14 – Courtyard Theatre, London