John Glacier creates introspective music on her own terms

© Udoma Janssen
Jacket: Wu-Wear c/o 194 local
Top: Raf Simons c/o 194 Local

Words by:

Photography: Udoma Janssen
Makeup: Karla Q Leon

John Glacier doesn’t set out to be enigmatic – she kind of just is.

Throughout our conversation, done over Zoom on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday afternoon, Glacier is both incredibly frank and almost cagey. She presents her unique flavour of introspective bedroom-hop as freeform and haphazard, but at the same time rife with meaning and inner turmoil. Both can be true of course, and are. Even her stage name, an obvious red herring, seems like a tongue-in-cheek way to play with her audience’s idea of who she is and what she might sound like. As her star swiftly rises – with a pitch perfect turn on London rapper LYAM’s new single Origami featuring Shygirl and an upcoming collaborative project with white-hot producer Vegyn – Glacier refuses to compromise on her ideals as an artist, skirting pop hooks and dance beats for minimal production and stream-of-conscious, abstract verses.

© Udoma Janssen
Jacket: Avirex c/o SILHOU archive
Top & skirt: SILHOU archive
Shoes: Nike

Her SoundCloud is stuffed to the brim with tracks called things like Kill ft babystabz(Demo/irresponsible upload) and kittykatshowers- was low made this & put in some vn of me being me (will probably make into acc beat). There’s a 21-second track called LOOL that is just pitched down cat noises. Her SoundCloud is part scrapbook, part diary, where she offloads all the thoughts pinging around her brain, whatever the results. “I see making music as a form of therapy,” she says matter-of-factly when asked about why she chose this particular art form. “I feel like it’s vital for me to be able to express myself. There’s not much to it.” She bursts out laughing. “I’m selfish! I like getting stuff off my chest and recording it. I make music for me, and if people like it, all the better.”

We’ve all heard that one before, but with Glacier it really rings true. “The main way I manage my stress is literally via music,” she explains further, “I just channel it all in there. I see music as, like, you know in old movies when you put what you feel into a bottle and you throw it into the ocean? SoundCloud is my ocean. Whatever bullshit I feel, I just throw it out there.”

© Udoma Janssen
Full look: Celine

John Glacier’s music is many things, and “shit” is certainly not one of them. You can find the first song she wrote that made her feel like music was a viable creative outlet in her SoundCloud archives. It’s called Fool Like Me and it does that extraordinarily difficult thing of toeing the line of cacophony, reeling in the chaos to reveal something beautiful. It contains a meandering piano melody, a droning, quasi-mumble of a vocal track, and an audio clip of Glacier explaining her nearsightedness to someone off-mic. It’s like peering directly into her mind, which purposefully or not, puts her audience right where she wants them to be: hanging onto her every word.

© Udoma Janssen
Jacket: Wu-Wear c/o 194 local
Top: Raf Simons c/o 194 Local
Trousers: SILHOU archive
Shoes: Nike

Glacier’s public persona is sparse, and you get the feeling that’s how she likes it. But what is there builds a compelling story. On top of her audio journal of a SoundCloud account, her Instagram is an intricate patchwork of self-love, mini music clips, selfies and anti-racist activism. “The police over here are definitely racist,” she says, when the topic of Black Lives Matter comes up. “Forty years from now, they’ll be looking back on history books like, ‘Oh my god I can’t believe how Black people were treated.’ I’ve seen stuff that I don’t even want to talk about, but I know for a fact that it’s the same thing over here as in America.” She pauses. “This is going to sound mad but I feel like there are a lot of Black artists who might not be expressing [anti-racism] explicitly. But at the same time I feel like Black joy within itself is a form of protest and it’s just as impactful.”

© Udoma Janssen
Top: Thierry Mugler c/o SILHOU archive
Trousers: SILHOU archive
Shoes: Nike

She continues: “As a Black person you should be able to express how you feel instead of being cornered into some weird little box. Black people aren’t allowed to express themselves; if I express myself, I’m a bitch. It’s OK for someone else to do it, but when I do it, it’s labelled negatively.”

Glacier is very vocal about doing things on her own terms and at her own pace. Will there be an album one day? A song on the radio? She’s even hesitant to put music on Spotify or Apple, because she doesn’t see why those platforms should make an artist more legitimate. “The music industry just makes no sense to me,” she chuckles. “One day I will make something more. What that may be, I don’t know. My music is my documentary.” She stops, takes a breath. “It might not be obvious to some, but women who have been in similar situations will relate to what I’m talking about. I used to make music for me, and for girls who have been through similar stuff as me. I’d like for women to be more honest about their feelings. Just come out and say what you feel, no matter how people look at you or judge you for what you’ve said. If you feel like the world is fucked up, say it’s fucked up.”

© Udoma Janssen
Full look: Celine

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