Long-Running Murfreesboro Band Glossary Rediscovers the Mythology of Rock 'n' Roll

Joey Kneiser, the frontman for Murfreesboro rock band Glossary, had big plans when he started thinking about the group's most recent album. It was 2011. The band had been together for nearly 15 years; they'd long since traded in the youthful promise of their 1998 debut Southern by the Grace of Location for hard-working journeyman status. So Kneiser and his bandmates decided to take their time and make a record that reflected the band's maturity, and all that they had absorbed over their time together. Kneiser wanted to make an album that mattered.

"I feel like a lot of modern rock 'n' roll is very cynical and apathetic," Kneiser says. "It used to be, in the '60s and '70s especially, that rock 'n' roll was much more powerful and uplifting. I still believe in the old mythology of rock 'n' roll, that it can somehow lift you up and save you and has this almost spiritual power to pull you out of the dark. As I've gotten older, I go back and listen to Sam Cooke and great rock 'n' roll bands that have that spirit of rock 'n' roll, like Bruce Springsteen, the Drive-By Truckers, the Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, that kind of represent that old mythology of rock 'n' roll, that it's you and your girl against the world."

So Kneiser and his bandmates holed up inside a rented house outside of Murfreesboro and spent a month writing, rehearsing, and experimenting before committing another full month to recording.

"We'd never spent that much time in a studio," Kneiser says. "The records were really about pre-production and rehearsing and rehearsing and getting all your parts down so you could go in there and knock it out really quickly. This one, we decided to get a place of our own and have enough time so that if somebody had an idea that didn't pan out, it was fine. We didn't have any restrictions on time. Somebody could try something and we could just keep doing it—we could waste six hours and not feel horrible about it."

The result, Long Live All of Us, released in October 2011, is another stage in Glossary's development from scrappy indie rock to a classic rock 'n' roll band. Guitarist/pedal steel player Todd Beene, who has played with Glossary for a decade, also plays with Memphis' Lucero, and helped recruit Jim Spake, a Memphis saxophonist who has played with and arranged horn sections for Lucero, Alex Chilton, Solomon Burke, and Southern Culture on the Skids. Spake's horn arrangements on Long Live All of Us expands on Glossary's blueprint of country-flavored indie rock with adding R&B, soul, and blues overtones. It's a next step for the band, but not necessarily one that anyone following the group's career would have predicted.

"We're wedged between three major Southern musical meccas," Kneiser says. "We have Muscle Shoals two hours south of us, and then Memphis three hours west of us, and we're obviously about 40 minutes from Nashville. That plays a lot in the band. We'd always wanted to absorb all the things we like about American music and make them our own. We came from punk-rock and indie-rock backgrounds and over time just started taking things that we like and putting it into the band somehow, trying to squeeze it in where it makes sense.

"Every time we're recording one of the records, we're like, is this too eclectic, because we like so much stuff. But in the end, all the bands we really love are bands like that, like the Band or the Rolling Stones or the Clash—bands that were really eclectic."

Unfortunately, the horn section from Long Live All of Us won't be accompanying the band on its upcoming Knoxville date. But the positive message behind the album was also directed toward the band itself, and that should come through.

"We've been playing together so long, and everybody's designed their lives around doing this," Kneiser says. "You go through a time where you have to give yourself a pep talk, because you're playing music for a living, which involves no money, no security or anything like that. You have to convince yourself that there's a bigger thing than you. That's one reason, too, that I didn't want the band to come off as selfish—it was trying to encompass a community around the band, that there was no line around the people who listen to it and the people who made it. It's like being a professional musician, or any artist, you live in a constant state of a midlife crisis. You have to wonder if you're doing the right thing, but you find that crazy chaos where you do the best stuff."