Five questions with Mabel Gladly of Chicago disco-pop group Glad Rags

Glad Rags w/ Allegra Hernandez, Huxley Maxwell's Cartoon Smokers

Saturday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m., xBk Live, Des Moines, $10

Glad Rags head to Des Moines with a show at xBk on Feb. 19. — Lorielle Sum/Glad Rags

It’s no secret that the Windy City is home to many great indie artists of all genres. And being only five hours away, Des Moines gets to experience a lot of those artists when they hit the road. That’s the case with Glad Rags, a self-described art-pop collaboration of some of Chicago’s top musicians.

The band’s 2021 LP All of Them evokes a sort of loungy-disco feeling that will certainly make you move (and also maybe think a little bit.)

I talked to keys player and vocalist Mabel Gladly about the band, their new album and their upcoming show at xBk Live in Des Moines on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Where does the name Glad Rags come from?

Oooh, nobody asks that question. But it comes from, something like an old phrase. Just clothes that you feel good in, your glad rags. And so that’s why we named it [that], and I guess the theory behind it at least is that we … coordinate outfits and stuff, but we can each express ourselves clothing-wise and you know, whichever way we want to. It keeps the individual going within the collective; that’s the idea at least.

You guys just released a project in 2021. It’s called All Of Them. Can you tell me a little bit about the album and the meaning behind it? And maybe how you got it together?

Yeah. Well, the album we started recording in like early 2019, late 2018 even. So we were gonna release it around when the pandemic happened. It’s our first vinyl LP, but it’s also like a concept album about cancel culture and just community responses to harm.

The examples we were kind of drawing from were more gender-based sexual harm. But it’s kind of a more broad thing in general, like, how do you respond when something happens? And, more importantly … in our situations, not with anyone personally in the band, but you know, there was no structure in place. There’s no, “this is what we do at our venue or at our DIY space” or whatever. So you’re just kind of reacting and responding to things that are happening, and there was no pre-emptive health care.

Have you ever played in Des Moines before?

Yeah. We did a show at Petal Palace before. We did one at Vaudeville Mews with Goat Foam. They’re really lovely. … We also played in Ames at a place called Planet Fitness before it closed down. It’s like a DIY space. We had met a lot of people there who were doing a show, so we did the show with them. Crossing Tongues. But we haven’t been back since the pandemic.

Glad Rags is described as a collective of musicians. Because you have so many people involved, how does your songwriting process work?

It’s really kind of all over the place. This summer was the first time we had full group writing sessions together. But a lot of times, it would be, you know, I do a lot of the songwriting myself but we kind of arrange it all together. And every song kind of has its own story, like, one band member came up with the name for “What’s My Body Up 2?” and then passed it to me, then I passed it to someone who wrote the pre-chorus — so it is cool to try to maintain the collaborative writing thing. And then other times I’ll have a song idea, and then Kelsee, who arranges strings and plays cello, will take it to another level. It really couldn’t exist without the multiple hands. We had, too, a drummer and an auxiliary percussion player for a while, too. So we do like rhythm sectionals and vocal sectionals, it really varies.

Finally, fun question: When you guys are on tour, what’s everybody’s favorite tour snack?

Ooooh (laughs) — tour snack. I really like to cook and I like to bring a little cooler with little aluminum foil-wrapped sandwiches or something. And then, like, surprise everyone with them at one time. I just really, really like cooking a lot. But yeah, it seems like we’ve stopped at Culver’s a couple times … the Concrete Mixer calls our names. We’ve got some ice cream fans for sure. Patrick tries to convince us to stop for, like, something absurd. Something off the highway that maybe you wouldn’t think is necessarily the best idea, like fish or something. We’ve done it. We’ll do it sometimes. I think like spicy little nuts, and chips is probably a common one.

Catch Glad Rags, Allegra Hernandez and Huxley Maxwell’s Cartoon Smokers at xBk Live on 2/19. Tickets are on sale now.

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