For those who have been to Repo Records—an unskippable stop while walking down South Street—one of its trademark qualities is its attic–like crowdedness. The smell of incense wafts in from one corner and shelves of music memorabilia are squished in another. Band T–shirt racks fill the center of the store, and of course, the uncountable vinyl across its walls. It’s a space definitely known for its record signings, but one you wouldn’t expect to fit a concert inside.
However, on May 27, a Repo employee taped a poster outside in handwritten marker: “CLOSING EARLY FOR GLOSS/CATHERINE MOAN SHOW!!!!” By 7:30 p.m., a line of fans spooled around the corner and Repo Records was transformed into a concert venue: lights out, with a disco ball swirling on the ceiling and the emptied floor waiting to become a mosh pit.
gloss, a pop–fusion band formed in Philadelphia, is the colorful and hypnotic group determined to put you in a trance. Their new EP, Are You Okay?, is the band’s most spell–casting work so far. Over bubble tea and ramen before the show’s load–in, the band spoke to me about the details of the new EP, from their mixing of genres to how each tea–drinking snail on the cover corresponded to each band member.
Formed in 2019 when the four friends met studying music at University of the Arts, gloss is composed of a rainbow of different sounds from each of their own eclectic discoveries of music. Lead vocalist Sophia Grosshauser grew up around world music, while their drummer, Mollie Schechter, once played in a steelpan band—something they still think is the “funniest thing.” Guitarist Corrine Kite–Dean, found her passion on Guitar Hero. Bassist Bella Amada, started on the ukulele and “wanted to just keep getting lower in sound,” she laughs.
“When I joined gloss, I had to buy a lot of colorful clothing,” Kite–Dean says. gloss’ brand is vibrantly recognizable and could change depending on the day, but their mismatching styles marble into one identity. On the day of the show, Schechter wore '70s disco–like pants, flared with orange flowers, while Kite–Dean paired purple, '80s fishnet gloves with black knee–high socks. At their merch station, their EP cassette is full of silver glitter within its translucent pink case. It all makes sense, too. As the audience entered, the band offered to “baptize” our cheeks with some liquid glitter. “I used to hate glitter,” Schechter admits, until Kite–Dean corrects her: “Now, you are glitter.”
Their new EP, Are You Okay?, was their first work created together after their pandemic–induced separation. “I think it's very clear that we all worked together as a unit on this EP,” Kite–Dean says. “It’s a collection of all of our personalities together … and a teaser to how we think as individuals,” Amada adds.
On her song process, Grosshauser, the band’s main lyricist, says, “I write a lot about feeling lonely, and I write in hopes that someone will hear it and think, ‘I’ve been there,’ and feel less lonely.” Grosshauser’s lyrics are sing–along experiences, but laced with poetry she turns into music with her tongue, singing, “The liability, the opportunity, the possibility.” Then, at any moment, she slips into interludes of jazzy scatting. But to gloss, their content is not the first impression they want to make.
“It’s always about how they vibe with the music first, then come to the lyrics second,” Amada shares. Kite–Dean continues, “A lot of what we do is in service to the live show. We want people to have a good time listening to us. We focused a lot on creating moments for the audience in the music, like making sure there are specific moments in the song where we know how an audience will react to it. Certain things will throw them off, or anybody who studied jazz will go insane at one part.” Look out for her guitar licks.
“We all feed off of each other, and we just have fun,” says Grosshauser.
When the time finally came, the rainy afternoon parted into a sunny evening on the walk to Repo Records. Friends and family hauled in vintage floral suitcases, pulling out a painted keyboard stand, a sun–studded bass strap, and finally, a tambourine. They hung laser beams and twinkling string lights that made galaxies on the walls, and put up trippy black–light posters that glowed in their full neon effect. After the band’s giggly mic checks and the application of some last–minute glitter, the carpeted platform of the store had finally become a stage.
Local artist Catherine Moan opened for them with sensual and heady synths to soothe the audience. Moan, in a delicate white blouse and her loose bleach–blonde hair, performed a conversational dance, making eye contact with us on lines while her fingers floated in the smooth sonic atmosphere she made—one that would quickly juxtapose the upcoming act.
Once gloss arrived, it was impossible to get to the front of the room anymore as it rumbled with clapping and stomping. After a roll call, all of the instruments paused at the snap of Grosshauser’s hands as she froze to give their classic introduction, “We’re gloss!”
gloss transforms their concert into an interactive experience. Grosshauser yelled, “Clap with us! And if you don’t know how, you’ll learn.” Kite–Dean teased the audience, walking down into the crowd for a guitar solo. The band surprised us with a time–traveling cover of “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, until, by the end of it all, the mic wire was around Grosshauaer’s neck and one of her earrings had gone missing. Suddenly, a “One! More! Song!” chant broke out, and gloss played their well–known cover of The B–52’s, “Love Shack,” demanding, “I can’t hear you!” on every, “Bang! Bang!” until we were too breathless for another.
gloss is still on its way to defining its full voice, but they are unapologetically devoted to authenticity. As Amada put it, “We are who we are, and we are going to get up there, and we are going to dance.”