Glaive has come an awful long way in the past two-and-a-half years. Pre-pandemic, you could find him mostly making music in his bedroom in the remote mountains of North Carolina. Nowadays, though, he’s signed to the major label Interscope, has helped bring hyperpop into the mainstream and is about to embark on his first UK tour – it’s been quite the turnaround for the 17-year-old.
When NME calls Ash Gutierrez a week after his “insane” debut London gig – and just days before he’ll open for his friend and mentor The Kid LAROI in Birmingham, Manchester and London – the floppy-haired vocalist, songwriter and producer is taking in some English heritage while walking around Arundel Castle in West Sussex, where he’s been staying with family. Gutierrez might now be enjoying some rare and hard-earned downtime, but he’s still buzzing from his landmark gig at the O2 Academy Islington earlier this month.
Even though he was “nervous that people would wonder why I’m here”, his first headline solo gig as glaive outside of the US couldn’t have gone much better. “They were really fucking excited!” Gutierrez says of the reception he received from the sold-out crowd of 800. “For every single song they knew all the words, which was amazing to see. It was something to remember: one for the books.”
It’s safe to say that Gutierrez is making up for lost time, given that the pandemic prevented him from performing live during his breakthrough year in 2020. “Going from doing no shows to probably 80 or 100 by the end of this year is exciting, and definitely something that I never thought I’d be able to do,” he says. His first shows, he adds, were “easy, because nobody really expected anything”, but, over time, the hype machine has built up. “Because the next [gigs] were so crazy and all sold-out, the bigger the shows get and the more people [who are there], it’s getting harder to achieve even bigger things. But I’m doing my best to live up to the name.”
His hard work is paying off, though: Gutierrez has been invited by the “lovely, extremely talented lad” The Kid LAROI to open for him on his world tour. Having admired each other’s music from afar, the two finally met in February after the Australian artist was among the audience for glaive’s show at The Fonda in LA. Since then, the two have regularly been hanging out together and striking up a friendship (“he called me yesterday to check in on how everything is going,” Gutierrez notes). Even more excitingly, the pair made a song together on the second day of their tour – and they’ve been performing it live at every show since. “It’s been going down really well,” he says, describing LAROI as “a fun, cool guy to hang out with, and very wise – even though he’s not much older than I am. He has achieved so much in such a little amount of time, so he’s a walking example of what to do”.
Gutierrez will rejoin LAROI on-stage tonight and tomorrow (July 18 and 19) as the pair take on London’s O2 Academy Brixton. But LAROI isn’t the only mega-famous artist that Gutierrez has been working with recently, having been tapped to feature on Machine Gun Kelly‘s angsty emo-leaning track ‘More Than Life’.
“Everyone was blown away by my verse, and then Machine Gun Kelly re-recorded the song and changed it up a bit, which is a cool anecdote to have: ‘It was so good that he had to change his verse!’” he laughs about the creative process. He’s keen, though, to defend Kelly’s corner: “For the amount of people that really dislike this guy, he might be the nicest person I’ve ever met. Every time I’ve talked to him he’s been kind-hearted, and said to call him if I need anything.”
Aside from such big-name collaborations, Gutierrez has been making a significant impact in 2022 with his own releases as glaive: following his January deluxe EP ‘Old Dog, New Tricks’, Gutierrez returned last month with the single ‘Minnesota Is A Place That Exists’. He’s now started work on his debut album, too. “I’ve made 30 songs, and there’s seven that I think are pretty dope,” he says. “Now I’m working on the narrative.” During the month he’s back home between tours, he’s planning to write more songs “and make it all fit together in a way that I want to have it be played through. I’m trying to figure out how to put it all into a story”.
As an artist who broke through around the start of the pandemic in the extremely-online hyperpop scene, glaive’s tracks are still being categorised as such even two years later – and that’s despite some of his more recent creations featuring none of the genre’s sonic elements (‘Minnesota…’, for example, is far more of an indie banger). “I could drop a song with Gucci Mane and be rapping, and it would still be classed as hyperpop,” he says. “But it’s more the name that’s associated with it. When I was younger, I used to think that that was such a bad thing, but now I’m just like, ‘Ah OK, who cares’. If people are happy listening to my music and are happy calling it that, then who am I to step in the way of that happiness? Call my music whatever you want. As long as some kid is enjoying it somewhere, that’s all that really matters to me.”
What’s undeniable, though, is the role that glaive and his music – alongside his friends and peers ericdoa, aldn and midwxst – have played in transitioning hyperpop out of the underground and into the mainstream. Drawing a parallel with how grunge music became popular in the 90s “because Kurt Cobain and all those guys were really good at making music”, he thinks the same thing has happened for hyperpop because “there’s a lot of talented individuals making the music”. One thing Gutierrez is sure of, though, is that “hyperpop is never going to die”.
It makes sense, then, that when it comes to making music himself, genre isn’t something Gutierrez thinks too hard about. “All my music is very much in the same world,” he explains. “I don’t sit down and think, ‘I wanna make this type of song today’. I don’t hear genre in songs: I just hear the songs. I don’t think about it in terms of whether it’s pop or emo, or whatever. It’s my music and you’re going to label it regardless, so I’ll let people that think critically about music think critically about it – and I’m not one of those people. So I will continue to think about it in a third-grader type of way. I spend a lot of time on stuff, and the noises being made are definitely good.”
Looking to the future, Gutierrez isn’t setting any limits for himself. Alongside prepping his debut album, he wants to “take music as far as it will go – I’m prepared for arena shows, too: if I can do them, you better believe I’m going to fucking do it!” You wouldn’t want to bet against it: glaive’s superstar ambitions are quickly becoming reality.
Glaive’s latest single ‘Minnesota Is A Place That Exists’ is out now. He’ll support The Kid LAROI at O2 Academy Brixton in London tonight and tomorrow (July 18-19) and at Victoria Warehouse Manchester on Thursday (July 21).