Ever since the human race got into this whole music thing, we’ve dedicated approximately 80 trazillion songs to the subject of love. Meanwhile, money—the real thing that makes the world go ’round—is the focus of comparatively few compositions. Chris Glover has done his part to close this gap by placing “Don’t Fuck With My Money” on 2011’s Penguin Prison, the self-titled debut from the New York City-based one-man project that’s often accompanied by a live band. Don’t be fooled by the track’s confrontational name; this is pure ’80s club pop—a bouncy, well-manicured slice of funky synths delivered alongside Glover’s agile falsetto and the perpetually relevant chorus of “Don’t fuck with my money/Or you’ll be sorry.”
Glover has repeatedly cited Michael Jackson and Prince as two inspirations, and his affection reverberates through “Money.” “I’m not really sure how that song came about,” the soft-spoken performer says. “A lot of the time, I sleep with a tape recorder near my bed, and I wake up in the middle of the night with a melody in my head, and I sing it into a tape recorder and then go back to sleep. I wake up the next day and listen to it, and if I like it, I try to turn it into a song. That’s what happened with that song—it just came to me. I wasn’t really sure why, because it wasn’t about anything actually in my life. It’s just a made-up story.”
While it’s disappointing that such a witty, fresh-feeling take on an old style doesn’t have an amazing origin story, Glover’s past in and around the entertainment biz has enough fascinating details to make up for that. When he was about 11, he snagged an agent and started singing professionally, which led to his involvement in a Beatles for kids album. He went to the well-reputed Professional Performing Arts School in New York, where he was part of a gospel choir with Alicia Keys. As he grew older, he played in a punk group. At Bard College, he was in a joke boy band that mixed Beastie Boys and *NSYNC. He once sent a demo to Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, which generated serious interest from the rapper; Glover almost signed to Q-Tip’s burgeoning label until things fell through.
In a 2011 interview with Shakedown Blog, Glover described his current work in Penguin Prison as “Top 40 type music, but it’s more like with cooler production, cooler lyrics, and doing it sort of DIY grassroots, like in my bedroom by myself without fancy producers and fancy studios or anything.” As he discusses moving away from this approach, his hesitation reveals that he is, in fact, concerned that someone will fuck with his money. “I would always be thinking about all the money it costs to be in a big studio. I would always gravitate toward working in my house or a friend’s house—and then maybe if I knew exactly what I was going to do, I would go to a bigger, fancier studio, but only for a few days,” he says. “To just waste hours and days spending all that money—it would be on my mind too much. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate.”
Penguin Prison performs Mon., July 9, 7pm. $20. With Neon Trees + JJAMZ. Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com
PW's Music Issue 2014