There are layers to Ash Gutierrez. To an unsuspecting listener, just casually shuffling through all of the material the 16-year-old hyperpop prodigy released in the last year about slamming his head against a wall and putting his phone on “do not disturb,” it would be close to impossible to look at him as a happy dude. 

Yet even after a full seven-hour school day and with the stress of chemistry finals looming over his head (of which we hope he passed), Gutierrez—who goes by the moniker glaive—is infectiously bubbly. That may just be part of still being a somewhat normal teenager. 

Read more: Pom Pom Squad explore the teenage experience on their upcoming album

Barely a year after learning how to make music in quarantine and exploding on streaming services, where he now has nearly 800,000 monthly Spotify listeners via his breakout cypress grove EP, glaive is still somehow attending in-person classes at his high school in North Carolina. There isn’t way too much buzz around him at school, where he admits his classmates aren’t his target demographic, yet the rest of the world has been eyeing him as the future (and even current) king of hyperpop, a genre that even he isn’t necessarily boxing himself into. At least there’s some normalcy in class, though, even if his teachers aren’t his biggest fans.

As he preps for his first performances ever this fall and his follow-up EP, all dogs go to heaven, this summer, glaive is finding balance. But only as long as his math teacher lets him leave class to take a call from his manager. 

So what have you been up to during normal days like this one? 

I go to high school. So I got home like two hours ago. And I’m working on homework because finals are next week.

Are you actually attending classes in person?

Yeah, I go seven hours a day.

Your classmates have to know you make music at this point. 

When I first came back, because I’ve only been going for two months now, it was really weird. And obviously, every day, somebody says something weird. It’s bound to happen. One person asked [to take a photo], and I was like, “It’s school. It’s kind of awkward.” My town is not really the target demographic for my music. Everybody knows about it or likes it, so it’s cool. 

Talk to me about how the name “glaive” came from a video game.

I haven’t been making music for very long, roughly a year—a year and a bit now, actually. But when I was first starting, I was really, really into a video game called Dark Souls 3, to be exact. I probably would have picked a better name, like something a little more meaningful, but I just really enjoyed the video game. There’s this boss fight I was struggling with in the game. And one of the weapons you get in the boss fight is called a glaive. It’s such a cool word. I didn’t really think about it very much. It’s not the craziest thing. 

Do you find a lot of inspiration from the non-musical things in your surroundings like that?

I love games with stories, lore. Dark Souls is one of the best examples of that. It has a crazy storyline. There are so many interesting stories, and it’s super cool to envelop yourself into it, I suppose. I’ve always been a big fan of storyline. And I’ve never been a huge fan of action movies. But I love stuff that has a comprehensive story and has parts and different people.

When I was making music for the first time, even when I was awful at singing, really bad at mixing, I was still attempting to tell a cohesive story and make everything fit together. I think over time I’ve gotten better at singing and better [at] recording in general. I feel like that has stuck with me, like the actual songwriting aspect and trying to tell a story.

Back to the school stuff, how are you balancing music and attending classes in person?

It’s obviously not a very normal, scholarly procedure. My teachers don’t really understand it. I was in math class yesterday, and I was like, “Teacher, my manager’s calling me. I have to talk to them right now. I know we’re doing this test right now. But I literally have to take this.” And they just don’t really understand because most of the time, what’s more important than a fricking math exam, right? So they don’t really understand it.

I’ve definitely balanced a lot better recently. My grades are good. And then working on music when I have time. But I have like a month’s worth of absences in one of my classes. 

Outside of literally slamming your head against the wall, can we expect any anti-school bars on the new EP?

I don’t think so. There might be. I could be mistaken. I’m almost positive there’s none on this one. 

When did all dogs go to heaven start coming together? 

It happened very quickly. I talked about it for a while and came up with a name while I was in North Carolina. I made a few songs, and they’re OK. If those had to be the songs, it would’ve been all right, but it wouldn’t have been the craziest thing ever. Then I went to L.A., and when I was there, I made like 20 songs in two weeks. It was crazy.

We had to pick out seven of the really, really good ones. But now I have to go back and go make sure everything is exactly perfect. 

Where’d the title come from? I imagine you’ve seen the film. 

I’ve never seen the film. But when I was younger, we had a family dog, and it passed away, and I was all sad. I couldn’t really understand the process of death, so my mom got me this book called All Dogs Go To Heaven. I was sitting there [thinking about the EP], and I looked at the title of the book, and I’m like, “That’s so cool.” You can apply it to so many things. 

How would you describe what you bring to the table musically and what you can hear on this EP? 

I’ve gotten so many comparisons. “It’s pop music. It’s this music. It’s that music.” I would say the production is trap-based, EDM, middle ground. And then it’s just really energetic. And that’s who I am as a person. I’m sure somebody could describe it 1,000 times better. But in my mind, that’s what it is. 

What’s one final thing you think readers should know about glaive? 

My lyrics are normally not very happy. Every time fans see me as a person and not singing, they say I’m a pretty energetic, uptempo human being. I wish I could put a disclaimer on it like: “This sounds really sad, but if you follow me, don’t expect me to be a really depressed person all the time.” I’m a pretty happy person outside of the music.

FOR FANS OF: Charli XCX, 100 gecs, SOPHIE
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “i wanna slam my head against the wall”