FUCK YEAH!!! Brooklyn, NY 4-piece Grandfather fricking rule!!! Though I was just introduced to the group a few days ago via some random online posting somewhere, I was immediately impressed by the shear power these guys bring to the table. I wouldn’t call it Metal necessarily, but the sonic power these guys wield is something to behold. I WILL be seeing this band soon in the near future.
Heavy, textural, and rockin,’ one of the most intriguing elements of Grandfather’s recorded output is the group doesn’t use and samples, and sticks with analog recording methods. Praise be the bands that forgo the unnecessary and strip the music down to its purest forms. If I hear another 808 bass drop in Metal/Hardcore/whatever, I think I’m gonna puke.
Personal preferences aside, Grandfather’s latest album, In Human Form, is set to drop on August 13th, Be sure to check out “No Escapes” via Crave Online, and cop the record when it comes out… It’s a banger! I got in touch with the guys to talk about the group’s formation, a bit about their writing and studio process, and what it was like to work with engineering monsters Steve Albini and Alex Newport!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
Thank you. We’re all natively from different parts of New York, though the band is based out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Grandfather is Josh Hoffman (Vocals/Guitar), Michael Kirsch (Guitar), Tyler Krupsky (Bass) and Phil Sangiacomo (Drums).
G- How long has Grandfather been a band, and when did you first get started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”
Josh: Grandfather formed around 2009 when a previous band that Mike and I played in broke up. We had both played supporting roles in that group. I was originally a drummer, so Grandfather was my first serious attempt as a singer, and both of us as songwriters. It took a while for things to click. The first incarnation of Grandfather self-recorded an EP and trashed it, realizing we hadn’t yet found our voice. By 2010, we had finally begun to write music that felt like an honest representation of us. At that time we were so fed up with digital home-studio recording that we decided to sell most of our gear, which afforded us 3 days of studio time with Steve Albini at his studio in Chicago. That experience gave us a lot of perspective on our music, and our goals as a band.
By 2011, we realized that some of those goals would require a shift in our lineup and our approach to performing. We were struggling with some internal conflicts, and almost abandoned the project. As a last ditch effort to salvage the band, we put up an ad on Craigslist. The first person to respond was Phil, who essentially saved the group by joining us on drums. I originally was drumming and singing, which posed a conflict especially with the direction our music was taking. Phil joining the band resolved that conflict and also enabled us to get out on the road.
By the Fall of 2011, we were left without a bass player. Once again, we resorted to Craigslist. Tyler was the first responder. To be honest, I was shocked that we had such good luck through Craigslist since it’s usually horror stories. We met Tyler at a bar, and after a few drinks he said, “Don’t worry about it, I’m in your band”. The chemistry was instant. I remember when the group “clicked” very clearly; it was the first moment the four of us started playing together. We plugged in, started improvising, and without saying a word an entire song basically emerged. That song eventually became “Wishes”. We all knew we had something special, and immediately made arrangements to move in together to a live-in/practice space to write an album.
G- Can you tell us about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, how long did the release take to record, and what was it like in the studio working with Alex Newport?
Mike: Sure. Unlike the Albini album, which was recorded and mixed in 3 days, we spent an entire month working with Alex. This included 6 days of pre-production at our practice space in Brooklyn, 7 days of tracking at The Magic Shop in NYC, and close to 2 weeks mixing at Future Shock Studio in Queens.
By the time we started pre-production we had already demoed the entire album ourselves twice. Alex went through our songs with a fine-tooth comb. Instead of telling us what to do, he asked us questions about our music that we hadn’t considered, and made us figure out the answers ourselves. He understood our vision without ever trying to change it and his perspective strengthened our music in some really subtle ways.
We mapped out a blueprint for the entire album together so that we wouldn’t waste studio time making decisions about parts or arrangements. As a result, we were able to use our time at The Magic Shop to make sure that every take was stellar. Alex pushed us as performers. He wouldn’t accept a bad take. That kind of discipline really made us a better band.
When it came to mixing, we just let Alex do his thing and exchanged some notes here and there. He managed to create a sonic-space for each song that reflected the vibe of the music and lyrics, without altering the original performances. He’s got an incredible attention to detail and we were thrilled at the final product. It was exactly what we had envisioned for our music.
Alex essentially became the 5th member of our band for the entire month. He was as invested in our music as we were, putting in 12-hour shifts with only a couple of days off in-between tracking and mixing; though for as much time and energy as we all put into making the album, it never once felt like work.
G- How would you compare the studio processes this time around working with Alex to your past experience(s) with Steve Albini?
Josh: The main difference was that Albini didn’t “produce” us. He never gave us his opinion or thoughts on our performances or arrangements. Alex was much more hands on. I wouldn’t say one method is better than the other; having gone through both experiences has been really important for our growth as musicians and songwriters. The main similarity was that they weren’t interested in altering our vision or turning us into something we’re not.
G- What is your writing process like, and who in the band typically comes up with new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
Mike: Our process is very collaborative. Basically, all of our songs start off with a musical idea from any one of us. We go into the practice room with bits and pieces of music, and just start playing together to see what happens. We let our instincts guide us.
If a musical idea really resonates with us, Josh and I start solidifying the vocal together. He sings melodies without any lyrics, and we chisel away at them until the structure of a song emerges. His process is entirely stream-of-consciousness, and usually a word, phrase or sound of a syllable will embody the feeling of the music and spark an idea in my head. At that point I go off and write the lyrics.
Once I have a lyric, the entire concept for the song comes into play. At that point, everyone collaborates again, fine-tuning the arrangement, lyrics, and our individual parts, with a focus on the meaning of the song, and its place in the scheme of the album.
It’s a long and arduous process, but at the end of the day, it’s infinitely more rewarding than if any one of us would just write a song on our own from start to finish. No matter who contributes what, the song is always a result of all four of us.
G- 4 albums every fan of you should know about and why. Go!
Mike: That’s actually a really tough question to answer. We’re all inspired by different music, though our writing tends to be influenced by the world around us, and our personal experiences more so than other bands. Though, I think we all really appreciate albums that take you on a journey and aren’t just collections of songs.
The most played album in our space this year was definitely the new Meshuggah album Koloss, though I can’t say we sound anything like them. If I was going to direct a Grandfather fan to a few albums we keep coming back to, I’d have to include, Tool “Lateralus”, Nine Inch Nails “The Fragile”, Soundgarden “Superunknown” and Radiohead “Kid A”.
G- Do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
Josh: I can’t pick a favorite. They’re all so different so it really depends on who the person is that’s being introduced to the band. If I had to pick one, it would probably be “Not a Pawn”, mainly because of its message.
Mike: I’d give them the whole album and tell them to turn off the lights, put on a pair of headphones and play it loud from start to finish. Remove all distractions for an hour. I think that experience will resonate the most considering the album was arranged to play straight through. That being said, my favorite song to play live is “Wishes”; it’s hands down the most intense experience for me.
G- Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? If you could put together your own 3-band dream lineup, who would you want to go on tour with?
Josh: If Tool ever goes back on tour, it would be a dream to support them.
Phil: Grandfather, Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails.
G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
Tyler: We played a basement show in Nashville and people were swinging from the rafters. After our set, the guy who lived there gave us a piece of the ceiling. There was a girl who played the spoons and tried to come on stage with us. The next morning, an old lady who lived next door came by and said, “sounded pretty good last night guys!” Things like that just don’t happen in Brooklyn.
We played a house party in Atlanta and I woke up the next morning in the van butt naked in my sleeping bag. There was a girl there nicknamed “blowjob” and a bunch of people roasting a pig on the corner. I had no recollection of how I got there. We were drinking jungle juice all night. There’s a video on YouTube from that show: http://youtu.be/TMP2YbwI-j4
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Mike: Focus on the music. Forget the rest. When you find yourself playing in your own favorite band, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.