Last weekend I had a chance to have an interview with a Toronto indie rock outfit called GROUNDERS. These guys have recently released their first EP, Wreck of a Smile, and were playing a show at Cafe Dekcuf in Ottawa. I have nothing but good things to say about that show, including supporting acts The Ashleys and Deleted Scenes. I sat down with them as they were setting up, and they were some really great guys to have a talk with. Before you get started, give this GROUNDERS tune a listen:
Dave: You guys are just starting up, you’ve just recorded your first EP, how long have you been playing together?
Mike (bass): About 3 years, Andrew kind of brought us all together.
Dave: How long has it taken to get some recognition? How difficult of a process was that?
Andrew: pretty difficult, and random as well. It wasn’t until like last year, we played a show with Great Bloomers and their manager saw us and listened, and so we got on Nevado Records through that, and then because of that we just had a bunch of really good breaks this year. Its been easier for us to get grants, we’ve gone on our first two tours, this tour included, all because of that. So it was hard, and then it was just lucky as well.
Dave: Yeah, it seems with the music industry these days you really need some luck..,
Andrew(guitar, lead vocals): Definitely. People talk about having a break or whatever, and that’s totally what it was.
Dave: Have you found that your sound has already changed a lot from when you started?
Andrew: Yeah, it’s still fluctuating a bit, and I feel like we don’t really have a sound until we have something recorded. Even then it feels like…I don’t know…there’s things we don’t like about the EP that we’re like, “OK, we want to make the LP this way, or make this differently.” And then we go and flux from being like, we want this to be really complex to we want this to be simple. I’d say it’s definitely always changing, and I think we’re still growing as a band. We have a lot of work to do. The LP is going to be a big statement to what we’re about.
Dave: Do you feel where your sound is going for the album? How do you think your EP will relate to the sound of the album?
Andrew: I don’t know…I think it’s going to be maybe a response or a growth from that. We want it to be simpler sounding. We want it to be more live off the floor. The EP was more studio-based I guess, we want this to be more DIY, and a little bit dirtier sounding. There’s a lot of things…we’re listening to different stuff now so it will sound a lot different.
Dave: What are you listening to right now?
Andrew: Cleaners From Venus we listened to on the way up here. A lot of like…Evan, in the band, he works at a record store in Toronto, so he’s into some pretty obscure stuff, so sixties psych stuff. I just found a band called The Tornadoes I really like, kind of like The Stooges. I don’t know if that’s going to be an influence on it but yeah, less really low basey sounds and a little bit dirtier.
Dave: And where do you think your influences come from so far?
Andrew: So far? I guess early to late 2000s indie rock, originally it was sort of like…you just get inspired by a lot of bands that are coming up so you just go “I really want to do that as well,” and you kind of get into that. I think now it’s being inspired by older stuff
Dave: I find that over the last little while the EP is becoming more important, especially for indie bands, why do you think the EP is becoming such a bigger thing these days?
Mike: It’s cheaper. I think it’s good…(this part got mostly buried under background noise) I think it’s too much production for your sound and your band to (go straight to) making your first full length. At least it was for us, for sure……If we had put out a full length it wouldn’t be as popular as now….as far as giving people a taste, developing our sound, and making something that represents us better.
Dave: And do you feel like it’s even more important for an indie band to have an EP or two before they get rolling?
Andrew: I mean, for us, it’s easier to grow from I guess. To have something small be like “this isn’t a huge statement of what we’re about but here’s what we’re about at the time.” I don’t know if it’s super important or not.
Dave: You guys have made a music video for “Grand Prize Drawl”, tell me about that music video.
Mike: Talk to this guy
Daniel (keyboards, guitar): I made it!
Dave: Come a little closer so the mic can actually hear you
Daniel (getting real close): Hey baby…I’m a big fan of the Planet Earth series and by extension BBC Life which I guess is the BBC series that came after that and I had always really wanted to pair up that footage with music, probably since before we had the band, because I thought it was (?), how visually incredible it was, especially the under sea stuff. I was really excited all of a sudden once I realized that “hey, I can do that right now, with this song,” and it was a perfect match.
Dave: And how do you feel the footage of various animals eating each other and such relates to the song itself?
Daniel: I wouldn’t say there’s a lyrical relationship, or maybe there is, I’m not much of a lyrics guy, but I really loved the sort of positive sounding song and uplifting major-chord kind of composition really juxtaposed against this footage, which otherwise would maybe be a dark representation of the animal kingdom. But then with this song behind it, and with all these shots of animals eating each other in succession, it sort of felt funny, and I really liked that it took something that might be dark and even maybe nihilistic and made it really playful and fun, and comical in a way.
Dave: Aesthetically, when you guys are writing your music, is there anything that you’re really trying to hit? Anything you’re trying to avoid?
Andrew: I know lyrically I try to avoid saying like, cliche words like I don’t know, “lover” or “ocean” or things like that that you hear a lot of. Stylistically, more psychedelic or weird sounds, I think we’re really a sound-based band, I feel like it’s less thematic. There’s certain sound choices that we make a lot of, that we’re into.
Dave: Where does the band name come from?
Mike: I made it up. I just like how it sounded, how it looked. I liked that it was just one word, not a “the” thing…A lot of people think it was the playground game, but I mean, it could be. It’s kind of playful, we’re kind of playful, but really I just liked how it sounded.
Dave: What’s the first album that you can remember buying?
Daniel: Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Offspring Americana. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a compilation inspired by the TV show. Bought them at the same time at Future Shop for like, 2 for $10 deal.
Mike: Mine is Aqua I think, or maybe that was the first CD I was given, probably Aqua and Much Dance ’99 or something. But bought? I don’t know it was probably Limp Bizkit, it was probably Chocolate Starfish.
Andrew: I think mine was a cassette and it was Crash Test Dummies, the one with the bird on the front.
Dave: If you could be buried with one album, what would it be?
Mike: I would say…I don’t know… maybe seriously, Led Zeppelin IV. If I wanted it to be a jokey thing, also Led…nah I don’t know, something weird…man this is a tough question. Oh I’d pick David Wilcox, Breakfast at the Circus I think it’s called. I feel like that would give them a really nice review into history.
Andrew: I’ll go Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
Dave: One last question, these days the use of synthesizers is becoming bigger and bigger, and I find it can be a bit of a trap when people rely on them too much. Do you find it tempting or difficult to balance out between instrumentals and production?
Andrew: Absolutely! I think that was the downfall, or one of the things we got caught up in when we were recording the EP, because when we went to record we just had so many thousands of dollars worth of synthesizers, just like, drooling looking at them. So we used as many as we could get our hands on, and it just kind of buries the song, it doesn’t make it a stronger song necessarily. Sonically maybe. And that’s kind of an issue I have when I’m making demos, is getting distracted from working on lyrics or a strong melody, and I think it is a trap sometimes
Dave: What lies ahead for GROUNDERS?
Andrew: Right now just finishing up a couple of dates in the States and then taking some time off. Then we’re using the next month to record in January and in February, and hopefully we’ll have an album out in May next year.
Thanks so much for the chat fellas, it was amazing.