This is a week old at this point, but I’ve been so busy, I’m just now getting around to it. Gruff’s show last week was alot of fun. The material from his new record, Candylion, was wonderful and he was his normal, extremely engaging self during the show, naming all his “bandmates” who were actually random knick-knacks laid out on the table before him that produced a variety of the sounds heard on the record. His true bandmate, Lisa Jen, has a voice like an angel. Overall a good show.
I got to chat a bit with Gruff before the gig, which is always nice. He always has a big hug for me whenever we see each other, which is awesome. He told me about Bunf‘s recent birthday, his 40th (!!!!), where they both got trashed at an Adam Hussain gig in Wales. Recounting the night, Gruff gave me the “Dude, we go so trashed,” look and sigh combo, before adding “Bunf may be the oldest of us, but he’s definitely the youngest at heart.” Truer words were never spoken.
I also interviewed Gruff for DCist. You can read the entire interview here. Unfortunately it ended before I could get to my good (read: “Inside baseball”) questions due to some very insistent person calling from New Zealand claiming they had an interview set up and a deadline fast approaching. Still I got some good stuff:
I think there’s some really brilliant songs on Hey Venus! “Baby Ate My Eightball” is one of the best things you’ve done, in my opinion. The backing vocals are brilliant.
That song took loads of twists and turns. The first incarnation had this sort of Miami based rhythm with babies crying and glasses smashing. It was very abrasive. One of the most abrasive and punk rock things we’ve ever done. And then we mixed it three or four times in the end and the final version barely resembles the original. It’s just a song that took a life of it’s own. Bunf is impersonating a police or ambulance siren with the backing vocals.
How do you keep the whole recording process fresh and keep challenging yourselves?
With this record we worked with Dave Newfield. So that was different to start with, to go into the studio with someone new. We’ve become very set in our ways, you know? In the studio we’re like a bunch of old men, so it was good to have someone come in and be like a coach or referee figure. His background is he was a wedding DJ for years. He did like 500 weddings as a DJ. So he knows what makes the whole family move. And Dave works standing up. He got us to do multiple takes of the songs until it physically moved him.
I can see that. This record has a lot of energy.
I think we were going for energy in the songwriting rather than sonic adventure on this record. Which means we’ll probably react to this record by making a sonically adventurous record with no lyrics.
Here’s a true Gruff story. When the band released Rings Around the World and came to the US to tour I was in a weird place in my life; in between jobs, getting sick of living in NYC and my relationship to my then girlfriend falling apart. So I decided to take two weeks and follow the Furries around and go to a bunch of gigs. I saw a total of eight gigs all up and down the East Coast, going to different cities and hooking up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while and visiting venues I’d always wanted to go to (like the 40 Watt club in Athens, Ga.).
During the last gig, at a venue in Atlanta who’s name escapes me, when I got to the will call window at the club, the person there checked off my name and told me that Gruff wanted to see me backstage as soon as I arrived. I was a bit confused by this and also a bit hesitant to go back there. Even though I am super tight with the Furries, I make a point not to bug artists before the show, only after. Before the show is their time to get into whatever mental space they need to play that night’s show.
Ultimately I decided to go back there and I tracked Gruff down. He took me aside with a very grave look on his face and sat me down while all sorts of shit was running through my head. It was then when Gruff apologized to me. He told me he felt bad because I had seen eight shows where the band had played the exact same set and he would check with the band and see if they couldn’t throw “Ice Hockey Hair” or something like that into the set that night for me.
A quick aside here. Part of my relationship with the Furries is that I continually pester them to play songs from their catalog I am pretty sure they’re never going to play. Like “Frisbee,” “Mario Man,” “Citizen’s Band,” This, That, and the Other,” “Dacw Hi” and so on (although I should note “Herman Loves Pauline” was also on this list and they finally relented and played it on the Love Kraft tour). Anyways, I ask for songs, they point at me and laugh and in turn I have something to bitch about. Sounds weird, but trust me. It’s fun. Back to the story…
Man. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Here Gruff was apologizing to me for something I couldn’t care less about. I explained to him that although I am always asking for other stuff to be included in the set, I really didn’t care what they played. I’d be singing along to the “wowoooooahs” in “Run, Christian, Run” and playing air drums to “Calimero” that night just like I did every other night. Seeing the band play was more important that what they played, despite my (good-natured) bitching.
Anyways, I hope that shows you what a stand up guy Gruff is. He’s truly one of the nicest people I ever met in any walk of life and I’m really glad to be able to call him my friend.
One other thing. While we were hanging out at soundcheck last week, Gruff introduced me to Jim Fairchild, who used to be the guitar player in Grandaddy and is performing under the name All Smiles. Jim was super cool and I enjoyed his opening set, filled with acoustic guitar and lots of self deprecating humor, quite a bit. He’s back in D.C. on November 1st opening for David Bazan and I’m really looking forward to seeing him then.