Recorded by the artists themselves while roughing it upstate, the new album weaves together pre-written material with improvisational elements to capture the energy of the band’s live show
There are basically two ways you can experience music: on the stage and on the record.
For some acts, the listener’s experience of each can be pretty similar. The songs are clean, the performers are consistent, and you pretty much know, in either format, essentially what you’re going to get. Anything on a “coffee-shop” Spotify playlist is likely going to go down similarly smoothly (albeit uneventfully) live, for example, while if you can attend a concert without feeling any real emotion or undeniable urge to move your body… eh, you could prob enjoy the music equally in your Airpods while swiping on Hinge or scrubbing your toilet.
However, for certain groups there’s a definite distinction between the two formats, and there’s a real incentive to see their live show—
Some bands are simply ~best served~ on stage.
These are real live groups who are at their best and in their zone while under the lights and in front of an audience, and with whom each song—each take on a song—is a unique experience. These are artists who don’t adhere to a blueprint, but allow room for improvisation and imagination. Who don’t nail down every detail ahead of time but make decisions in real time. Who build on and riff off one another, demonstrating what almost equates to a form of artistic ESP as they try out different routes to eventually, at some point, arrive at their musical destination.
Of course, even these real live bands want to make records—to properly document the work they’re doing and the art they’re creating for later listening and sharing and saving. So the question, the challenge, for these bands is: How do you bottle that magic? How do you reverse-engineer that live energy? How do you take the organic, the unplanned and the of-the-moment and piece it together, pin it down and press it into something permanent?
For Grandpa Jack, this process involved one wild week in the wilderness.
In an attempt to spark and seize on the spontaneity that makes their live show so special, the band recently headed out of the city and spent a non-stop seven days playing (and partying) together, getting loud, letting loose, recording the results and then mashing the best established and improvised pieces from this music marathon together.
The result is Grits, the band’s brand-new album, which just dropped last week. And around the release, Matt C. White of the band sent over some intel on the making of the record and the down-and-dirty, truly DIY sessions that went into the making of it.
“Grits was recorded over seven days upstate in Saugerties at The Sonder House recording studio. The three of us (with the help of our friend, Stephen Mason) recorded the entire record ourselves. We were all roughing it sleeping on the floor and pissing and shitting in the woods (there was no running water). Wake up, press record, get lit, record – rinse & repeat. We’ve always incorporated improvisation into our live shows, but none of this has really ever been captured on record until now. The seven days upstate, basically living in a studio, offered us the opportunity to finally document these jams. We recorded pretty much everything we played and were able to weave jams in and out of pre-written material, which I think made Grits a very unique and immersive record.”
In addition, Matt, Jared Schapker, and Johnny Strom of Grandpa Jack sent over thoughts on the record’s nine tracks which collectively serve as hard evidence of the trio’s creative chemistry while successfully capturing the energy of their live performance.
Grits—TRACK BY TRACK
“We let ourselves have a little too much fun on this one. We wanted to let loose a little bit, so thought recording ourselves howling at the moon could be a fun little easter egg. It starts just as the breakdown begins!” -Jared
“Hate Has a Heartbeat”
“Some of my favorite melodies get sung on ‘Hate Has a Heartbeat.’ On the verses, I love the way Matt floats over the groove. Gets me every time.”
“After a long day of recording, we left the studio for a little while, came back, cracked some beers, and very late into the night decided to jam a bit. That’s how this tune was born – a very organic, somewhat free-form jam session, which I love.”
“Being a very engaging song (to me personally), ‘Evil Eye’ is one of my favorites to play. The rolling, yet stop-and-go rhythms paired with Matt’s vocals really accentuate all the fun within the riffs. The music slaps you out, just as it slaps you in, and is a great musical representation of the lyrics themselves.”
“With its forest sounds background and swaying wah behind a deep drum and bass groove, this jam gave us the freedom to play around in the guitar and percussion department a bit and really pepper in some extra flavor. A deer skull and broken toy piano were two of the extra additions to make the cut. We needed four hands to produce the delayed guitar used in Mosquitoes’ – it was quite the experience.”
“Consumption I: Crawl”
“’Crawl’ gets all the vibes going. From eerie silence to booming crashes, this track is a trip in itself and a perfect transition into the rest of the album. Experimenting with multiple guitar tones and vocal delivery was especially enjoyable in the making of this track, along with the overall dynamic and mood.”
“Consumption II: Parasite”
“Lyrically, ‘Parasite’ begins the saga of this awful person who leeches money off of people for the betterment of their own clout or money. Taking advantage of those less fortunate and building his ‘house of bones.’ ‘He’s a waste with a taste for the weak, a blood monger with a hunger for the meek.‘ We wanted to keep going with the sort-of evil and sinister vibe we’ve been cultivating, while at the same time having a super catchy, soulful chorus.”
“Consumption III: Cannibal”
“‘Consumption III’ finds our fictional character in a life and death situation where the only way to survive is to actually feed on people around him. Before, he was using them as resources. But now, he has no choice. After he runs out of ‘food’ the vultures and scavengers wait patiently for him to fall again. ‘Cannibal’ is a high-energy riff-filled banger, which combines riffs from previous songs to a driving culmination of all of side B of the record.”
“Consumption IV: Crawl Reprise”
“‘Consumption IV’ is a fast-paced, mainly instrumental track that summarizes the whole record by calling back to riffs from the first track (‘Once Bitten’), mellow breakdowns (‘Moths’) and soaring guitar solos (‘Mosquitoes’). We bring back the chorus of ‘Crawl’ to wrap up the medley. The final chorus is basically our character dying and getting his just desserts by being consumed by worms and insects on the blood-soaked earth he created. The Consumer has become the Consumed.”
Normally, this is the point in a spotlight where I share where and when you can celebrate the record live, but in gloriously unconventional fashion, the band already threw a rad record release show… before the album even dropped.
SO! Take a moment to mourn + experience what can only be described as retroactive FOMO—but don’t worry too, too much. As referenced above, this record is about as close to a live Grandpa Jack show as you can get, so go buy the album, turn it up and get a little weird with it as you enjoy Grits (preferably loud) at home, in your apartment, from the comfort of your personal pit—
But yeah… definitely don’t miss the next one.
Follow Grandpa Jack at @grandpajackband , buy music on Bandcamp and add their songs to your Spotify playlists!
Feature image provided by the band.