Fuzzed-out lo-fi has seen explosive growth in recent times, New York City being a particular hotbed of production. Enjoyable as it may be, band after band of excessive noise and formulaic songwriting gets a little tiring and a bit redundant. It makes you wonder what ever happened to rock music. Not in the notorious lothario, arrogant prima donna, leather pants sense of the genre, but the pulsating, crisp, intensely rhythmic sense. The kind of music whose rhythms are ruthless in their punch and vocals trade glamorous overproduction for inescapable rawness sure to leave a bruise.
Enter Grandfather, and don’t be fooled by the name. This New York trio has nothing in common with the crotchety, lethargic man with the remote permanently glued to his hand bitterly reminiscing about the “old days.” With the haunting vocals and pounding drums of Josh Hoffman paired alongside Jonathan Silverman’s bass grooves and the genre-bending guitar playing of Michael Kirsch, Grandfather’s debut, Why I’d Try, fails to play like a typical three-piece, but rather a band at least twice the size. Precise instrumentation, interminable energy, atypical combinations of rhythms and melodies, and sincere, raw vocals add together seamlessly to perfect Grandfather’s refreshing brand of brutal psychedelic rock.
Concerning precision, fear not. Sharp instrumentation, in this case, hardly means being stuffy and overly technical. Grandfather’s songs fail to follow a formula, rendering them each a completely different listening experience in structure and content. The only constants? Passion and quality. As for this approach, the band cites Can’s “Tago Mago” as an influence, because the West Germany band’s “process of improvising and creating songs out of collective experiments and jams,” as Hoffman put it, provided definite inspiration. As for the role of Kirsch’s psychedelic guitar, which fails to stay within the lines on Why I’d Try, Hoffman references Portishead’s Third. “We were attracted to the way they used experimental arrangements in the context of more straightforward songs,” reveals the singer. Such influences openly stated but not explicitly duplicated result in Grandfather’s sound being solely their own.
The band backs up what you hear on the album, too. Their live shows are quickly garnering acclaim throughout the city. This consistency in sound centers around dedication to completely analog recording. Finding the digital system frustrating in its endless editing abilities, Grandfather felt their recordings “sounded sterile”, drummer/vocalist Josh Hoffman noted. “We wanted to capture the energy of the band performing together live. We wanted the record to sound as if you were actually in the room it was recorded in and decided that a no-frills, all analog approach was best to achieve that.” To achieve this, the band sought out legendary engineer Steve Albini, whose previous work includes Nirvana and the Pixies, and recorded an album in just a few days last July.
The result? Why I’d Try, a 40-minute, frenetic piece of work that not only allows the listener to feel the live intensity of the band, but demands it. Oh, and it’s up for free download on Grandfather’s website.
Future plans for the band, not surprisingly, include extensive touring. “Right now Grandfather is booking a month-long tour in March down to Texas for SXSW,” Hoffman explains. “We thrive in the live setting, and we’d love to tour as much as possible. Hopefully we can reach a large enough audience to play across the US and overseas in 2011.”
We hope so too.
“The Outcome” live in Williamsburg
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