[Interview] The Griswolds Make Every Show Feel Like A Birthday Party
The first time I heard about The Griswolds was at Hangout Festival 2016. My friend (Bullet photographer Sidney Spear), insisted that we had to see their set and that anything less than front row would be unacceptable. Luckily, The Griswolds had a fairly early slot that day, so after sprinting to the Hangout stage we were treated to a group of happy Australians having the time of their lives while putting on an unforgettable set. Almost a year later, I had the opportunity to see band again in Hell at Masquerade.
Just before The Griswolds came on, young, rock trio DREAMERS lit up the stage with a raucous performance. The way the crowd was reacting, DREAMERS could have been a headlining act. I’m sure they soon will be. Also, to those of you wondering why the name DREAMERS may sound so familiar, they made an appearance in another Bullet article, “13 Underground Artists That You Need to Start Listening to.”
When The Griswolds, headed by front man Chris Whitehall, took the stage they grabbed control of the entire venue. An emphatic electricity poured out of every member of the quartet that transferred like chain lighting throughout the crowd. The band never gave anything less than unrelenting passion, and their fans thanked them with unending screams of adoration. When the band briefly walked off stage before their three song encore, I was overcome with a pang of sadness as I realized this evening of music was soon coming to a close.
After the thrilling performance came to its, unfortunately, inevitable conclusion, no one truly wanted to believe that it was over. Fans lingered for what seemed like ages in hopes that another encore was just about to happen. They say a great band always leaves the crowd begging for more, but The Griswolds left their fans rabid for it.
Before the show, Daniel Duque-Perez (guitar/synths) and I met up for a quick interview. This guy has a real passion for music as an art form. We talked about a myriad of topics that left me with an awesome impression.
What is your relationship like with Walk the Moon and how did that all start?
They asked us to jump on a tour with them cause they liked our album, and then that tour went on forever and ever and ever and we just became best friends in real life. Then they were like “we’re coming to Australia, let’s do it again” and they came to Australia and we did it again. Now it’s just like I fly into LA and I stay with them at Sean’s house with his girlfriend and we talk all the time.
What impact has that had on you guys either musically or professionally?
It hasn’t influenced us musically. We’re a bit different, especially the new record which has a sort of “anti-Walk the Moon” sound to it. But I think the thing it really taught us was how to have a good crew and how to have a good attitude about music. Like a lot of headliners are really rude to support acts or the crews are really really rude and the band aren’t aware of what their crew is like.
And it opened our eyes to the idea that there’s no point in being rude or having an ego. If you’re threatened by your support band then turn your fuckin' game up or don’t get a good support band. And we’re very much like that, we want our opening acts to have the same things we have. The same kind of rider, a good green room, shower access, a solid sound check. A lot of bands we open for don’t even give us sound checks. They’ll throw us up with a five-minute live check and make us mix on the fly.
We’ve had tours where the main act’s like, “I don’t want you using lights tonight,” or “I don’t want you jumping off the stage,” because they’re threatened by it. That’s probably the biggest influence they’ve had. Just that work ethic, making a family and making sure the crew has the same attitude as you. Because if they’re rude then that reflects back on us and that’s not right.
Speaking of great openers, how’d you get connected with your current tour partners DREAMERS?
We always want someone that pushes us to be better. If the band on before we play is spilling a lot of heat off the stage, we like that. We don’t want a band that’s playing pretty average. And a lot of our agents will push that at us, and we’re always like, “Nah, man, we want it to be a really fun night.”
And how did we find them? I don’t know really, their tour manager, and everyday manager, is a really good friend of ours, and he came out on tour with us as a photographer. We like to try to keep things in the family, so when he said, “Hey, I manage this band called DREAMERS,” we heard em, we loved em, we were like, “Alright, let’s do this.”
What do you miss the most about Australia?
Man, I miss everything about Australia when I’m away. The first time I went overseas and went back to Sydney I was like, “I wish I was overseas again."
And then now every time I go back I’m like, “This is the best fuckin' country in the world.” I’ve been to South Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Canada, and every time I go back, my two favorite countries are always Italy and Australia. Cause everything just fuckin' works. It’s just pretty much perfect.
Was it a conscious decision to be different with High Times for Low Lives or did it just happen to come out that way?
To be honest with you, I don’t like Indie music. I don’t believe in “oohs” and “ahhs” and doo-wops and saying “tonight” and “Friday” and “I miss you” and all those things like that. I really thought with this record we owed it to ourselves to do something we’ve never done before, and it was going to be really hard. Our record label wanted Be Impressive number two, but we didn’t really want to do that.
I was really getting worried that we were falling into a pit, and that The Griswolds were just going to do another album that was unremarkable. I think we owed it to ourselves to be different and do something we’ve never done before. Like the producer we went to has never really done Indie music before. He’s only done hip-hop. He’s done Lil Wayne, he’s done Drake, he’s done Kanye West since College Dropout, Childish Gambino, his thing is in hip-hop.
We wrote it (the album) all ourselves then came over to America and did some workshops with some top-liners, all in hip-hop, and we really wanted to bring the rock element and see how we could make it morph into more than just a band sort of thing.
It’s a hard road to take cause I don’t know many bands other than The Neighbourhood that tried to do that and said, “We’re four guys that are white and we have guitars in our hands, but how can we do it in a way that people aren’t expecting us to do it?” And I’m not saying that we’re pioneering necessarily, but a lot of bands that have changed genres have done that by taking those first steps.
It takes a little bit of time for people to catch on that, “Ok, this isn’t that weird,” but it’s going to take a minute for people to grab on to that. And we saw that some when the radio really grabbed onto it and it shot up, but then it kind of plateaued.
And now as the season’s changing and shows are selling out they’re like, “Fuck, ok, somethings going on” and now it’s like, we put out a new single and everyone’s like, “We want it, we want it now, we’ve gotta be the first to play this track.” But at the end of the day for us we wanted to make a record we were proud of, and the first record we weren’t.
Why is that?
It was just the first album we had ever done, man. We were babies and none of us had ever written an album, and it just didn’t turn out the way we pictured it. I’ve got mixes of a lot of those tracks on my laptop that sounded like I wanted them to sound and they didn’t come like that out of the studio. But on the second album, we didn’t have any of those constraints.
Other than the previously stated hip-hop production influence, what other musical genres and influences came into the making of the most recent album?
Michael Jackson, a lot of Prince, and a lot of old Motown records, like a lot of the beats and bass lines I ripped out of studying some old Marvin Gaye and tons of shit from back then. Just studying the beats and bass lines and how they make people move.
A lot of Kanye West influence, per usual. That’s never going to change, I love his music… (He stopped talking momentarily when he noticed Sidney and I exchange a look at that response and looked at me like, "what's so funny?")
My friends get so sick of me talking about how much I love Kanye West all the time, so I just really love to hear that.
He is like The Beatles of our generation, man. People can hate him all they want, but I don’t think personality and music have anything to fuckin' do with each other, man. I can’t stand the idea of saying, “I don’t like his music because of what he said” because he didn’t say it in a song, and also you only get the luxury of knowing what he’s like because of the internet.
Take us back to the 70’s and you don’t know what he’s fuckin' like. He could be some kiddie fiddler for all you know. I mean look at Bill Cosby. Like you don’t know about that kind of shit, and as much as I don’t condone bad behavior and being a shit person sucks, the art and the person have nothing to do with each other and should not be looked at the same way. And people voting with their dollars is not cool.
Cause the art form is already dying so why make it harder for artists? If you want to give someone a microphone you shouldn’t expect that they won’t say something fuckin' stupid. Otherwise, you’ll end up with all these pop artists who have opinions but don’t say anything cause they’re too scared. And that’s not real.
Where are The Beatles? Where are the Lennons that had the courage to stand up? At least Kanye gets up and says something, man. Whether it’s stupid or not at least he’s passionate about it and a lot of people now are scared to say they're a fan of him because everyone’s like, “Yea, but he’s a fuckin' lunatic” but like, yea? So what? Every genius is a lunatic. I mean look at Michael Jackson, look at anybody else. They’re all weird, man. Because they’re not on the same wavelength. They don’t really think like us.
How did the “every day is Lachlan’s birthday” thing get started?
We did it as a joke once at Firefly Festival in, I think, 2014 when there were like 5,000 people in the crowd. Everyone sang it back, and we thought it was just too funny. So we decided to do it every time since then. And our fans are in on the joke, but it’s the new people who don’t know. And now it works great cause we have this song “Birthday” that we do straight after it.
Photos by Sidney Spear for Bullet Music