Interview: grandson on his blend of rock and electronic
Whether it’s about something as serious as conquering your enemies, or something as trivial as cheating in a relationship, grandson’s lyrics are a one-way ticket to “fuck it” zone. In Bills, he casually croons about the idiocy of having to pay bills and taxes even after you’re dead. In Best Friends, he comments on capitalism and urban entitlement in what seems to be just an anti-party song.
And what other way to carry his style of sending serious messages in tricked-out packaging than to layer rock’n’roll vocals over trap-influenced music? It’s no wonder that this 23-year-old from Canada has been turning heads.
Even veteran bands who try to go electronic end up sounding either like the worst band on Warped Tour, or a sell-out, or worse — mediocre. For an artist who’s just stepped onto the scene, Grandson’s put himself on the other extreme of these categories, the sweet spot that’s only been rumored to exist. And he’s made that sound completely his own.
Of course, grandson’s music isn’t for everyone. Hearing the words “side chick” in a song can either elicit a chuckle, or be a deal-breaker. Luckily for us, we’re young, we’re so done, and we just want a bit of fun. Here’s our interview with grandson.
1. How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard it yet?
My music is 2017 catharsis. It’s a millennial’s release. It’s honest, raw expression that reflects the climate my generation is growing up in. It’s alternative rock music our parents couldn’t have dreamed of.
2. It feels like grandson blew up overnight, but of course it couldn’t have happened that way.
Well, first off, relative to where I work each day to get, I am far from having “blown up” yet. I wouldn’t call it that. But I’m thankful to have built some momentum 4 songs in, to be performing for thousands of people and to be introduced to so many new listeners. The past couple of months has been an incredibly powerful, gratifying feeling. I’ve absolutely been lucky in some capacity. I’m very fortunate to have been introduced to and work with such incredibly talented musicians like Kevin Hissink, Tim Suby and HighxLand, who have each played a role in the making of these songs, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have built a strong team around me that believe in me and empower me to indulge creatively and push myself.
That being said, I’ve been writing music since I was 16, it has almost been 8 years; I dropped out of university at 20 to move to Los Angeles on a whim; jumped off a cliff and built my wings on the way down. Hundreds of songs that will never see the light of day. Any accomplishments I can point to are standing on a mountain of failure, doubt, blood and bone. Ironically, it takes all that time and effort to blow up overnight. I am just getting started.
3. Layering rock’n’roll vocals over trap music is something most artists wouldn’t think of, let alone be able to pull off.
I am a fan of music and student of music first and foremost, and an artist second. I’ve been listening to rock music my whole life, first being introduced to blues and classic rock as a kid, then listening to RHCP, Rage, Nirvana, Audioslave, Blink 182, Sum 41, but I more or less lost sight of rock as I fell completely in love with hip-hop, rapping and producing throughout high school. I went to university as a freshman at the end of 2011, just as dubstep and EDM were gaining prominence, and was there through the emergence of trap music, which I attempted to make (horribly) and would spin in DJ sets in small dive bars across Montreal.
When I first began to take the idea of grandson seriously, I knew I didn’t want to be a rapper, or a DJ, or sing in a generic rock band that could’ve been from any time period in the last 50 years. I wanted to take on a sound that blended all of these influences together. My goal was to do something original that could stand alone and serve to spark new conversation about the role of modern production in rock music, or guitar in a trap beat, while being lyrically substantive enough to introduce people to new causes they can take up or be galvanized by.
I would say the rawness of the records and the blending of new sounds with an old soul is definitely reflecting certain parts of my personality. I really try to not indulge in thinking, “What will people think of this? Will they like me? Am I allowed to combine these types of music together?” I just went with my gut, made some shit I wanted to hear, and fuck what anybody thinks about it.
4. What’s been the most memorable gig experience for you?
At the beginning of my set in Burlington, ON, I had two things happen simultaneously during the same song that stuck with me and reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing. It was a festival, so it attracted a variety of people that weren’t sure what to expect. I watched as a teenage girl who I assume hadn’t heard of me before got this huge smile on her face and ran to the front of the crowd to mosh with the pit. And directly next to her, I watched an elderly couple glare at me, cover their ears with their hands, and walk towards the exit shaking their heads in disappointment. It was beautiful.
There have been some great fan stories. The ones that resonate with me the deepest are the ones of people that use my music as their theme songs for overcoming obstacles. A couple of fans have reached out saying that my music helped them through a period of rough mental health, which I can certainly relate to. A fan named Brian said he runs to my music and has lost 12lbs listening to my music. Fuck yeah! That is the shit that makes it all worth it.
5. What advice would you give aspiring artists on putting their music out on the internet?
I would tell artists that plan on putting their music out to spend as much time as they can before going public building their identity, building their songs, asking themselves, “Who am I and why is it important for people to hear this music right now?” When it starts taking off, it is work you’ll be thankful you did ahead of time.
6. What do you have planned next for grandson?
More shows, more music, more insight into who I am, what I have to say. More collaboration, louder statements being made. More controversy. Sweet t-shirts.