Not every band has the skill and gusto to track a record mostly live, all playing in the same room together. There is a lot of temptation these days to do in five seconds with technology and pasted takes what used to take a long time, but a lot of vibe can get lost along the way as a lazier attitude sets in. As the great Joe Elliot told Classic Rock Magazine in issue #91 reflecting on the making of Def Leppard’s classic Hysteria record, “When we put the reverse vocals on ‘Gods of War,’ you physically had to take the tape off the reel, put it on backwards, record it to another reel, then put the tape back again. Now you just select the section you want to reverse and press ‘reverse.’ You couldn’t go back to that way of working.”
The new record Holy Rollin’ from area heroes The Grape and the Grain is crackling with a sense of adventure and even more of a funky hard rock sensibility than perhaps anything they have released to date. Throw on “Maybe I’m Crazy” and you can’t help but hear the new line up of the group vibing so hard. It is something missing from a lot of albums these days and perhaps a result of Daniel Grimsland and company being willing to try new approaches and take risks while they tracked at Isokon Studio in Woodstock.
“It was my first time at The Isokon, actually none of us had been there until the first day, but we knew what we were getting into for the most part, and we were excited to try something different,” band leader Grimsland tells me. “The Isokon is in the home of
[engineer] D James Goodwin up in the mountains of Woodstock. It’s a beautiful place, and having it in a home also makes it a really comfortable place to work. Kind of feels like you’re hanging around the house with your friends, and then the next thing you know you have tracks. We set up like we would at practice. We were in a circle in the main room with amps isolated in other rooms and just rocked it. We went back and did overdubs later, but the basic tracks were all cut live.”
The band rehearsed a lot so the songs would be good to go once the mics were up, but you can also sense a ton of positive energy and love for rock ’n’ roll infusing this record. It’s alive and huge sounding with sections that could appeal to fans of Queens of the Stone Age, Clutch, Lionize or even Paleolithic greats like Grand Funk Railroad. Maggot Brain is also cited as a big influence. “You know I love them Funkadelic vocals” is regularly heard during writing and recording for this talented group.
I ask Grimsland if he is more comfortable at this point singing and playing in a band. Daniel has been a longtime player in prog-rockers 3, one of the most important regional bands of the last several decades. I couldn’t remember how many backup vocals Daniel did in 3 however, and in Grape his singing is way out front.
“I’ve always felt comfortable with multiple roles, or playing in more than one project at a time. It’s fun for me,” Daniel says. “Thanks for the vocal compliment, man. I do sing in 3. I actually learned just about everything I know about singing from Joey Eppard. He taught me a lot about technique and control and really pushed me to become a better singer.”
Reflecting on the negativity in 2016, it isn’t always easy to communicate when things are angry. Music brings people together but what is another way? I think it’s always good to try but if things stall out perhaps better to just focus on the positivity with people in your own circle but still try your best to be open to debate or putting best foot forward? The good vibes are so strong on the new Grape and the Grain record, like eavesdropping on Zep and The Band jamming at a whiskey-soaked party during the slide-infused title track “Holy Rollin’,” so I figured I would ask Daniel this. I mean, we live in an age where a tweet might send us to war with China.
“It’s hard to say. I think you have to be open to debate,” Daniel says. “It’s not always easy to do that, but how can you learn anything if you’re not open to hearing from all sides? Times are crazy right now for sure, but I have hope. I work hard everyday at keeping that hope alive, but it’s there. You have to at least try to have hope that something beautiful will come from the chaos. ‘Right now, starting right here, we’ve got to spread the love and do away with the fear’ — written by bassist/vocalist Mo Kelly — has become one of my favorite lyrics on this record. Choose love over fear, that’s the answer in my mind. Of course there are a number of ways to spread that message. Music is the way I know how to, but I feel like living that message, even in small ways like simply being ‘kind’ to people can help bring people together.”
Check out the new Holy Rollin’ album from The Grape and the Grain at thegrapeandthegrain.bandcamp.com. I assure you it will rock your face off and get your body groovin’ as well.