Interview: New Tricks: Grandaddy

New Tricks: Grandaddy

Back after eleven years with new album ‘Last Place,’ Jason Lytle talks DIY through his latest musical obsessions.

It’s been over a decade since Grandaddy released an album. The band perhaps most famed for ‘A.M. 180’ (that song used as the theme tune for Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe and in celebrated horror flick 28 Days Later) called it a day in 2006, citing being worn out by touring, a breakdown in communication, and a lack of financial income as reasons.

Moving on to separate projects, it was six years before the group got back together. Headlining End Of The Road last year (among a small number of other festival appearances and live shows), the reunion didn’t last long. But the fanbase never gave up hope.

Rumours of a new Grandaddy album have been rife since summer 2015, and at long last, that comeback is finally here. ‘Last Place’ is the sound of a band reinvigorated by their time apart, with confidence restored by a fanbase who never gave up hope. Written for those fans, this is the result of eleven years’ anticipation.

Naturally, we figured that now would be the perfect time to catch up with frontman Jason Lytle about everything brand new in the world of Grandaddy. From Swedish bands through the great outdoors to the hardest to repair in technology, he had a lot to say…

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What was the last album you listened to?

Oh shit, you’re catching me off guard. It was probably an album called ‘Cast In Steel’ by A-ha. 

What was the last album you bought that really amazed you?

Let’s see… Maybe it’s been a year or so, but it’s a Swedish band called Amason. The album’s called ‘Sky City’. I completely fell in love with that album. I like it when I can put on a record and just know that it’s going to be super great from beginning to end, and that it’s going to achieve a certain feel from the first part of it to the end of it.

“This is the new album by Grandaddy - better late than never.”

Jason Lytle

Are there any new bands that you’re excited about this year?

As soon as I get off the phone I’ll have thirty of them that pop right into my head. It’s the performing under pressure thing. Good old new bands. There’s a band called Broncho that I really like. I think they’re probably due for a new record pretty soon [27th May]. 

Can you see a new breed of bands emerging?  

One thing that I’m seeing that is making me happy is that there is an interest in making more creative sounding records, there’s an interest in production. It seems like the ‘new breed’ has a better grasp on what it takes to get sounds, and has a better grasp on actually manipulating the tools that it takes to get these sounds as well. They usually come into the studio with a pretty clear idea of what they’re after.

Are there any bands that you can see going on to headline festivals in years to come?

Let’s see. I think it’d be good if Tame Impala kept refining their live show. People seem to really like them. He’s proven that he’s just getting better and better at what he does. I’ll go and stick with that one.

“I was a little confused by Pixies coming back, but I just bought their new album and it blew me away.”

Jason Lytle

What is it that draws you to a new act?

I think honesty and devotion to what they do. Maybe putting quality before quantity. Not being so eager to please everybody before actually pleasing themselves, I guess.

If you were to give one piece of advice to new bands, what advice would you offer?

I’d say it’s more important to surround yourself with people that you really enjoy being around. If something feels really weird and not right, and you’re trying to shove a square peg through a round hole, there’s probably a pretty good chance that your instincts are dead on - so do whatever you can to get out of that situation and do something better.

Are there any albums you listened to when you were younger that you think everyone should hear?

I was a huge Electric Light Orchestra fan in my formative years. I think growing up listening to that music on headphones had a pretty profound effect on me. I would say the album ‘A New World Record’. It’s a good study in pop music and production.

Are there any bands you loved growing up that you’d like to see reform? 

I think one just happened. I was a little confused by Pixies coming back, but I just bought their new album and it blew me away. I heard they got slagged for it, for trying to sound a little bit too much like Pixies, but that’s exactly what it is that I love about it. So one of my favourite bands reforming is happening right now. I’m pretty happy about that.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you most like it to be and why? 

I don’t know. I’m kind of a loner. I don’t really want to collaborate with anybody. 

What’s your biggest interest or obsession outside of music?

I am a big fan of spending time outdoors, and of all kinds of outdoor recreational stuff. While it may not seem like it’s directly related, it actually has a huge… I think I’ve gotten a lot over the years out of clearing my head. I spend a lot of time in the studio. I spend a lot of time trying to problem solve and troubleshoot while writing songs. It’s really easy to get jammed up and hit all kinds of road blocks. It’s pretty amazing that when getting outdoors and getting away from the screen and from the headphones and stuff, I start to solve all these problems. All these answers start to sort themselves out as soon as I get out of the studio and out into the outdoors. I’ve become quite reliant on going from the studio to the outdoors, from the studio to the outdoors. Almost using it to my benefit on purpose, I think.

It’s been eleven years since the last Grandaddy album… 

Yeah, something like that. Which happens to be my lucky number, so that worked out pretty good. 

What made you want to write and release a Grandaddy album now? 

I definitely didn’t put much thought into where we fit in the music scene today. I was really inspired by the fans of Grandaddy and the persistence - almost the stubbornness - of the fans of Grandaddy. That’s actually kind of helped spur me along throughout the working process. If anything I was making it for them. It was a fun exercise on my part, to try and make a Grandaddy sounding album. I think more than anything else I had no idea how it was going to stack up. I have no idea where it’s going to lie in the current music scene, or even within the scheme of the other Grandaddy albums. I just kind of put my blinders on and started working on it. Now it’s just like, alright, here we go, let’s see what happens.

“I’m kind of a loner. I don’t really want to collaborate with anybody.”

Jason Lytle

Were there any new technologies that came into play with the new album? 

I’ve remained working pretty consistently. I’m always keeping up on the gear. I’m always getting inspired by new pieces of equipment. I kind of like it when I can get a lot weirder a lot quicker. Sometimes having to plug in any number of instruments, just the chain of events that it takes to get things sounding strange and interesting can be a little daunting. If anything my current obsession of the last couple of years has been streamlining my studio, so I can come up with an idea and it doesn’t take me that long to be executing it and for it to sound really good audio wise. I’m definitely inspired by gear, by working quicker, and by getting weirder faster.

What was the last new instrument you bought? 

I’ve been refining my studio set up, so I’ve been picking up all kinds of gear this weekend. I’m in the process of refurbishing these two microphone pre-amps. They’re called V72s. They’re microphone pre-amps that The Beatles used to use. I’m having some issues with them. I’m getting some maintenance done on them. I actually burnt the tips of my fingers because I’m so shitty with the soldering iron. I eventually gave up on it and decided to give the task to the pros.

How did the making of ‘Last Place’ differ from making albums when the band first started out? 

The working process was pretty similar. Normally what I do is I’ll get Aaron [Burtch, drums] into a studio. He’ll have listened to my demos of the drums. We’ll do a real version of the drums. Then I bring all his drum tracks back and I start adding all the instruments to those myself. I also got to go through a divorce, so that made it pretty terrible. It really added to a lot of the drama on the record - which has never happened before. I guess that’s a big switch up.

If you were to sum up ‘Last Place’ in a sentence how would you describe it? 

This is the new album by Grandaddy - better late than never.

Grandaddy’s new album ‘Last Place’ is out now.