Interview: Alex of Great Grandpa

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Photo by: Buggo Vigor

Henderson: You have a new album coming out next month right? Plastic Cough

Alex (vocalist of Great Grandpa): Yeah, July 7th. Really excited to put it out.

H: So that’s a good place to start off. What has gone into recording this debut album?

A: So previously we put out 1 EP with 5 songs on it, Can Opener, and that was about 3 years ago give or take. But yeah, ever since we put out Can Opener we’ve been writing new stuff and just working new material, so it depends what you deem as starting an album.

From a writing process we’ve been working on these songs for at least 2 years, and then we started tracking everything and recording about a year ago. And a year before that, Pat, Carrie, Cam, and I all lived in this house in Seattle, and Pat and I would hang out sometimes and record demos. I’d come in like “Hey buddy what you doing?” and he’d be like “oh I’m just working on a new song. Want to sing on it?” and he’d lock me in his closet that he made iso booth, and we’d make some demos. So yeah at least 2 years ago we started doing demos for the album.

I actually just heard the very earliest version of ‘Teen Challenge’, and I could not stop cracking up because the original lyrics were nonsense in the verse and then chorus was “Pumpkin seeds are my favorite thing”, and it was just about pumpkin seeds.

H: Crazy how songs can evolve! Who knows though in the future you might need a song about pumpkin seeds for a commercial or something.

A: Yeah! We could get endorsed by some big pumpkin seed company. We could be their punk band and they could call it Punkin Seeds.

H: Wow! Somebody hire Alex! So yeah, you’ve been working on this for a long time, and in between though you’ve been going on a bunch of tours. I saw you played in Alaska?

A: Yeah! That was really fun. It wasn’t necessarily a tour for us, more like a one-off really fun weekend and we got to play some shows with some bands that we admire and our best friends, Alex G and Pinegrove. It was really fun, and we got to explore and the university was really accommodating and so nice.

H: Its wild I don’t really even think about Alaska having a big music scene, but they make it work. I’ve heard that a lot of bands from Alaska end up moving to the Northwest. Which actually is a good lead in, you are from Seattle right? I’ve never been there, but really trying to go. What would be your recommendation for a hometown secret spot to check out?

A: Different people would probably answer this differently. But for me, if you’re trying to go to see some shows, the Black Lodge is a place that I feel like a lot of my peers and myself have grown up with. It’s just been such a staple in our local DIY community. Almost everyone I know has played the Black Lodge. There’s usually always a show going on there.

H: That’s what we hear about Seattle on the East coast. Great music every day. You have a great reputation.  

A: Seriously? This is not to knock any of the great musicians in Seattle, but I feel like in the last year or two, all of my favorite bands are from the East coast, and I feel like I don’t fit in here. But as I’ve come to the realization over the last few months, that any feelings of misplacement in the music scene here is on me. You really have to wriggle your way in and make the friends you want to have.

H: The grass is always greener. So what are you listening to recently music wise?

A: Hmmm, Mom Jeans who I just saw with Heart Attack Man and Free Throw. That was great. I listen to quite a few different things. Here’s a little list: Girlpool, Big Thief, Adult Mom, Hand Habits, Cende, Vagabon, Versing, Clovver, Milktoast, Blue Ranger, Sam Skinner, Half Waif, Never Ending Kicks, Stephen Steinbrink, Camp Cope, Field Medic, Strange Ranger, Cool American, but also 80’s pop like Blondie and Madonna, Hall & Oates!

Oh Jay Som! Pat and I recently did a short stream of acoustic shows together, and Melina from Jay Som actually came out in Seattle to meet us and we got to hang out a little bit and she was so nice and talented. So yeah, I really like Jay Som a lot. I like the song ‘Baby’ and the music video for it too. Soft vibes.

My old car that I drive has a tape deck, so I’m thinking about all the tapes that I’ve been listening to. Charly Bliss. That album is so good, and I’ve been blessed to kind of become friends with them as well. Bad Heaven, I really like them. I listened to that tape like I don’t even know how many times. I have a Ratboys tape. The new album is going to be so nuts when it comes out.

H: We’re just hanging out like AH SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC!!!

A: My 2017 has been a mix up of holy shit the world the sucks, and oh my God there’s so much good music. I can’t tell if I’m just starting to focus more on the new releases or if people are just stepping their game up.

H: I don’t know; I feel like this year just has a lot of great music; more than past years for sure. But it’s so overwhelming because every week has 10 breaking news stories and 10 new albums dropping. At least it kind of makes up for the world being a mess.

So more than just what you listen to, what would be the dream band for Great Grandpa to play with someday?

A: We were actually talking about this the other night. Bands that came up were like Charly Bliss, Hop Along, but oh my god. Paramore. I love Paramore so much.

H: Oh yeah! And with that new Paramore album you’d be dancing.

A: Yeah, it kills me I love them so much. Sounding great. Looking great. Being nice people from what I can tell. They care about the people. That’s what I want in my life. People that care about the people. We were talking about Parahoy. Trying to get on that someday.

H: That would be legendary and who knows it could happen! When this album comes out we will see. So far I have loved the new tracks. I was a little worried, because it had been a while and I liked the EP, but bands can change a lot over the years. I like it, but it’s definitely a new sound for you.

A: Yeah, I think we changed a little bit, and a lot of that comes with the fact that Can Opener, the EP, was mostly Pat’s music. Then after that we got a bit more collaborative. Pat still has a handle on the skeletons of the songs, which I think is beautiful, Pat is one of my favorite songwriters, but of course everyone else has all these great ideas to contribute. It’s just really a fun thing.

And then you know there was also some minor adjustments and different ears in the recording process, which was really helpful. Pat and Dylan did a lot of the guitar tracking and maybe even bass at Dylan’s house, and then we did vocals and the technical guitar stuff with a Seattle engineer Dylan Wall, really fun to work with, and then we did mastering with John Goodmanson who did Sleater-Kinney, and Death Cab For Cutie.

H: I am getting more and more excited the more I hear about this album. Will the rest of the album sound like the singles that have come out already?

A: There’s a bit of a mix, there’s a couple tracks that are more high energy than anything we’ve put out and then a few that might even make you cry. I really like how diverse we’ve made this album. You got your highs and you got your lows.

H: Do you have any videos planned?

A: We do! I don’t want to spoil too much, but we are working with some really cool people in the Seattle area, and then Pat is doing kind of a wacky thing for one of the songs on his own.

H: That sounds like the story of this entire album. Working with a bunch of great people and doing some crazy stuff. You’re advertising it well.

A: Looking back on it, that is how it is. But in the moment that’s not how it feels. Looking back on it though, it’s like wow this is pretty crazy.

H: So the album is coming out July 7th, on Dbl Dbl Whammy, preorders are already up, and then I saw you are touring with Rozwell Kid!

A: Yeah! We leave for the tour July 2nd, driving out to Ohio. We are so beyond excited for Rozwell Kid and then we are touring with Vundabar for half and half with Chris Farren. Everyone is telling us we are going to have so much fun and that everyone on the tour is so funny and nice!

H: That is going to be a really good one. Anything else coming up?

A: A bunch of things to announce that we are excited for once this album comes out. Hopefully trying to get out to the UK in the Spring too.

H: Awesome! That would be a great adventure! Well that’s all my questions for you, but very excited for the album and can’t wait to see you at your NY date!

A: Thanks! See you there!

You can preorder Plastic Cough from Dbl Dbl Whammy on their webstore now! Album out July 7th!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

– Henderson