Interview + Track Premiere: 2nd Grade—”Boys In Heat”
Posted: by The Editor
Sincerity and sarcasm are the central tenets of 2nd Grade’s music. It’s full of tenderness and wit that can only come from musicians who love playing together and respect what they’re doing. They’re a super-group of sorts, composed of members of bands like Remember Sports, Friendship, and A Million Dollars. Their new record, Hit to Hit, is a collection of 24 songs that run on the shorter side, usually between one or two minutes. This works to their benefit, though, as each track feels like a sweet burst of fizzy indie pop.
The record’s latest single “Boys in Heat” clocks in at just over a minute and is incredibly catchy, so it’s easy to find yourself on your fourth or fifth listen without noticing. It’s a confident indie rock jam that exudes carefree summer fun. You can listen to it below.
The members of 2nd Grade spoke to The Alternative about their new album, how they deal with time management as a band, and how they create such fun indie rock songs.
Let’s start with something pretty simple but important. How and when did the band come together?
Peter Gill (vocals/guitar): We formed in the spring of 2018 to play some of my songs at a show at the All Night Diner, a beloved and now-defunct house venue in West Philly. We decided who would play which instrument through a poll on SurveyMonkey.com.
We’re all living through a unique time with the pandemic, and the music industry is having to adapt. How has the experience of releasing a new album felt for you during such a strange time?
Peter: It’s been weird and different in many ways of course, but seeing people engaging with the singles and music video online has actually helped me to feel connected with other lives amidst the social isolation blues, so that’s been unexpectedly nice. Would love to be playing shows right now though.
While Peter is often written about in the press as the “bandleader,” press photos and videos definitely make it feel more like this is a group of equals. How much of the writing process and creative choices are done collaboratively?
Peter: For this record I wrote & demoed the songs (lyrics, chords, basic arrangements) and then we took it from there as a band. We’re all extremely busy with many separate touring bands on top of full time jobs, so finding time to co-write/co-develop (or even jointly rehearse) material prior to recording just wasn’t in the cards this time around. In the future I envision this band being a creatively shared project, it’d be interesting if everyone were writing songs and getting their hands really messy.
As many of you are involved in other projects, how do you manage your time between them? For Jack, especially, being in A Million Dollars who are about to release a new album, how do you manage planning tours? Whenever touring happens again, that is.
Jack Washburn (bass): A lot of our energy in this band just goes toward scheduling stuff like shows and practices and time to record around our various other bands and jobs. It can be tough to get all five of us in a room, so just finishing this album felt like a feat of logistics. But I think having these other projects also keeps us sharp; we’re all really engaged as musicians and we’re all fans of each other’s stuff. The occasional scheduling headache is definitely worth it for the feeling of playing alongside each other. We haven’t really toured with 2nd Grade yet, probably due to these other bands historically taking up more of our time. Of course now with this album coming out we were all excited to finally get on the road and really take things up a notch, just to see what happens. But we’re just gonna have to wait on that for a bit.
There are so many great bands coming out of Philadelphia lately, including yours and the other bands you play in. What do you think it is about Philly that is making its scene so strong?
Jon Samuels (lead guitar): A few years ago, if you were fresh out of college and you were looking to play in bands as a living, you moved to Philly. The city has gone through changes, but for me at least, it became a place just filled with collaborators and sort of rivals. You hear what Alex G, Sheer Mag, Palm, etc. are doing, and you think, “How are they writing these songs and making these sounds? They’re just down the street, there must be a way I can too!”
I would never classify any music I make on a level with those acts, but that sort of challenge has inspired a lot of people to seek out new and interesting ways to work together. The city itself also has a rich and vibrant music lifeblood, from classic soul recording studios and radio stations, to incredible punk and DIY venues from 10-15 years ago that are still around. Not to mention the insane sounds coming from contemporary Philly hip-hop. It’s just a great city to make music and meet other people making even better music.
I love how concise and complete every song on Hit to Hit is. Is there any reason you gravitate towards writing shorter songs?
Peter: It’s funny, I don’t think of our songs as being short when I’m in the process of writing them. I’ll write a few verses and a chorus, we’ll work out a ton of musical details to pack in there, then we press “record” and afterwards when I see the runtime I realize it clocks in at 1:30.
At 24 songs there’s clearly a lot of content for listeners to enjoy, but that’s still a lot of work to have done. How long did the record take to complete?
Will Kennedy (drums): The album was recorded in four different sections (all done over a few weekends but spread out over the course of almost one year). The first two sections were done as a trio of me, Jack, and Pete (with overdubs by Jon and Catherine later on), the third section was solo songs performed by just Pete, and the last section was done as a full band playing live onto an 8-track in our friend’s attic. Lucas Knapp recorded it all, along with Evan Marré for the first two sections and Fran Lyons for the remaining two. All of this variation brought a playfulness and malleability to the process and you can hear it on the record—each session sounds very distinct (and I love it.)
Catherine Dwyer (lead guitar): Jon and I recorded a lot of our guitar parts separately, mostly just with Lucas. For like 60% of the songs, I’d never played with the full band before recording, so it was definitely tricky coming up with parts for songs I’d never even heard the vocal melody for. Luckily, Jon and I kind of gravitated towards different songs to play a lead or a solo or a backing rhythm kind of part without too much communication.
It’s a really fun pop song, but is there any reason you wrote an imagined jingle for Sunkist?
Peter: Hehe none that I can remember. Probably something to do with sticky-sweet soda pop being cultural shorthand for young fun. Or the image of art and money crashing together inside a particle collider. I think I’ve secretly wanted to be a jingle writer all along. Sunkist, if you like the song, get in touch.
While Hit to Hit isn’t your first album, it is a lot of people’s introduction to you. Are there any songs in particular on your debut Wish You Were Here Tour that you would like to shout out for people enjoying the new music?
Peter: It’s way more lo-fi (was recorded straight to GarageBand and mixed all in one weekend), but I’m very proud of the songwriting. People seem to like “As Long As We Can Talk About It” and “Superglue”, the former is like a mini Elvis Costello ripper and the latter is meant to be an homage to the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” minus the key changes.
Hit to Hit is out 5/29 on Double Double Whammy and you can preorder it here.
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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