Before Playing South Side Ballroom This Friday, We Take It Easy With The Griswolds.
In 2012, the Australian indie pop outfit The Griswolds rose from the ashes of four bands that were going nowhere quickly.
Kinda had to, really. Prior to forming, this new band, the four players that now make up the Griswolds had each reached a breaking point. They were more than becoming disillusioned with the directions of their previous music projects; they needed a stark complete change of pace.
And so The Griswolds formed — out of necessity, in many respects.
It grew into more than that with time, though. Together, The Griswolds' members found common ground through a new, unabashedly laidback and intoxicatingly uplifting pop-rock sound. Better still, the foursome found a whole new audience — all the way across the Pacific in America.
Later this week, the band will continue the stateside proliferation music with a stop through Dallas as the main support for Friday's Walk the Moon show at the South Side Ballroom. In advance of that show, we chatted up Griswolds drummer Lachlan West about the band's journey to our fine country and how the band's biggest song to date almost didn't make it onto its record, among other things.
My research into your band started with viewing the “Beware the Dog” music video. How much creative involvement do you all have in the making of this? Specifically, how do you come about turning Little Red Riding Hood into a sort of comedic horror character in order to visualize your song?
Yes, well, that one was a funny one. We were heavily involved in it. We've done a bunch of treatments where other videos were to be made to that song by other directors, and none of them were really exciting, and they all sort of were either a band performance video or had some crappy story line about love or something like that. We just wanted something to be completely different. We basically wanted it to look like a cheesy horror movie which, hopefully, we succeeded in doing.
Yeah, that's definitely the way it came across.
When it comes to coming up with the idea, Chris [Whitehall], the singer, had the first idea for it and then we kind of worked to flesh it out, and added in some extra help. We actually ended up spending about more than half the budget of the film on that wolf because someone just made that. All the parts of his face moved. It was an expensive exercise, but it was good!
Before this band, all four of the Griswolds' members had played in other bands. Once you'd formed The Griswolds, what were your initial goals? And how did you go about achieving them?
For me in particular, I was the last member to join. But I know when they started, it was just Chris and [guitarist] Dan [Duque-Perez] basically just writing songs in the garage and seeing what happened. And then they put one up on BandCamp, and basically got a U.S. record deal from that. So they started getting some college radio play and stuff like that. We just wanted to make a band that we liked the music of, because we were kind of unhappy in the groups that we were in before. We never thought that we'd be basically relocated to the U.S. at any point. That's been a pretty big surprise in the last couple of years. But it's been a good steady little ride, and a nice surprise. I mean, basically, if anyone buys a record or comes to a show — if one person does it — I'm stoked, because why would they do that? That's the coolest shit in the world. To be on the other side and have people singing your songs back to you; it's amazing.
In past interviews, you've touched on a moment where you were watching The Griswolds' first gig as a band, before you joined the group. The other members of the band later said they thought it was a terrible gig, so what was it about that performance that compelled you to join?
[Laughs.] I think that, if it was just after that first gig, I would have maybe declined the offer. But Tim [John], the bass player, and myself have been playing together in bands for about nine years now. We even know each other too well. So he was like, “Well, we need a drummer, do you want to do it?” and I was just like, “Yeah, sure, why not?!” Yeah, it was great. And I think I joined at a very good time as well, to make the album and have enough of myself on the album, which is great, because I wouldn't want to be touring someone else's music for the next — I don't know, 20 years of my life? Who knows how long this road will last us?
Kind of continuing along with significant “firsts” in your band, I've read that “Beware The Dog” was one of the first songs the band worked on. It's gotta be cool to see that first song do so well.
Yeah, that was pretty nutty! We almost didn't have “Beware the Dog” on the album.
Yeah, because it had been written so far before, and we were excited about more of the other songs that we'd written, just because they were fresher and newer. Looking back, that was so dumb. But, luckily, we have a producer that we absolutely love. He's a genius — Tony Hoffer, he's the best. He was the one to basically slap us in the face and say, “Dudes, this song is really good. It has to go on the album.” So, yeah, it's one of my favorites now, too.
You've mentioned that, since starting out, you've had to, sort of, transform into more of a professional band. How did you manage this? What sparked that change?
It wasn't really an overnight thing; it was just that we toured with so many bands that had their shit together, and had their lives together, and that wouldn't go out and get wasted every single night after they played. So there's definitely a time to party, but it was learning a little self preservation, I guess. Surrounding ourselves with a good team of people, a good sound guy, a good tour manager — little things that you pick up along the way. Also, knowing what to eat and what not to eat on the road.
I guess that can definitely be an important one.
Yeah! Our favorite thing, actually, is new breakfast spots in every city.
Here in Texas, I hope that means chicken and waffles.
Whereabouts in Texas are you?
Our tour manger is from Southlake.
Yeah, so we've been all sorted out in Texas.
How's it been touring with Walk The Moon? Has watching them nightly altered your band's style in any way? Have you kind of watched their performance style and their craft and used that to help you in any way?
Definitely. I think that's been the biggest change. That's funny — because it's only been in the past month-and-a-half of being with them — but watching them each night, it might be the smallest things we pick up on, such as a little transition in between a song that we started doing. Or just the way that Nick talks to the crowd and interacts with the crowd. We're learning every show, and it's a corresponding thing. They're the most accommodating headlining band we've ever toured with. They're super great to help us out. It's great because it never feels like you're talking to the big guys or anything like that. Even last night, we were up playing pool and eating chicken tacos until this bar closed. They've just created this extremely friendly experience. We love those guys to bits. Actually, we're really sad that the tour is two-thirds of the way over now.
I just imagine you guys feeling super chill all the time and rocking this laidback Australian vibe. Are you this relaxed and comfortable when you're performing, too?
I think it's kind of hard! I mean, it's all a very chill situation. It's not like raging and doing shots or anything like that. It's all quite chill, but once you get on stage, I don't know… we're extremely energetic onstage, which has been a word that people keep describing us as. I think any performer should be energetic no matter what's going on. You could be tired, you could be sick, you could be anything, but if you're up there you have to give it everything, because that's what everyone relates to. They pick up your energy and the way you sell what you're doing — and I don't mean sell like moneywise, but you could have a great song, and perform it with no energy and it falls out their ears. I think we try and give it our all. When people come to see us, our fans, they don't want to sit down and listen to beautiful sad songs or anything. They want to party and dance, which is what we like to do. So I think it's giving the crowd what they want. I'll always be a fan of making the crowd happy over doing whatever musical waning I want to impart on myself.
Moving on to the process of creating the album, talk about the decision to add more electronic elements into a song like “Be Impressive.”
I guess it's just technology. If we were writing in a band 10 years ago, we would have had drums and guitars and jam out in a room. But everyone is in different living situations, so you end up making music on your laptop, which is something everyone does now. Whether it be Jack White or super cool people who only listen to vinyl, blah blah, blah, basically everyone is essentially forced to create more electronic music just because that's the easiest way to record it when you're on the road, which we end up doing quite a bit. So I'm just using me old software stuff. “Be Impressive” was definitely a song that sort of started out interesting in that side of creating music, and then elements of that have crept into the album too.
There's a forceful “Be impressive” chant in that song. Is that a mantra for you guys?
I could try and explain it forever, but I still wouldn't ever be able to say it. You only get one shot at a first album. You hold it all up for the first album, and then when you're doing it you're just like, “Oh, right! Well, shit, this is it.” But I think if you over-think it and try to create something, the craziest masterpiece straight up if you're Kanye West, maybe it would work. But we just put a lot of work in. My favorite quote is from Nick Cave, about writing songs, which is that it's “10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration.” So you just have to work at it so hard. If a part's not right, or a lyric's not right, you have to keep going back to it, because if you settle, the effect of that is the difference between that song meaning something to someone, and that being an anthem to their summer, and it could also mean, if you didn't put to effort in, that they've forgotten about that song that they've never thought about again. We're always trying to think about what the endgame is. What are our fans going to get out of it? And what are we going to get out of it? Because we're damn proud of the album, too.
Cover photo by LeAnn Mueller. The Griswolds perform with Walk the Moon on Friday, May 1, at South Side Ballroom.