The Griswolds are back in Australia after months spent touring the USA and finally releasing debut album Be Impressive to the world.
Before they kicked off their national Be Impressive tour at Melbourne’s The Corner Hotel, we interrupted their soundcheck to take a few photos and ask about their experience creating the record and spending extended periods of time on the road.
Your debut album is finally out. You’ve said that it was a really tough process. What was the biggest challenge of it?
Tim: Writing songs
Chris: Getting the songs together. There was a lot of pressure from people who know about albums. So not us. But people at record labels had done a heap of albums before. Tony, the producer, had done a heap of albums before and they were telling us 30 songs. To bring in 30 songs. We were like “God, we have like four”. So at that point we were freaking out. That was probably the biggest challenge, trying to write enough songs but to keep them all good.
And that was mostly you two (Chris & Dan) writing the songs?
Chris: It started out that way, but by the time we got to the end of it everyone was collaborating and everyone was kind of finishing up the songs together and doing it as a collective.
Tim: We just wanted it to be finished.
Lachlan: We don’t care. Lets just do it and make sure it gets done.
Dan: It was harsh. We’d done the EP and we toured so much that we didn’t get any kind of stop to write, so by the time the album process comes we had just finished the tour and we hadn’t really stopped to think. It ended up being great though, the process was cool.
You got a house didn’t you?
Dan: Yeah, we did, like a bush house.
Chris: Then we finished it in New York. We had six weeks in New York. We set up two studios in New York. We had a studio in our apartment and then another one at an actual writing studio so we could get like double the workload down.
The two of you (Tim & Lachlan) kind of have the experience of different bands. Did that bring any different perspectives in?
Lachlan: Yeah, I guess so. I mean we made an album together in another band and always played together. So I guess probably. I don’t know if we are more seasoned or anything but.
Tim: Talked to record labels before basically.
Lachlan: Had our heart broken by record labels before. Had to deal with a lot of shit before so doing it again- dance with the emotions.
A lot of the content is pretty personal. Do you find that hard to put that out on stage constantly?
Chris: Good question. I guess it is hard sometimes to not… I mean if the lyrics are emotional and personal to you then I guess it is hard. I guess you try not to get too in depth and start thinking. If the lyrics are that personal than you try not to think of it as your lyrics as otherwise you end up bawling on stage. Which is awkward.
So you have explored some more electronic layers than you did on your EP. Was it kind of a task to work out how to make them work and not go over the top of them?
Dan: They just happen. We were not so afraid this time. There was always the thought that we had to sound like a band and we can’t add electronics. But I guess that a lot of songs started out with electronics.
Chris: It was very intentional, the electronic side of it, like choosing to put more synths in the music and writing hooks on keyboard as opposed to guitar or something and sung guitar as a background instrument.
Lachlan: It is also like writing on the road, with headphones on your MacBook, there are electronic sounds in there. Like I am sure that if we had no computers and were just jamming all day long but this is what we have got and the time that we have to write. That makes it happen like that a lot.
Dan: Later influences as well that we were listening to around album time were definitely like that.
Dan: A lot of Kanye West.
Lachlan: And then Metallica, Megadeth too.
Chris: Next album.
I would love to see how your (Chris’) voice goes with that.
Tim: He can do it.
Lachlan: You have the ’80s Glam Rock screech.
Chris: I’d last one song into the set and my voice would just explode.
What did your time touring the US teach you, and how did those audiences compare to those here?
Chris: They taught us to quit the band [laughs]. Audiences are similar anywhere you go. I don’t know. I guess over there you can just tour for so long. Whereas 6 weeks is a crazy tour here and 6 weeks is just the beginning over there. You can play every night for a year if you wanted to.
Tim: And then go back around, circle it.
Dan: By the time you have finished it is months since you were at the start.
Lachlan: I reckon we got more professional. We got our shit together and that was good.
Chris: I suppose the gap between where we are now and where we could potentially be if we keep striving. You see other bands and see how they do things and think, “Oh wow, we are still crawling”.
You supported some insane acts over there as well. You just announced The Kooks over here, which is huge, but over there you had some big slots. Did you learn anything in particular over there or is it just about professionalism?
Lachlan: It is funny because professionalism isn’t the exact word because we aren’t going into a business meeting or anything. But I guess this is the way they have their stage set up for example, or just hanging around at festivals and not getting pissed with teenagers as we sometimes do. There are things that you have to do, and things you don’t do.
Tim: Etiquette, I guess. There is a band etiquette. Not to be that band that is causing shit, which we used to do.
Lachlan: But also still getting stuff with friends and having a good time.
We have heard before that audiences there are much more interested in telling you their opinion whereas here not so much.
Dan: I think people in America, music is such a social event. It is not like here where it is just a handful of people, where as there it is kind of mainstream to go and watch bands play or it seems like it is. People that are young over there go to shows, like if we play a show they find out who the supports are and they go and listen to their music and they buy it and they don’t just rock up and not know who is playing. And then after the show everyone you meet… I didn’t get opinions as much as that they were honest about whether you played a good show. I really think that it is just a bigger version of here. There are cities that are quiet and there are cities where you turn up and they jump around. It is just like here but it is expanded.
Lachlan: The people are nicer too us too over there because we have accents. So we come back and think “Americans are alright” but actually it was because we were foreigners and talk funny and that is it.
So these are your first headline shows here in about a year. What differences might we expect from those shows and these ones?
Chris: We have got a lot more songs now since the album came out. And helpfully all the touring we have done has made us better at the live show. Those are the most immediate differences.
Tim: We made a kick drum. Some other stuff.
Chris: We have had members change.
Lachlan: Yeah, I went from keyboards to drums.
Have you enjoyed that change?
Lachlan: Yes and no. I miss being in the front.
And your soundcheck must suck compared to theirs.
Lachlan: Yeah. More to carry, more to set up.
Chris: But everyone loves drummers though, it is a well known fact. Nobody likes keyboards. I mean they do Dan, they love keyboards, but everyone love drums more. Drummers are the favourite for some reason. The sexy boy thing.
Lachlan: They hit things.
We have slightly touched on this already, but how have you evolved since starting out in 2012? Is there anything more significant than just professionalism and things like that?
Chris: I learnt how to sing, that’s a good thing. A starting point for a band developing.
Tim: I definitely looking at our first show to now, it is like as a band we need songs but I don’t want to go back to that first show I don’t want to see. I don’t want to hear anything from it.
Chris: I guess we played hundreds of shows. I can only hope we have gotten better.
Tim: We have lost instruments over time, trying to simplify it. When we first started there was so much going on. Extra toms all over the stage. It made more sense just to keep it simple and concentrate on the instruments we know how to play rather than trying to play four each.
Chris: We were trying to make out so that we all had a set of toms out the front and we wanted to sound all tribal and jungly but we wanted to perfect our own instruments and play them perfectly.
Lachlan: I wonder how many we perfected.
Tim: Ask us again in five years.
WORDS BY GEMMA BASTIANI. PHOTOS BY ROCHELLE FLACK.