INTERVIEW: Derek Grant

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2015

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It took a Breakdown for drummer-turned-frontman Derek Grant to make a breakthrough. The Alkaline Trio drummer opens up to Daniel Cribb on the substance abuse that led to his debut solo release.

He’s been drumming with US punk rock icons Alkaline Trio since 2001, often penning songs for the act, so it might be hard to believe that Derek Grant has had somewhat of a self-confessed writer’s block for a majority of his time in the band.

But, with a new solo record on the cusp of release, it’s clear something has happened in the past few years to reignite his passion. “It’s been pretty nerve-racking, actually,” Grant begins on the solo effort.

“I’ve been sitting on them for quite a while and not really sure if I was confident enough to put them out. It’s been really exciting, but I’m nervous about it in a way that I haven’t been nervous about anything that I’ve put out in years and years, because all the records that I’ve released are part of a group, so it’s easier to lean on other people, but with this, it’s just me.”

And to say Grant’s going full force with the release is understatement. The lyrics alone paint a detailed and personal picture of his life; focusing on a divorce that lead to depression and substance abuse. It’s fitting that Breakdown is the record’s title, and what lead to a wealth of inspiration that shattered his writers block. “The stuff that’s on Breakdown, it was really a breakthrough for me, in regard to writing, because I hadn’t written full songs – meaning music and lyrics – since I was a teenager, so there was this long period of not writing complete songs, and not being confident in my lyrics.

“And then all of a sudden I found myself in a certain place in life where there was an influx of inspiration and I felt like I had to get all this stuff out.”

Grant’s writing so much material, that he’s already working on a follow-up, and Breakdown almost wasn’t released. “It was a very important moment for me to write these songs, so it didn’t feel right to me to move forward without properly giving it the push that it deserves. I feel like the songs might mean something to somebody else, and that’s kind of the whole reason I’m playing music; to communicate an idea to other people and maybe make some sort of connection.

“I’m at a place in my life where I’m really comfortable with all aspects of my life, really. The stuff that’s on Breakdownwas inspired by a lot of turmoil in my life. Right now, I’m at a place in my life where I’m having a lot of positive experiences and I’m happy and content with the way things are going. There are so many things around me that are inspiring that there’s a new influx of creativity.”

With his second record already in the works, he’ll be heading back down to Australia this year, playing drums for The Vandals at Soundwave. That doesn’t mean that Alkaline Trio have come to a complete, halt, though. “We’ve got some ideas floating around – everyone’s been sort of focusing on their solo stuff.

“We just did some shows where we played every record; we played all eight records over the course of four nights and we did it in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and I think we’re going to do more of those shows. It was quick the challenge, but it was a lot of fun…ideally it’d be great to take it around the world, if we could. We’ll definitely be busy this coming year.”

Breakdown will be released 20 Jan via Red Scare Industries, and you can catch Grant drumming for The Vandals at Soundwave. For all dates and ticketing info, head to our dedicated festival page.

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INTERVIEW: The Matches

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2015

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REIGNITE THE SCENE

Breakfast remains the most important meal of the day, with The Matches’ reunion sparking over a morning catch-up. Frontman Shawn Harris discusses the band’s (potential) future with Daniel Cribb.

Tucked away in a slick, new airbus trailer, The Matches frontman Shawn Harris sits, strumming on a guitar and penning lyrics for a new song. As of late, his work seems to be drawn more frequently towards his punk roots, after five years delving in other projects and genres, most recently with his other band, Fortress Social Club. “I haven’t decided yet,” Harris says on the song’s final direction. “I just write, and if it sounds like an old garage recording that Animals would do, then I do it with Fortress. If it sounds like a shitty punk band, I’ll find something else to do with it,” he jokes.

A lot has changed for Harris and the rest of the crew, with half the band moving out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and all members drifting away from their punk roots to some extent. There was plenty to talk about at a breakfast catch-up last year, including the licensing rights to band’s debut record, E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals, coming back to them after their ten-year contact with Epitaph end. “We thought it’d be cool to put it out on vinyl. I’ve started collecting vinyl, and thought it’d be a cool way to commemorate our first record, because we never pressed it on vinyl back then.”

One show at a 350 capacity venue in the Bay Area in November with the band’s original line-up playing the record in full to support the vinyl release quickly turned into four sold-out gigs, and follow up shows in New York, LA, Chicago, and Australia. “It was crazy to see all these people that were fans of band when they were in their teens and figuring out who they were going to be. There was basically bankers and school teachers crowd surfing, and it was so rad to have a drink with all these people and see where life has taken them… I felt like I was amongst so many friends and it was incredible.”

Things snowballed quickly, and with the scene reignited and fans worldwide yeaning for more material, could we see The Matches return to a full-time act? “The plan was just to do that one show, but this has already turned into much more. The response was so incredible at these shows that we’ve played so far, I mean it really feels like there’s something there… and I will say that, in America, The Matches were always a black sheep sort of outsider band. We did a bunch of Warped Tours and we toured with a bunch of bands that were popular and bigger than our band, but we never really fit on any bill with anyone. The only scene surrounding us was one that we were part of making, and everyone that was part of that, and it’s so clear that they feel this crazy ownership over this thing that we built together. I’m really stoked to be a part of the niche that felt so formative and creative in the scene of community. It was so strong. We didn’t have hits, you know; we had an almost cult of people following us, which is a neat thing. I still feel really connected to that after doing these shows, so anything is a possibility.”

Show Review: Les Misérables 07.01.15

Published in The Music (WA) and on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2015

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Les Misérables
Crown Perth
7 Jan
The core tale of Les Misérables has stood the test of time, but is too much hype a bad thing? Plastered on public transport and billboards across town, opening night of Cameron Mackintosh’s latest production of Les Misérables had a lot to live up to.
A prominently Australian and seasoned cast – thick Australian accents sliding in and out of focus – showed they were up for the challenge, making the story their own in an immersive rendition. Articulation wavered at times, but the repetition in songs meant few points were missed, and most of the main actors seemed to put extra effort into pronunciation.
There may be decades of detailed history behind Victor Hugo’s classic novel on which the production is based, but entering with little-to-no prior knowledge of the plot will hardly dampen the experience.
Hands down the best voice in the cast, WAAPA graduate Kerrie Anne Greenland stole the show with her portrayal of Éponine, uplifting the second act, which, after an epic Act One finale, would have otherwise fallen short. From epic battle scenes to solo performances, Les Misérables’ bounty of interlocking stories came together nicely and created a healthy blend of highs and lows.
Daniel Cribb

INTERVIEW: Bayside

Published in The Music (NSW, VIC, QLD) and on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2014

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SIDE BY SIDE

Their 15th anniversary coinciding with Soundwave, caffeinated Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri tells Daniel Cribb where a lot of new bands go wrong.

“This is my proudest moment in Bayside; more than any tour we’ve ever done, more than any TV appearance or any sort of big headline achievements,” frontman Anthony Raneri begins, on the band’s 15th anniversary. “What I’m most proud of is, when we first started this band we wanted to be like Bad Religion, we wanted to be like NOFX, we wanted to be like the bands we looked up to, which were the bands that stuck around. Being able to last as long as we have, and the fact that our tours are the biggest they’ve ever been, the newest record is our best selling one, is amazing.”

To celebrate, Bayside are embarking on a world tour that kicks off at Soundwave. “Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden are bands I’ve been listening to since junior high school, so it’s kind of cool to see my career go to a place where I get to play shows with those guys.”

Realising they have dedicated fans that look up to them in a similar way, Bayside began offering tickets to shows that included a 45-minute hangout with the band in their tour bus. “We learned that usually people don’t know what to say, so it took us a couple of times of sitting there in silence. We try to steer the conversation, and it is fun. We offer everybody drinks, coffee; it’s just like hanging out.”

Not just any coffee: Bayside have a blend crafted after their latest record, Cult. An independent coffee company in Seattle called Anchorhead came to a show, gave them coffee and, after Bayside fell in love with the taste, things began to snowball. “I’ve always wanted to do it but thought it was impossible; it just seemed like the kind of thing that would be pretty hard to make. It’s not like getting a T-shirt printed. We thought we’d reach out to them and see if they’d ever consider doing a branded roast, and they loved the idea. It is its own roast – the Cult blend.”

The longevity of the band stems from their relentless work ethic. Before they signed to a label to release debut album, Sirens And Condolences, back in 2004, they’d already been touring and self-releasing EPs for five years. I think a lot of bands, when they first sign or make their first record, they feel like they’ve arrived. They get a record deal and feel like it’s the finish line, and for us, we knew we wanted to be around for a long time; we knew we wanted a legacy.

“When we were making our first record we weren’t thinking, ‘’Wow, we’ve made it,’ we were thinking it was the first of many and all that work we did before was just warm up, like, ‘This is where everything starts, and we’re going to be talking about it ten years from now.’ I haven’t accomplished nearly everything I want to, but I’ve seen that I’m doing the things right. I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of what I’ve done.”