Artist to Watch: Grandchildren

Grandchildren is the story of six talented multi-instrumentalists playing the parts of an ensemble double their size—often happening on stages with enough room to comfortably fit three, maybe four people at most. Despite having formed just a couple of years old, Grandchildren perform with the dexterity of lifelong instrumentalists and the confidence of seasoned veterans. Now with their debut album Everlasting on the horizon, the sky is truly the limit with Grandchildren’s potential. Not only are Grandchildren an ‘artist to watch,’ but quite frankly they currently reside among the best kept secrets throughout music today.

MP3: Grandchildren – “Cold Warrior”
MP3: Grandchildren – “Saturn Returns”

As Grandchildren approach the release date of their debut album Everlasting (out September 28th via Green Owl), they also are preparing for a fall tour in support of the record. Before the band takes their impeccable live act to the road, One Thirty BPM writer Max Blau interviewed Grandchildren member Tristan Palazzolo, who spoke with us about Everlasting, timeless interconnectivity, MGMT and the Danger! Danger! Gallery.

So your debut album is finally scheduled for release on September 28th! Tell me all about Everlasting.

Tristan Palazzolo: Green Owl [Records] is putting this sucker out just in time for a nice back roads drive through the fall foliage while listening to this album. So there you go, New England, enjoy! Though of course I do like to think it will provide for many an enchanting drive whether or not you are “deciduously” well endowed. In any case, these 10 songs are very emblematic of how we’ve come to be over the last two years. In that sense, both our songs and our band have gone through reformation after reformation. We’ve tinkered with and tweaked these songs repeatedly, mostly because it’s fun and virtually habitual at this point.

We all live in the same neighborhood, and when there’s not much to do on a given day, it’s just easy to walk over to someone’s place and lay down a track or two just to see how it sounds in that room, or just to see what changing a couple notes does, or just to see what playing the keyboard part on the bass does. Ultimately, we will often go back to how we already had it but just the process
itself is fun. I find us translating that mentality to our live set, which is what has led us to do things like infuse videography, and switch and add instruments. It’s also why we loved the ideas with the remixes that Green Owl facilitated for a couple of the tracks, the first of which is going to drop before the LP does. It’s the Runaway Remix for “Saturn Returns.”

All that said, I think we’re obviously done tinkering with the album, and we’re completely set on going out and bringing these songs to life night in and night out for the next several months. Though I already can’t wait to come back next year and do it all over again with a new “baby.”

The first final version of this album was originally named Cold Warrior and had nine tracks. Since then, you have added the now title track “Everlasting” as the final piece of the puzzle. What was behind the decision to include “Everlasting” in the final version of the album?

Just another example of not wanting to put the paintbrush down. The timing worked out and the inspiration was there in full bloom. We had just signed our contract last December, and in February [Green Owl Owner]Ben Bronfman heard this very rough cut of this tune that [frontman] Aleks Martray had been just starting to develop, though the structure and instrumentation were largely decided on by that point. We knew we were going to record it at some point, maybe the next album, maybe an EP. But Bronfman really put the idea in our head that it was a great addition to the album we were just about finished with. So of course, the idea of having a whole new reason to go play in the studio and add to our album was too fun to pass up.

After it was done, it may have set everything back a couple months but it was well worth it because now this album had almost felt completely new and fresh to us even though it had been nearly finished for a year. Such is the case when you’re an unsigned band with an album you recorded yourselves, looking to have a label press it.

Why the name Everlasting?

Everlasting as an album title [that] fits who we are as a group. What we’re intrigued by, almost awestruck by is this idea of timeless interconnectivity. A major theme with naming the band Grandchildren was this concept of being so completely molded by so many things that came before us, most of which we are so far removed from [us] consciously, yet so dependent upon while being taken for granted—[something] best personified by our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Looking back through your family albums, you see these faces, some of which kind of look like you, and you get kind of overwhelmed by the vastness of it all but then again you may realize that each one of these peoples’ lives were just as simple and confusing all at the same time as your own today. In that sense, it’s the same story being told over and over again with infinite changes made to the details — what kind of music was often heard, what clothes were worn, what problems were self-created, what breakfast was eaten. Anything and everything can be altered to represent the era, and the moment within the era, but the overarching story is always the same and it always ends by giving way to and influencing the next one. In that sense, the familial blood line is only one of a countless number of components that constitute this timeless interconnectivity.

So our name plays with that idea as does our sound, which borrows from a lot of styles and genres of years past while still wearing our own personal here-and-now stamp. And since the stories, styles, sounds, and sentiments of today will resurface in and affect the future, just as we have been shaped by those of the past, it shows that surely “we are all everlasting things that fall apart.”

How have the other songs changed (if at all) over the past year? Were there any other edits beyond the inclusion of “Everlasting.”

Changes haven’t been extreme, but there have been several. We re-recorded some percussion and vocals, and made some cuts and extensions to some of the parts of songs. We also added some instrumentation here and there, very sparsely and particularly. For the most part though, the past year has been all about meeting some great people who believe in the music and enjoying their help in getting our songs out there.

What was the inspiration behind the album cover and why you chose that design?

The artwork uses stills from the videos we made for our live set, and the cover is a still from the performance version of “Winterlude.” We dig the polar bear image in particular for the cover mostly just because of the look of it and the subtle, northern lights kind of colors in it. But it’s also a bit of a play on the title. Green Owl is printing our debut album entirely on recycled material, which has us feeling pretty good in that regard. And in keeping with that sense of environmental appreciation and protection, putting a polar bear on the cover of an album called “Everlasting” is kind of a tongue-in-cheek reminder of how the polar bear is anything but that, and of just how dangerously close we are to having things get really out of control if we don’t change our habits. I’m not trying to sound preachy. The reminder is just as much for ourselves for damn sure.

It’s been a while since Grandchildren originally formed as a project of now frontman Aleks Matray. Has the songwriting process become more collaborative over the past year or so?

Definitely. Before this album, the songwriting process was also more collaborative. It’s just that the bulk of the band as it is now used be formed as another project that took the lion’s share of our time. So we were so inconsistent in terms how often we got together as this project, and who was available to contribute, that ultimately the older songs were more or less abandoned. However, Aleks did take a fair amount of some of the themes and parts that we had worked on as a group, and revamped them to work within the framework of this album. We have since refocused our efforts on this project, and the next album will have a much more collaborative writing process involved, which is something that is not foreign to us in the slightest. We’ve already begun moving towards that, though of course that’s still many many months away from coming to pass.

Looking back at where you were one year ago, how has Grandchildren as whole changed the most?

Well as I just said I think we’ve mostly changed in how we channel our artistic focus. For a long while, we were essentially two bands, and Grandchildren was more or less the “side project.” It has since definitely become the main project. In fact the other project, Rad Racket, has been placed on extended indefinite hiatus. In freeing ourselves of being spread out like that, it has allowed us to truly gel as a group. And even though Aleks was the only member of the band who wasn’t in Rad Racket, he’s now enjoying having everybody on one focal point, which I’ve definitely found to be absolutely essential in a band of six people. So yeah I’d say collectively over this last year, we’ve honed our focus better than we ever have before, which is a great feeling.

Last time I saw you guys perform; you were playing in a half-filled basement of Atlanta’s artist-collective Wonderroot en route to SXSW. Lately, you’ve been playing in support of some larger acts like Explosions in the Sky and No Age. What has it been like playing with these artists and other notable ones?

It is certainly a lot of fun, and an honor to open for bands that you know for a fact that you are just one of a ton of people who connect with their music. It gives you a great feeling that perhaps your own music will connect with that many people somewhere down the road. Above all it’s inspiring, and a real treat to be able to see them do their thing — the before, during, and after — from the perspective of a contributor to that particular evening. From that night on, you know you etched your mark on the event, and no one can ever take that away from you.

What artist would you like to tour with the most in the future? Why?

Personally, I’d love to tour with MGMT. I have a lot of respect for their sound and their depth. I think a lot of people who have never really listened to them have some preconceived notions that ultimately fall flat. Their pop sensibilities are nearly unparalleled in many ways and they are pushing the bar a lot more than some might give them credit for (though they get plenty credit, of course). Also, my wife went to elementary school with one of them and she has many vivid memories since they were in a very small-sized class together. And of course me being in love with the timeless interconnectivity of things, I’d like to cross paths like that someday just because it’d be kind of funny to me for whatever wacky reasoning. But ultimately, I admire their songcraft and I’d be intrigued to see how our stuff is absorbed by their audience.

Whose music really excites you right now, and what’s your favorite track of 2010 so far?

Right now, for me it’s Tune Yards, and I’m sure anyone who’s listened to her is right there with me on that. She’s the bee’s knees man. Not enough great things can be said about Merrill, so I won’t jabber on. But if you don’t know, get in the know. Go out and listen to “Sunlight” as an aperitif, and then eat the whole meal and save room for dessert.

Obviously Everlasting is your main focus for the upcoming month. Looking beyond that, however, what’s in store for Grandchildren for the rest of the year and into 2011?

Touring as much as we can. We love that ever-expansive, sometimes ever-expensive open road. We definitely have plans to get over to Europe early next year, too. Can’t wait.

Any last words, shout outs or public service announcements?

I want to give props and many thanks to the people who have been helping us hold the fort down at Danger Danger Gallery, and helping continue to bring the goods to our hood for 5 years strong now. They know who they are. We need all the help we can get keeping it going, because it’s a beautiful thing. And apologies to all the very talented bands who have tried to get a show at D!D!G but couldn’t get an answer. Sorry guys, the requests stack up.