TABLE OF CONTENTS
4 Rave On
5 Records Go Round
6 Do the Hop
8 Trolling for Pop
10 Pop Secret: Bay City Rollers
12 Cave Stomp '98
13 Melody in the UK
14 Dr. Amplifier: The Record Archive
16 The Grip Weeds
18 Donnie Iris & the Cruisers
22 Jac Logan and Bob Kimbell
24 Goo Goo Dolls
32 Arch Stanton
34 Buffalo Tom
36 Peter Case
38 Pop Rewind: Barry & the Remains
40 Root Beer: Four Upstarts
44 Not Necessarily Pop: Judson Spence
46 Backstage Pass: CMJ Music Festival
48 Nightclub Jitters
50 CD Reviews
After an extended hiatus, New Brunswick New Jersey's pop hope The Grip Weeds are back in the public eye once again. Finally.
It's been a long two-and a half years since their debut album House of Vibes was released to rave reviews worldwide. The Grip Weeds (guitarists Rick Reil and Kristin Pinell, drummer Kurt Reil, and bassist Michael Nattboy) have a new album out that picks up right where House of Vibes left off. The Sound Is In You is 16 tracks of melodic pop songcraft that refuse to be pigeonholed. Where H.O.V. found many critics attaching a "psychedelic" label to The Grip Weeds sound, The Sound Is In You covers a wide range of styles from spiritual ("In Waking Dreams") to power pop ("Ready And Waiting") to folk-rock ("What I Believe Is You") to, well okay, psychedelia ("Inca").
But The Grip Weeds don't care what you call it. They're just happy that this new record is finally out, and they can get back doing something that they love to do: play live.
It wasn't supposed to take this long for their sophomore effort to reach the impatient pop masses, but as they learned, things happen. Being forced to relocate in the midst of recording, the addition of a new bass player, and commitments to finishing projects other than their own, were just a few of the hardships faced.
But through it all The Grip Weeds have managed to stay focused enough to get some things done. They bought a house, built a brand new recording studio from the ground up, released a brilliant new record in true DIY fashion (they did everything themselves from production down to art direction), enjoyed a wedding (newlywed Rick was married in September) and an engagement, Bandmates Kurt and Kristin are engaged to each other, and I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the happy couple. And if you're worried about there being a couple in the same band, don't bother. Just wait until you read how cute it is when they finish each others sentences. Everybody now: Awww...
Why did it take so long to get The Sound Is In You out?
Kurt: We kind of had roadblocks thrown in our way that we sort of had to hurdle over. About a year after House of Vibes came out we started to work on this new one, and we were thinking 'Hey, this is gonna go real quick,' and we were renting a house...
Kristin: ...and recording our own material in the house. We had realized during House of Vibes, we had started working with other people in other studios, and we were gonna do our own studio thing. We just gathered a lot of equipment and education, and learned how to use it. So we started renting that house, and we had put equipment in that house that we were recording with, and then the landlord decided he was gonna turn the house into a daycare center, and wanted us out right away.
Kurt: We were in the middle of our album, and we also had a couple projects going recording some other bands...
Kristin: ...and we also lost our bass player at that time. So we took a big step and decided we were gonna buy a house, so we went in on a house and we found this place that would be good as a studio. And then we spent the next six months actually building the studio, and making it a real nice acoustical environment, and we did everything ourselves.
Kurt: ...and in the middle of all that, at the same time, we were still committed to finish up other projects. We were recording another band, Oral Groove, and we didn't really want to lose their business. We had to get that done.
When you're on your own time and your own budget, how do you really know when the song is done? Is there a tendency to overdo it a little?
Kurt: It's basically just a discipline thing. A focus.
Kristin: When you have your own studio you can kind of go a little nuts. You have to finally just say 'No more.' It's kind of a maturity, too. You learn how to arrange a song so that it's effective.
Did you ever consider bringing in an outside producer just for that objective ear?
Kristin: No, because creatively there is so much stuff going on between us that we were able to get stuff that we were all really happy with. And we all have years of studio experience working with other people, so you bring all that experience with you.
Kurt: Plus we're musicians, and all our friends are musicians, and we produce other bands, and they would come in and we would be playing people this stuff and getting their feedback. And having produced records, and having heard what they sound like on TV and the radio, I know what I'm listening for and I know how to make it sound right.
Describe the songwriting process.
Kurt: In the main, we all write our own songs and introduce them to the band, but occasionally we collaborate.
Kristin: We're starting to do more of that now.
Kurt: I've been working with Rick for a long time, showing him my songs, and him being the older brother, and saying to him 'Rick, can you help me with this?' And I go to him because I know he'll add the right thing to whatever song I'm working on.
Why did you decide to include a cover of Neil Young's "Down To The Wire" on this record?
Kurt: It's a great song, and it's kind of a trait of The Grip Weeds to pick an obscure cover that's near and dear to our hearts, as far as our influences are concerned, and play it.
Kristin: I wanted to sing something, because I've just started to sing more stuff, because I've been focused on the guitar for so many years. And that song goes over live so well, that we were like 'Why don't we just record it? What the heck?'
The word psychedelic seems to follow you around. Is that a fair adjective for your sound?
Kurt: (laughs) I don't know, I guess so...
Kristin: It's because there's a lot of guitar work and vibe on the record. 60's follows us around too.
Kurt: Unfortunately psychedelic has this connotation of being drug music, and I'm not a drug person. And psychedelic also gives this hippie connotation, which I'm not really comfortable with either.
Kristin: I think what it is, our sound is kind of rootsy, like the 60's sound. We use a lot of vintage gear as opposed to modern rock guitar sounds.
Besides some of the psychedelic things, some of the songs lean more towards hard rock. Is that an influence?
Kristin: We're very into British guitar rock. Jimmy Page is my biggest influence.
Kurt: We're all into stuff like Cream, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and the Yardbirds, and early Fleetwood Mac. And we're all really into the Byrds. They were just so amazing, that's really where it's at for me.
Do you come across heavier live because you can't always use the sitar and mellotron on stage?
Kurt: Well, I guess maybe we do. But getting back to what you were saying earlier about keeping things from getting too over-indulgent in the production, we did that purposely so that we could play the songs live and they would translate.
Kristin: We may pick up some of the lushness of the mellotron through vocals or guitar.
Kurt: Plus we realize that those sounds are secondary, or icing on the cake, to what we are. We're a four piece group with two guitars.
It sounds like you could take all these songs and go out and play them with just a couple of acoustic guitars.
Kurt: And we have done that. And it's kind of interesting, because the songs take on a different feel, and they're enjoyable in a different way.
Did you ever entertain any ideas of doing an acoustic record?
Kristin: We're been kicking that idea around.
Kurt: There's a thought to do an EP in the future, and we just might do something in that direction. Sort of as a stop-gap between studio albums.
Kristin, are you still playing with the Rooks?
Kristin: Yeah, and that's another long, long album to be working on for years (laughs). And that's a case of trying to put out a big budget project when you really don't have the financial backing. I mean, we have Not Lame helping us, but we're working in an expensive studio, so we do it in bits and pieces.
How do you find the time to have these two bands, have a day job, run a studio and everything else?
Kristin: I'm always doing something (laughs). I have to really focus and practice a lot. I have a part time job on purpose that doesn't require a lot of mental energy, and it pays the bills. And it's not a constant push with either band. It's very cyclical. We work when we can.
Kurt: Luckily the cycles have not been coinciding. But that's another story.
Kristin: Also, everybody has worked hard to make it work.
What are your plans to promote The Sound Is In You?
Kristin: Our record label is planning radio promotion after the first of the year, so we're just concentrating locally and regionally. And we plan to go back to Europe in the spring.
This feature is going to be in the January issue, so I wanted to get your highlights of 1998, and find out what you are looking forward to in 1999?
Kurt: As far as highlights, this has been a really good year for the band. We've got the band back playing again, we've got four members, we've got a studio, an album, a label. We have a foundation in place again. It's good to be a Grip Weed.
Both: Playing. A lot of playing.