Bucketfull of Brains
Bucketfull of Brains #53
Diggin’ the Weeds
Pop? Garage? Psych? Terry Hermon grills the Grip Weeds
Togged out in leather and velvet, the Grip Weeds have all the tainted glamour of a classic Rock n’ Roll band, and are strange birds in the Power Pop nest they are often presumed to inhabit.
How did you get the name?
Kurt: We wanted a name that was down-to-earth and unpretentious, kind of like the Grass Roots, and we chose the name of John Lennon’s character in the movie “How I Won The War” because it had the right feel. It’s very offbeat but instantly memorable. We don’t really know what a “Grip Weed” actually is- I’ve looked in gardening books, but could never find it; maybe it’s some kind of British slang.
Tell us about the make up of the band (not max factor!) - previous bands etc.
Kurt: My brother Rick and I have been playing together for about 15 years now, as soon as Rick switched from drums over to guitar. We didn’t see the point in having a group with two drummers- after all, we’re not the Allman Brothers! Rick and I formed the Grip Weeds in the late ‘80’s with two other guys. Neither of us had been in any other bands of note (or worth!) Kristin joined us in ’93 from the Rooks, although she’s still with them. Mike was the last to join in late ‘97.
Mike: My previous bands worth mentioning were Filibuster, Latex and Genus Loci - they were weird and experimental. I cut my teeth on them.
With all your outside interests do you still consider the Grip Weeds to be your major focus?
Kurt: The Grip Weeds has always been my main focus- it’s the band I write songs for- so it’s partially a reflection of me. I also play drums for Richard X. Heyman and I’m the lead singer for Buzzed Meg (along with Jim
Babjak and Dennis Diken from the Smithereens). It’s good to do things outside of the band because you get more perspective on your own music and the way you relate to your bandmates. I also get the chance to just play or sing and not worry about all the other aspects of the music business.
Rick: The outside projects give the band members a chance to stretch out and explore different things musically, different roles, and experiment. I learned some different production techniques from recording the Wyld Olde
Souls, which is a very different band from the Grip Weeds.
Kristin: I’ve been looking into cloning..... “I love all my children”....the Grip Weeds are my family, literally, so I know when we’re all 75 years old we’ll still be playing together.
Mike: As far as my music career goes, the Grip Weeds are a major focus - but then again so is teaching which I also love. I often play with another great act called Mannix and I play bass for the Wyld Olde Souls.
Pop, garage, psych, rock’n’roll?
Rick: We've been called all of those things, and we can play all of those kinds of music. We fuse pop song structure with rock energy. We try to vary the musical contexts and add intelligence to the mix. The psychedelic
quality comes in in an attempt to stretch the listener's musical consciousness and explore metaphysical themes and mystical sounds not unlike what the Byrds achieved on "Eight Miles High". To me "psychedelic" means
exploration of the mind and unconscious states in a rock context, definitely not "hippy music" like the Grateful Dead who many people mistakenly associate with the genre.
Mike: Whatever as long as it's good.
Rock Gods?? Lennon? Presley? Manilow?
Kurt: Well, Lennon’s genius can’t be denied, and he’s quite an example to follow. Elvis had a great start but what happened? I always try to keep in mind that these artists were just people, not gods, but with a tremendous
vision and ability to make it into reality. There are many musicians who I admire that have had an influence on me, like Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Brian Wilson, Phil Everly, and many, many more. Who’s Mannilo?
Kristin: My rock gods are the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Rick: Lennon YES, Presley, well...Manilow, NO.
Mike: Lennon, Dylan, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Page, Marvin Gaye, Hendrix, Townshend etc.
What is the House of Vibes?
Kristin: The Jefferson Airplane’s Fulton Street. The Monkees’ Beach Pad. The Band’s Big Pink. The House of Vibes is the name we gave to our recording studio, our first album and our living space in general in New Jersey. Kurt, Rick and I bought the house about 2 years ago. We decided to dig up the money to get a place of our own and create the studio we wanted. So we found this house- it’s a big place built out of brick with a cool stone basement where we record. The place is about 35 miles south of New York City which is important because we go back and forth a lot from the city. The name “House of Vibes” came from a studio client who said “this place has a lot of good vibes.” The idea just kind of stuck.
What are the main differences between your two albums?
Rick: Three years and lots of blood, sweat and tears (no, not the band). We pushed ourselves to the limit in our writing, playing and producing. I think that the sound itself is a great leap forward. Though we used mostly the
same equipment, I think we achieved more depth and texture as well as a more "in your face" quality on many of the songs. We tried to rock harder on the rock tunes and pop more on the pop tunes. We also pushed the vocal harmonies quite a bit more.
Kurt: We wanted this new album to continue along the same path as our first album House of Vibes but expand upon it in every direction possible. It’s a more textured production. That said, I think House of Vibes has some great songs on it. It was a big step for us at the time, and set the stage for this new one.
Why does Kristin only get to sing one song?
Kristin: Singing is just secondary to my guitar playing. I’ve never focused on it. I love writing guitar arrangements-that’s where my interest lies. On the next record I’ll probably do a bit more lead singing, since my “vocal debut” really seemed to connect with our audience. I’m flattered- who knows?
Kurt: When Kristin first joined us, we had our harmonies pretty much covered, so she sang some bit parts on House of Vibes. When our old bass player left, we needed to work Kristin into the vocal blend much more to
cover the three-part harmonies we do. This led to her singing lead on some songs like “Down to the Wire.” She will sing more leads, but I think her main focus is her guitar work.
When’s the UK tour?
Mike: Why? Do they want us over there?
Kurt: We’ll gladly come over and tour if there’s a demand for us! There’s nothing I’d like us to do more.
Kristin: I think we would do great in the U.K.-when do we leave?