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November 1, 2002
Family, fun and not being famous help Grip Weeds endure
By BOB MAKIN
GANNETT NEW JERSEY
Bands come, bands go; few last long enough to find success.
But, for 15 years, Bridgewater-raised Kurt and Rick Reil of The Grip Weeds have remained focused on what inspired them to pick up their instruments in the first place: psychedelic '60s pop.
Drummer Kurt Reil says the tight-knit New Brunswick-based unit has been able to stay together so long because it's made up of family and friends whose music is a lifestyle, as well as a career that is independent of the mainstream music industry.
Besides his guitarist brother, Reil is joined in the group by his guitarist wife, Kristen Pinell, and Dennis Ambrose of High Bridge, who once played bass for the late, great Hub City outfit Crossfire Choir and Mitch Easter of Let's Active.
The Reils and Pinell own House of Vibes, a well-equipped home studio in Highland Park. They've recorded three Grip Weeds albums there, as well as CDs by the Central Jersey bands The Holy Goats and The Anderson Council, sessions with members of The Smithereens and demos for many friends.
"We've been able to survive because it hasn't been like we've been looking for money to record," Reil says. "We just record in our own home. It's been a real good situation all the way around. We started very humbly and took profits we earned from recording other groups and piled it back into equipment. We continue to do that."
The resulting albums, 1994's "House of Vibes," 1998's "The Sound Is in You" and 2001's "Summer of a Thousand Years," all combine the strong influences of The Beatles, The Byrds and other '60s pop acts in an exciting, original way.
By staying true to the music they've loved for so long, the Grip Weeds' style has come around again with some of the '60s garage sounds that have influenced such hot major label acts as The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes and The White Stripes.
"The whole '60s thing was a magical musical time," says Pinell, who met Reil when her longtime band, The Rooks, shared a bill with The Grip Weeds. "We love it and people see that in us. It so happens that it's in style right now."
But the '60s were not in style when the Reils were pre-teens scouring the Somerset County Library in their hometown of Bridgewater for classic LPs by and books about The Beatles and The Byrds. In their minds, disco was polluting the airwaves and punk was overflowing from the sewer of the rock 'n' roll underground.
The Reils not only have found liked-minded pop zealots in band- (and in Kurt's case, soul-) mates, they've also found them at Rainbow Quartz Records. The buzzing New York-based indie released "Summer of a Thousand Years," and will internationally re-release a remixed "The Sound Is in You" early next year.
Having toured both Europe and the Southeast within the past six months, The Grip Weeds will showcase at the CMJ Music Marathon for the second year in a row tonight at Arlene Grocery in New York City.
While industry exposure is likely, the band is happy to maintain its do-it-yourself work ethic with the help of Rainbow Quartz.
"The most important motivation for me why we play music is not fame, it's just to play music," Reil says. "That's all we want to do. All the success you get out of it is a nice perk, but that's not the reason to do it.
"A lot of bands get discouraged and confused by that. Bands that succeed or continue are ones that make the music a part of their lives and do it because they have to, not because they have to get famous."
With several appearances at the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Los Angeles and New York and the Sparklefest under its belt, the band is famous enough within in the underground pop scene.
They'll add to their glory Dec. 13 when the band plays International Pop Overthrow again at Arlene Grocery.
95 Stanton St., New York City
Also, live broadcast
3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 25
WFMU 91.1-FM in Jersey City