With band members hailing from Calgary to Australia – and a few spots between – GROUNDERS brings in influences from all corners of the earth. While their hometowns are scattered, the quintet is now based in Toronto, where they have been cultivating their psychedelic sound for the past four and a half years.
GROUNDERS shares its name with a blindfolded playground game and an orchard term for apples that fall off the trees and become applesauce, among other things. Even though the band’s name isn’t one-of-a-kind and lacks a unified backstory, its members don’t mask their annoyance with their pop culture namesakes.
“There’s a show on Netflix – The 100 – with [characters] named Grounders, so they stole our Google things,” says Evan Lewis, GROUNDERS’ guitarist. “We used to be at the top but now the top is The 100.”
Their last EP, Wreck of a Smile, was released in 2013, and they’ve been delicately crafting their first self-titled album, which was finally released in May of this year. It took the band four years to get their LP together, but the time was well-spent.
“We’re all very critical people, for better or worse,” says Daniel Busheikin, keyboardist. “And we’re all critical about certain things. After we made this record, it ended up being a good thing that we kept pushing ourselves to make something that would constantly excite us, would impress us, that we felt really good and confident about. We wanted our first record to be a statement of our band.”
The critical nature of the band members definitely slowed the creation of their debut. However, Busheikin credits the self-criticism to their ever-present musical innovation.
“We squashed a lot of ideas and threw stuff out and we kept moving forward,” he says.
And a statement it is. Their earlier sounds are represented in the track “Bloor Street and Pressure”, which the band says is an iteration of one of their oldest songs written together. Newer sonic experiences are obviously on the album as well, but the inclusion of some of their older influences helped to keep some of the charm from their first EP, which was made at a time when they approached their music very differently.
GROUNDERShas a definite gritty overlay to the psychedelic, ethereal nature of the album, which was not always the vibe that the band was aiming to create with their music. In their early stages, they played with a more complex sound, complete with intricate time changes and minimal rhythm. Lewis reminisces, “When we put out our EP we didn’t have drums.” After playing these songs to audiences who had a hard time dancing to their set, they decided to finally find a drummer and simplify the music. In dropping some of their complex production styles, GROUNDERS became simpler, but also gained timelessness.
Pulling away from complexity, GROUNDERS instead created a sound that is more accessible and relatable. Stripping down their music gave it a more special quality, but not in a way that the band members can even pin down.
“I think part of what makes it interesting is that you can’t put your finger on what makes it special [with that style of production],” Busheikin says. “There definitely is something. And that’s one of the most exciting things about that production style. Just having it resonate with you for a reason that you can’t exactly lock down.”
As for the band’s goals going forward, they are keeping them simple. “[We want to] put out a record every year and do it a lot quicker,” says vocalist and guitarist Andrew Davis. “We’re going to be in Calgary for a bit and we’re gonna start there.”
In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television. Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins. G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift? JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack
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Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad