Great Grandpa: A post grunge dream

by Nikko Van Wyck

Jangly, appropriately abrasive and anthemic, yet incredibly refined and polished, we have ourselves Great Grandpa. Based out of Seattle, the five members that make up Gramps each bring their own style of grunge and pop sensibilities to the group, and the result is a beautiful mess. Self described as “grunge pop, snack rock,” they released Can Opener in the spring of 2015, and have since been successfully championing a very DIY approach to their music.

Great Grandpa consists of lead singer Alex Minne, guitarists Dylan Hanwright and Pat Goodwin, bassist Carrie Miller and drummer Cam Laflam. They all hold down the fort with vocals, which is one of many reasons Great Grandpa has a sign-of-the-times anthemic feel.

“The band started in August of 2014 with Pat and I. Over the next few months we recruited Alex, Cam and Dylan (in that order),”  Carrie explained.

When you listen to Great Grandpa, each one of these “recruitments” is integral. It’s definitely not a group where members are actually just parts of one moving piece; its five moving pieces weaving in and out of odd scales and hanging time signatures. Seemingly, each member is in a do-it-yourself entanglement with the others in terms of instrumentation.

“Our very first show was on Halloween of 2014 (before Dylan was even in the band) and we played the only three songs we knew,” Carrie said. “We recorded our first EP in November 2014 at Soundhouse, released it in March of 2015, and the rest is history.”

Only three songs? Why not? It’s a perfectly sensible thing to do when you can write songs that cross boundaries spanning the last 20 years and can bring the utter feel of togetherness into a crowd. With Alex Minne on lead vocals and the band backing her up, it’d be hard to find a crowd that isn’t engaging with them by singing along to their hauntingly dreamy harmonies.

It makes sense that as a five-piece group with so many moving parts, the song crafting process is collaborative and cohesive. I’m convinced that there is no way any one individual could come up with the sound they’ve produced, and my suspicions were true. “The most common approach begins with Pat writing a ‘skeleton’ of the song – guitar + vocal melody ideas. Some songs are brought to the group more fully formed than others. It depends,” Cam said. “Lyrics, harmonies, refined vocal melodies, and the overall structure and creation of parts emerge from the whole group.”

Cam also explained their DIY process a little further, as they are on a record label, albeit a DIY label.  “It’s a fluid, natural process – we don’t consciously need to bridge the two. Broken World Media, our label, reflects a committment to DIY music. Many of the bands involved with BWM are based on the East Coast. Those musicians actively contribute to DIY scenes in their communities: supporting all age shows and spaces, booking gigs, creating fests. In Seattle and the wider Pacific Northwest (Bellingham, Portland, and so on) we try and do the same.”

He added,  “We’re surrounded by highly creative peers. We feel grateful to contribute to a music community that is supportive and respectful. In fact, the community expands beyond music – zine makers, visual artists, photographers…it’s a context in which people collaborate and co-create opportunities for sharing and performing. It’s exciting! Our link to these communities is meaningful to us.”

While it’s been over a year since their last release, the band has been keeping busy, sharing a multitude of bills with national touring acts, and even hitting the road a bit for themselves. As a band, they had a blast out on the East Coast. “Broken World Fest in Pittsburgh this past April was truly memorable. It was our first show on the East Coast, we played in front of several hundred people, met lots of label mates for the first time, an awesome two-day lineup of bands…”

And, keeping with the theme of anthemic, they recently played a show in Portland where Cam said “The big surprise was how many people knew the words to several songs! Such a cool feeling.”

While they are still playing quite frequently, Great Grandpa is also working on a full length album. “We’ve been recording our debut LP for the last few months. Early 2017 is probable timing for its release! People can expect a continuation of our ‘sound’ from the Can Opener EP, but a broader palette of material that capture our enthusiasm for catchy pop songs, noisy guitars, weird sonic detours, and some stripped down tunes,” Cam explained.

While we’re waiting for that to drop, be sure to catch them at one there several upcoming shows, including a set at Make.Shift Block Party.

LIVE SHOW: Great Grandpa will perform Sept. 24 at the Make.Shift Block Party. You can also catch them at the Tractor Taven in Seattle on Sept. 15. See greatgrandpa.bandcamp.com.