the griswolds are partying in the u.s.a.
We check in with the four Sydney friends as they bring their infectious, dance-able tracks stateside.
What happens when you get four self-declared "party starters" from Sydney together to make some music? A bright sound you can't help but get carried away with and dance to. The Griswolds have been making waves even beyond the indie realm with their debut album, Be Impressive, a collection of infectious tracks that range from free-spirited singalongs to songs with darker, more emotional stories set against rollicking pop melodies. "Beware the Dog" and now "If You Wanna Stay" have become chart favorites, and the band's frequent touring is now taking them to to the U.S. In the midst of the madness that is The Griswolds' building success, we caught up with lead singer Chris Whitehall.
It says in your bio that the band started with a riff challenge at a party. How did you all meet and what were you doing before?
All four of us were doing separate things for the most part. We knew each other from playing in Sydney though and had worked together before on various projects that we were starting to get bored with. The Griswolds kind of started as a dare, and we never took it seriously until people started expressing interest in the band.
How did you form your sound, what were some of your biggest influences?
At the beginning, we were really into MGMT and the Beach Boys. Then as time went on our influences stretched into hip-hop and we were looking at people like Kanye West and Theophilus London. When we were making the album, a really heavy 80s theme emerged in the synths — part of that was us and part of it was Tony Hoffer, the producer.
The way you describe what you want your music to do for listeners is pretty specific (and exciting): you've said that you want Be Impressive to "break and mend your heart." How do you think your music accomplishes that? And why is that important to you?
Different people take so many different things from the same song, so it's hard to define the effect a piece of music might have. What's really important to us though is that we can express ourselves through our music — and that listeners can then experience a bit of what we're feeling and interpret it in their own way, so that the music becomes something cool for them too.
When you talk about the songwriting process for Be Impressive, you describe it as a journey that began in Australia and extended to time spent at a writing retreat and in New York. How do you know when you've got it, what makes you excited about a song? Where do you find inspiration, how much of it is personal experience?
We write songs, then rewrite them, then listen to them for a few days and rewrite them again. We don't usually know what we're going for, but we definitely know when we've got it. We might have like three days of mind blanks then one of us will sing something and everyone will say "That's it! That's the one, record that now!". I think the most exciting part of writing is hearing one of your own tracks, pretending it's not actually yours, and figuring out whether you still like it or not. On Be Impressive, the inspiration came mostly from our life in the band: traveling, living in a tour van, and missing home.
You sound like you really enjoyed the recording process. Which do you prefer, recording or touring?
The grass is always greener for me. When you're touring, you really crave the recording experience and when you're in the recording studio, you're itching to hit the road again. Really, we love all aspects of what we do. It's a pretty crazy ride.
Have there been any "I can't believe this is happening" moments since your first EP launched?
Getting a song on the FIFA 15 game was mega, and a while back we made it into The Hottest 100 countdown, which had been a dream for us for a long time! Actually, when we were touring with The Kooks, I got an entire crowd of 5,000 people to sing "Happy Birthday" to our Drummer, Lachlan. I can't believe that happened. It wasn't even his birthday.
What is the best party you've been to recently? And what do you think are the essential elements of a good party?
We organized a big boat party sponsored by Jack Daniels on Sydney Harbour about a month ago. That was pretty wild. The requirements for a good party are a good playlist and good people. A Jager bomb doesn't hurt the vibe either.
What's next for the band? Is there anyone you want to collaborate with, any sounds you want to experiment with, crazy places you want to play?
We're hitting the road and touring the US with Walk the Moon. We can't wait. After that we're hoping to go to Europe and the UK. And we would love to collaborate with Theophilus London!
There's an "Ask Us Anything" section of your website — how did that idea come about? And do you get any crazy questions?
It just started as a cool way to interact with fans, which is a big part of what we do. About nine out of every ten questions we get are totally absurd. We once got asked if we could send someone our pubes. That was a bit freaky… Needless to say, we didn't go through with it.
Text Courtney Iseman
Photography Ben Colen