The Griswolds Talk New Album, High Times For Low Lives
During the Texas leg of The Low Lives Tour, we sat down with Australian rockers, The Griswolds, to talk about their new album, High Times For Low Lives. The band opens up about working with super producer Andrew Dawson, and the creative process behind making their new record. The Griswolds have been a thriving force in the alternative scene in recent years with hits such as “Beware Of The Dog” which charted at number 33 on the Billboard Hot Rock Charts. Or you may know their latest single, “Out Of My Head”; a catchy pop ballad sure to ignite them to superstardom.
Armed with a new record and a relentless tour schedule, the potential is endless for the young quartet. The energy never died during their set at House of Blues Dallas on February 19, getting every person in the audience off their feet and dancing along.
Guitarist, Danny Duque-Perez, and Bassist, Tim John, gave us the scoop on life before and after the new record.
Danny Duque-Perez: Guitar/Keys
Tim John: Bass
Your first releases had an indie/alternative sound but the new record is full of funk/dance anthems. What was the process like with taking the new album in a different direction?
Tim: Well we were very locked into the indie/alternative scene and that was never really our intention. We always kind of wanted to do an album like this; it just happened to be that way with the first album. We were working with a producer, Tony Hoffer, who’s a freaking genius and he just filled that role, I guess. It was very alternative and that wasn’t really the world we wanted to be in. We wanted to play for everyone and not just this little indie/alternative pocket. We were always into that type of music, so we wanted to go for a more hip-hop/R&B-type vibe.
Danny: Lots of Prince, Michael Jackson, and 70’s Motown type grooves were big influences. The whole record was built off of a groove. If the song didn’t move us, we didn’t write it. It was either going to be fully down-tempo or all about the groove. So yeah, it was really fun and then we brought it to life before we even started working with Andrew, our producer. When Andrew Dawson heard it, he pretty much got it straight away. The album really didn’t change that much with Andrew. We worked off the demos mostly and then replaced stuff, but mainly picked off the demos. Some things Andrew brought were just totally crazy.
What was the process like working with Andrew Dawson? He’s worked on several Kanye albums as well as other major hip-hop releases.
Danny: I personally think that he’s my favorite producer around. The only way I can explain it is that he’s like a five-year-old kid who gets to play with his favorite toy every day. He’s never lost that enthusiasm for music. He’ll go into the studio and never have a bad day. The best thing about Andrew is that he has never ever took control in a way that was dominating. He would do it in a sneaky way so people wouldn’t know he was taking the driver’s seat. Then you finally hear it back and you’re like, “Shit! Okay, that is really really cool and so much better.”
He’s a bit of a wise owl like that.
The way we found Andrew was through our record label. Wind-Up Records kept sending us producers and it was getting to the point where if we didn’t find a producer, we were going to have to push this whole record back. So we started putting on records that we love and every time we heard a song that we loved the sound of it, we looked up the producer. Andrew Dawson. Next track, look it up, Andrew Dawson.
Tim: He actually hadn’t solely produced a lot by that point so we were thinking, “Let’s give it a go!”
Danny: He had only really done production with Kanye and Pet Shop Boys, or some really obscure stuff. It’s just so cool man, at the end of the process he’s really the first person that I’ve worked with where we actually became best friends in real life.
Tim: That’s how we knew we could trust him, because of his work on the Kanye albums. We had a rule where we could only ask him one question a day about things he’s worked on. Every day he’s enthusiastic about music and everyone vibes with it.
Was it always the intention to lead with “Out Of My Head” as the single?
Danny: Not at all. We didn’t even want that song on the album. Of course when we did release it, the song took off to some extent. But, I really think had we chose to lead with a different song, we would have had a much better start to our record. It’s the only song I skip, I can’t even listen to it live. The only reason why I don’t like the song is because it’s kind of anti what we’re about now.
Tim: The thing was, we knew what elements it had. The whole idea with the album is for it to not sound like that. When we were writing and trying to figure out what the album was going to sound like, we thought: “You know, we keep saying we’re influenced by hip-hop and R&B, but that’s not really what the first song sounds like.”
I find it fun to play live because it feels like a real rock song. You can’t deny it and we can’t deny that it’s a really strong song. Which sucks when you write a really strong song and you’re like “Shit!”
Danny: We really tried to make the song different. We tracked it at least three different ways and spent way too much time on it. Every time all of us thought, “That’s not right.” So we had to go back to the way we originally wrote it which is so defeating, but that’s how it was. We were like that with “Beware Of The Dog” too.
Tim: Oh yeah, we didn’t even want to release that one. I remember sending an email saying: This is suicide, we’re screwing the album straight away if we release that song.
...and it did great.
Danny: It blows my mind when you release something everyone has already heard a million times but you release it, and it still does something. You’re like “What the fuck do people want? I don’t understand.”
What was the total time it took to put the record out?
Danny: I guess it was around two years, but realistically one year of actually getting down to work-hard writing. We were trying to do it between tours. We’d do a month of writing, get out on the road for three months, then come back and do two more months of writing, then gone again for another two months.
Tim: We probably didn’t use a single thing we wrote on the road; it’s very uninspiring.
We spent the majority of the writing process in a house in the Australian bush with no phone reception, Wi-Fi, or telephone. The water was through pumps so if the power went out, you had no water. It was like 100 degrees in the Australian summer.
Was there anything different you did in the writing process for High Times For Low Lives that you hadn’t done with previous releases?
Tim: One thing we started using was samples. We got all of these sounds and were like, “Fuck yeah! I’m going to grab this bass drum and this shit.”
Danny: To be honest, the majority of the album was samples.
Tim: Absolutely, we didn’t have a no-guitar rule, but we had a don’t start a song with a guitar rule. A lot of the first album was real guitars.
Danny: I was getting pretty mad. I would start a song with a guitar riff and same in the studio too. We would be tracking the record and hear the guitar and kind of fade it down.
Your music videos are really entertaining and have some far out interesting concepts to them, where do those ideas come from?
Danny: Spit-balling and throwing ideas out there. We’ve never released a video on time.
Tim: The “Out Of My Head” video came out like six years after the record. We’re very picky with the editing. I love the “Beware Of The Dog” video. The “If You Wanna Stay” video we shot out in Australia, that was sick.
It’s really weird when you get concepts from people. You’ll send out a song and they’ll send you the strangest shit. I don’t know how many of them we actually used.
Danny: It’s weird cause you get writing on a page and you can’t see what the visionary is looking at. There are so many music videos out there, so you have to have the creative and art teams around you because they’re good and you kind of just need to stay out of it.
Tim: It’s all about the director.