Q&A: GRMLN In The Raw: Before, During, And After Their Bootleg Show
By Cynthia Orgel; Photos by Cristina Dunlap on December 28, 2012
GRMLN isn’t just another band that would swiftly lose a spelling bee for lack of vowels. You'd have a tough time getting this indie rock quartet of college guys to even stand still for a spelling bee. Between getting signed to Carpark Records a few months ago, releasing the lo-fi dream-pop/rock EP, Explore, this past fall and currently gearing up for the release of their debut LP and tour—both predicted for summer 2013—they just don't have time for a lousy ‘E’ and ‘I'.
Hours before the band’s set last night, presented by KXLU 88.9FM, frontman and songwriter, Yoodoo Park, steps outside of the Bootleg Bar with a box of Explore vinyl and a cup of Diet Coke, to shiver while discussing the new album, how he came to major in Psychology at UC Santa Cruz, and returning to his homeland of Kyoto, Japan each summer.
After a couple rounds of ping-pong backstage, the rest of GRMLN—bassist and older brother, Taesan Park, drummer Keith Freirichs, and guitarist Kambiz Sharavini—are ready to talk about their most clichéd New Year’s resolutions.
Cristina Dunlap captures the band during their brief, but bold half-hour set—showcasing intense new material full of thundering drums, sour vocals, and sparkling guitar riffs, rooted in rock and drifting away from more mellow ambient efforts—plus post-applause, for a little photo booth fun.
How did your psychology finals go last quarter? Did you ace ‘em?
Not really. I’m not really a book person. Honestly, I just started doing psychology because Natalie Portman was a really big, not influence, but person I looked up to. She got a Psych degree at Harvard or something.
And she raps too!
Yeah, exactly! But now I’m not really into her, so…
Do you have a new celebrity crush?
Kate Winslet. Titanic’s like my favorite movie right now.
Did you see it in 3D?
No, I didn’t. I saw Jonas Brothers in 3D though. That was pretty bad, I mean...good. I liked it. Three-fourths of the theater was filled with 13-year-old girls and I was the only really tall Asian guy just creeping and watching Jonas Brothers.
What was the last concert that you went to?
I’ve been to a lot of the small, local band stuff, but a big show that I went to was probably a couple years ago, actually, for No Age at The Glass House.
What are some of your go-to albums?
Right now, it’s kind of cliché to say, but MGMT is really big. Musically, I think they’re hitting the right spots. MGMT and Vampire Weekend would be my favorite songs that I listen to in cars. For MGMT, Oracular Spectacular, and Vampire Weekend’s first album: Vampire Weekend.
You were born in Japan. Do you still return every single summer?
Yeah, I have relatives there. It’s a fun time to relax.
Does it influence your music at all, being over there?
Not necessarily musically, but [definitely] culturally. There’s a lot of people who live in different places where they don’t really feel connected to, but at the same time, they go back. Going to college and stuff, everyone moves around, finding that one place that they call “home". The stuff that I experience in Japan, I guess I do sometimes write about: identity crises-kind-of-thing.
Do you feel like you’ve found it? Or are you still kind of searching around?
Honestly, at this point, I feel like I now have many homes [Kyoto, Orange County, Santa Cruz] so rather than trying to find a home, I feel comfortable everywhere. Getting comfortable with where you’re at, rather than trying to go back to the same place, is a good thing.
I read that your EP was kind of your way of doing a soundtrack to your road trips. How would this full-length fit in? Does it sound similar?
The new stuff I just recorded, I was experimenting more with distortion [and] going more electric. I was trying to make ambient music [with my first EP]. Recording-wise, I wasn’t given the proper equipment; whatever I would play would become lo-fi and distorted, so I tried to purposely make it ambient and easy to listen to.
Now, I just recorded at [Different Fur Studios in San Francisco] and the drums are more complex. I was able to use electric guitars without making it sound as mushy. We just got back like five days ago.
I think the influence on this upcoming album is more of a live setting. Explore was mostly based on me enjoying the music while listening to it on drives, but this [upcoming album] has more of a live feeling; where people would probably enjoy it more going to shows, rather than enjoying it in their cars. It was recorded within five days, so it’s just [about] getting it down and playing live for imminent touring.
Why should somebody see your band live?
A lot of the riffs and stuff, I was imagining playing live—more upbeat, I guess—so people would get into it more live. I love shows where people are dancing and getting into the music. I just love watching people have fun. I’m an observer, like an owl, just watching people.
That’s your spirit animal.
No! My spirit animal is actually a pencil.
I took a survey, and they were like, ‘your spirit animal is a pencil!’ I’m like, ‘okay, that’s not even an animal.’
Where did you find this survey?
I don’t know, it was online. I was bored in class. I thought it would be a buffalo because I really love bison and buffalo. F
GRMLN on New Year’s resolutions:
Yoodoo: Finish my Jenny Craig’s diet.
FILTER: How are you doing on it?
Yoodoo: Really bad!
FILTER: I can’t tell if you’re serious.
Yoodoo: I’m half-serious.
Keith: Well, I’m pretty skinny already, so maybe the opposite of Jenny Craig. Like, John Goodman. Also to save more gas [and] ride my bike more. I seem to drive around a lot.
Taesan: I actually need to gain weight. Seriously.
Kambiz: To exercise. I need to gain some muscle weight.