Do you ever find yourself aware, in the moment, that you are experiencing something historical? That you’re part of something big, a cultural revolution...or an artistic renaissance? I don’t know if I’ve ever expressed this directly, but this is the feeling I get from our beautiful little music community. When I’m at a house show, meeting with artists to collaborate, sharing ideas with friends, or planning out events, I am so inspired and uplifted by the incredible people who surround me. Some moments stand out more than others, but they’re all precious to me. One of these stand out moments is the first time I saw Grocer play at Johnny Brendas.
I imagine that seeing Grocer at Johnny Brenda’s was a similar experience to seeing Talking Heads at CBGB. When you watch Grocer on stage, you just get this gut feeling that you’re witnessing something seriously special, something historic. Their talent as musicians is a bottomless well and their ease and confidence on stage is electrifying. They just released their latest album, Little Splash, on May 22nd. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to it for the past few months and it is one of my favorite albums to come out this year. Each song is so different from the last, but still so cohesive. It was recorded over a three year span and in home studios across three different states and was mixed/mastered by Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets in Rhode Island. Check out my interview with Cody (drums/vocals), Emily(guitar/vocals) Danielle (bass/vocals) and Nick (guitar/vocals):
CVZ:When did you start playing music?What inspired you to start playing and writing your own music?
C: I started playing piano for these surreal cancer telethon things as early as 4 years old and the rest was history. it feels like I’ve been around instruments since before I had memories, my brain thinks in terms of music and just about nothing else.
N: I started playing bass when I was 15. I wanted to be like Mark Hoppus (lol). I switched to guitar in the band only a few years ago. I’ve been writing music since I started playing. It’s always been something that I’m really drawn to.
D: Growing up, I’d always be singing with my mom and sister so singing has been a constant in my life. When Nick and I first started playing together 10 years ago, I was a ukulele player, but I happily have moved on to a far superior four stringed instrument when we moved to Philly.
E: I started teaching myself guitar when I was about 13 and really into old blues music. It quickly became an obsession, though for a few years I mostly played the bass because I’m shy and like to stand in the back during shows.
CVZ: How do you describe your sound? Who or what influences your sound?
C: Adrienne Lenker and Buck Meek are my personal guiding lights for sure. As for the band, The Pixies have this immediate, unpredictable alt-rock style that we all hold close to our heart so maybe Grocer is an alt-rock band? We have tons of three-part harmonies and did just get genre-tagged as ‘punk/hardcore’ though so who knows.
N: Pixies (obviously ^), Dirty Projectors especially Bitte Orca era. Arthur Russell…
D: The Zombies, Astrid Gilberto, Sufjan Stevens…
E: I gravitate towards anything in the 90’s rock genre, or pretty much anything with a lot of dissonance. If I had to spend the rest of my life only listening to Sonic Youth, I’d be perfectly happy.
CVZ:What themes did you explore in these songs?
Most of the songs came on the heels of the 2016 election and our decision to leave NYC. There was a feeling of wanting to break from our lives, and start anew. Some heavy themes of malaise, anxiety, depression, with attempts at social commentary peppered in. Hard to relate to any of that stuff in 2020, though (lol).
N: Danielle, Emily and I moved back to Philly in 2017. We were all really burnt out on the cut-throat atmosphere of New York and wanted to be somewhere that valued quality of life a little more, somewhere we’d have any chance at all to find a community. Philadelphia was an obvious choice as it was where Danielle and I lived previously, and started playing music together. Cody moved to Philly from Minnesota where he had lived his whole life, until answering our FB post seeking a drummer in Philly.
C: The fact that I came here from the midwest while the rest of them moved from NYC is an endlessly funny thing to me. It’s a weird Benjamin Button situation where I’m starry-eyed looking up at all the buildings with three people who are sorta over it lol.
CVZ: What do you hope people get out of listening to your band?
C: I’m only pretty confident I speak for everyone here, but I know my sense of personal belonging is just about universally connected to music, either playing or listening to it. On my worst days, I can still find ways to connect to the world through its means. It’s the great equalizer, as lame of a phrase as that is, a perfect companion for emotions and situations that are challenging or not even understood yet. If someone has ever been comforted that way through something that we’re doing with this band, it’s hard to ask for more.
CVZ: Anything I didn’t ask that you feel is worth including, anything you’d want readers to know, etc.
C: If you haven’t listened to the Hecks yet, listen to the Hecks.
Check out Little Splash below!
by Kristen Levine