And now for the first installment of Local Bin, our brand new, recurring column featuring interviews with local Philly bands. First up on the list is West Philly’s own Grandchildren. We sat down with lead singer and song writer, Aleks Martray, to ask him about Grandchildren’s recent travels to SXSW, his thoughts on the local music scene and the band’s plans for the future.
Aroundphilly: How did Grandchildren get started?
Grandchildren: We’ve all known each other for a long time, some of the guys even go as far back as middle school, high school, college, and we’ve played in various projects over the years. But Grandchildren as it exists now was sort of a perfect storm- everyone being together at the right place and right time in our lives. In 2006 we all ended up living in the same beat-up old Victorian house in west Philadelphia, which became known as Danger Danger, where we practiced, recorded, and held shows.
AP: What role has D!D!G played in the band’s evolution?
GC: Well, the original Danger house was ground zero for Grandchildren. While I was working on the original tracks up in my studio/bedroom there were shows raging in the basement featuring emerging and legendary acts. It was also sort of the “golden era” for us. But most importantly, through Tristan Palazzolo (drums/bass/keys) work as the main booker/promoter of the house and the current DDGallery, we got connected to an emerging network of DIY venues, promoters and bands that enabled us to start touring nationally in a sustainable way. This was key in our ability to build momentum and reach new audiences.
AP: Is there any certain meaning behind the band’s name?
GC: Roman Salcic, our drummer, came up with the name. It seemed to make more and more sense as we evolved into a small orchestra and it just stuck. I always picture a bunch of kids tinkering with stuff they find around them, their influences and environments coming out through the music. We all have a lot of different influences that span generations and geography, and from the demographics and feedback of our fan base, we seem to appeal to our parent’s generation as much as the kiddies today. I like music that brings people together, which I guess is what the name represents to me now. But it’s one of those things that wasn’t over intellectualized at the time, though it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Like most good names, it just fits.
AP: What are your opinions on Philly’s local music scene in recent years?
GC: We’ve been here long enough to see the natural ebb and flow of momentum in the scene and I think it’s really on an upswing. We just held our annual mega-show at DDG where we hosted what we consider some of the best Philly acts and seeing that all condensed in one night of music really revealed how much great music there is here. It reminded me a lot of the energy that was prevalent in the old Danger Danger house a few years back. What I’ve always loved about the scene here is that there is no one sound; it’s the most eclectic and authentic array of music that somehow manages to all make sense together.
AP: Tristan told me you guys were playing SXSW again- how did that go this year?
GC: I think that SXSW is something that takes 3 years to learn how to do right. We played 9 shows in about 5 days and had a great time, mostly due to having great friends as hosts, enough free food and booze to sustain us and the company of other Philly bands, of which I must say, it seemed like there were exponentially more this year. It was great catching up with Ryat, The Extraordinaires, and the Armchairs down in Austin. We also got to see a lot more music than we usually do including Oh Death who we’ll be touring with in April and 80’s icons Duran Duran. Can’t say I loved the extended sax solo, but they played the hits and that’s all I can ask for.
AP: What other local acts inspire you?
GC: There are way too many to list them all, but we are fans and friends of Dangerous Ponies, Ryat, the Extraordinaires, The Armchairs, Gang, and of course established national acts like Man Man.
AP: What do you want your fans to experience when they see you live?
GC: Even though we are this big, complicated, instrument-swapping, musical chairs, spectacle of a band, I think what draws people in is both the musicianship and the simple digestible melodies and lyrics that are the backbone of the songs. The soul of the songs that were written on that one acoustic guitar still peak through and tie it all together. It’s something that hits you in the gut when your watching it and sticks in your head after you leave. I think a lot of people think of striving to be catchy as shallow but, for us, it’s really about resonance with an audience, which actually gives music its depth. We try to give the accessibility of a pop show with the dramatic range of a night at the symphony. To us pop isn’t a dirty word, it’s just about connecting, even when it’s in unexpected ways.
AP: What’s next for the band in the near future?
GC: We’ll be on tour throughout the Midwest and Northeast through most of April with Oh Death and when we return we have a show May 1st at the TLA with Peter, Bjorn and John which we’re really excited about. Also we just added a couple shows opening for Man Man on April 27 at the Jefferson in Charlottesville, VA and on April 28 at Cat’s Cradle in NC (click here for tickets). Early summer we’ve set aside to focus on new recordings which have already begun. I’m looking forward to this since the studio is my favorite place to be. Fans can expect a new album sometime early next year, and they can expect it to be loyal but quite different.