Interview : Grooms

8 Feb

Travis Johnson (pictured far left) is the guitarist/vocalist of Brooklyn-based trio Grooms. He used to be really into Project Runway, but after his abode became television-less, he realized he didn’t care for it enough to stream online, like The Office, Mad Men, or the Colbert Report. Johnson moved from suburban Texas to Brooklyn in 2004, and for the past few years, he’s played in the band The Muggabears, another Brooklyn trio with one of his current band-mates. Last October, Grooms released their 10 tracks of rocking noise-pop on their first album, “Rejoicer,” on Death by Audio. Grooms may not be hitting up Toronto in the near future, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worldly. Drummer Jim Sykes has spent a good deal of time in Sri Lanka studying a ritual-drumming genre, and is now finishing his University of Chicago Ph.D. dissertation on ethnography. Here, Travis Johnson talks about Grooms’ next album, Chris Isaak, and a call to arms for more experimental music.

Dirtbag Journalism: One of the tracks from your album “Rejoicer” is called “Dreamsucker.” In your opinion, what/who is the largest sucker of dreams and why?

Grooms: Well, the song is a reference to being a sucker FOR a dream, not of it.  The dream basically being the idea that there actually is something transcendent and personal that loves us all.  So I guess a sucker of dreams would be anything that counters that.

DJ: What is the most important thing that one should know about New York and living in New York that nobody ever told you or will ever tell you?

G: If you have a car, everyone will want rides.

DJ: In Brooklyn, where you are surrounded by almost millions of bands, how do you make sure that you stand out from the others? As a band in the heart of everything, what do you see as the greatest challenge for bands (and yourselves) today?

G: Ultimately, probably the best thing to do is just to make music you want to make and not give a damn if it fits in with any trends in the Brooklyn music scene.  I guess that won’t guarantee that you’ll stand out, but it’ll guarantee that you don’t get lumped in with something that no one will care about in a year.  Just make ridiculous, brave music, no matter what, I guess.

DJ: Rumour has it that you guys are releasing an album this year. What should we be expecting from the next release?

G: We’re hoping it’ll be ready later this year.  It’s about half-way ready for recording, but we’re working fast. We were going to call it Gay War but I don’t know if that’s still the plan.  I don’t know how well it fits the songs that have been coming along. At first we just thought it was a really evocative title that had a few meanings that we liked, and it went well with the name of the band.  Maybe not the best idea though:)

DJ: With all of the hustling involved in the music business, how does one stay happy?

G: I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this!

DJ: What have been the positive and negative effects (i.e. challenges/opportunities) of changing your band name after spending years under the one moniker?

G: Well, we really wanted it to be a new band, not just a new name.  We switched out 1/3 of the band when we changed the name and he’s a lot different than what came before.  The positive effects are not having to call ourselves the Muggabears anymore, or having to tell people how it’s spelled, etc.  Not really too many negative effects. I guess at first it was hard to Google.

DJ: Your Chris Isaak cover of “Wicked Games” last year was beautiful. Do you include that song ever in your live set? Should we expect any covers this year as well?

G: Thanks!  We probably play it one in four shows.  It’s fun and soft in ways most of our songs aren’t.  I figured out how to play a pretty close version of “Every Breath You Take” in one of my tunings the other night at practice.  So maybe that’ll happen? Probably not though.  “Wicked Game” was one of my favourite songs of all time so it was bound to happen.

DJ: A lot of music that fits into a “noise-pop” or “no-wave” label has becoming pretty popular as of last year. What factors have attributed to this rise in popularity?

G: I think the biggest factor is that people are considering things noisy or no-wavy when they’re really not.  Most of the stuff that got fairly popular seemed to me like, basically, pop, with some rough production thrown on top.  I hope some more experimental bands will rise up though!

DJ: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

G: Read more Kierkegaard.

Posted by : Melissa Kim

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