GRAMPFATHER Seeks To Bring The World Together Through Murder Hornets -By: Joshua Reedy
Written by Staff on March 3, 2022
Grampfather are a Kingston band with a prolific ability to dynamically blend the fuzzy, prodding guitar blasts of psych-rock with the addicting, cool melodies of indie-rock. Their latest release Gramppappies boasts an eclectic mix of hard-hitting tracks, from the distorted stabs of “Murder Hornets” to the gliding riffs of “Poppies.” The band has featured a rotating crew built around guitarist/singer James Kwapisz and fellow long-term guitar player Andrew Blot. Grampfather’s rhythm section is composed of Tony DiMauro on drums and Jake Offermann on bass; the band is known for their electric live performances. Frontman James Kwapisz recently wrote in to discuss Gramppappies and what makes Grampfather such a unique band.
RRX: Before I get into more specific questions, why don’t you guys tell me a bit about your new album in your own words? What goals did you have when setting out to record this one?
JK: Gramppappies is my favorite of our albums so far. I think it comprehensively exemplifies our range of sounds/genres in a way that flows from song to song and isn’t disjunctive. While our last album, Magnum Grampus (2020), we think of as our “thrash album,” this one is a bit more dynamic. It starts off a bit thrashy and abrasive, kind of beginning where our last album ended, continuing the doomy theme, but as the album progresses the themes get more hopeful and the music gets lighter, chiller, and a little poppy at times.
The reason we titled the album Gramppappies is to draw attention to the pluralization of Grampfathers. I started the band in 2013 and have had members come and go throughout the years, but our current line-up is solid and dedicated to the project, so I wanted to shed light on all of us and not just me.
RRX: Tell me about where you guys recorded, is the album cover a photo of the studio?
JK: The album cover photo was taken in our studio space at Jake’s house. It’s actually in his bedroom. While we did record Tony’s drums there, the other instruments were recorded at our own places. I recorded my vocals and my guitar, synth, and bass parts at my house because I get kind of self-conscious and want to get everything perfect, thinking, “This is it; this is what the song will be forever–let’s get it right so there’ll be no regrets in the future.” Sometimes it takes me hours to get one instrument track done after countless takes.
RRX: I really enjoy the seamless blend of more technical psych rock and a kind of smooth alternative sound. Would you say that’s an accurate description and was this style intentional?
JK: Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. We’re big fans of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They’re so eclectic, prolific, and hit the nail on the head with each genre they explore–all qualities that we strive for in our music. Their influence especially shines through in songs like “The Myspace Tom Continuum,” “Dead Ends,” and “Odd Times for Odd Times” in that they, as the latter song indicates, explore odd time signatures and kind of proggy song structures.
RRX: I feel like your live energy is a huge draw for people, do you feel that capturing that raw emotion is a major focus when recording new material? Or do you like to keep the experiences of live/recorded material separate?
JK: Before I started the band, I used to make instrumental chill rock stuff under the name Cat People. I was inspired by the house/basement show scene in New Paltz, so I started a new band to emulate that rowdy, enlivening, and just fun energy. “Grampfather” came from the juxtaposition between the name and the youthful, energetic nature of the music. But it can’t be wild and in-your-face all the time. I think the fact that we waver between abrasive and chill stuff is what makes our live shows, and albums for that matter, alluring and never boring. I think of shows and albums like an EKG–the idea is to never flatline. Gotta keep ‘em on their toes.
RRX: Listening more closely to the lyrics on tracks like “Murder Hornets” there’s obviously a deeper message, how has the social climate impacted your music?
JK: “Murder Hornets” carries on the anger and frustration from Magnum Grampus that resulted from the shit show of 2020. After the seemingly endless tragedies of that year, the news of murder hornets just struck me as a cartoonish cherry on top of it all. But how long can you stay angry and frustrated? It’s not a great way to go about life. Sure, there are many things wrong with the world that we should be passionate about, but I don’t think being so divisive and extreme about them is doing much good.
RRX: What are some of your favorite contemporary bands, these could be local friends or huge bands you’d love to see.
JK: King Gizzard is a big influence, as I said earlier, but also Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, and The Strokes for the indie vibes, The Mars Volta for the chaotic, proggy explorations, and a bunch of others. People have told us we sound like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., and other bands that I hadn’t listened to until we received that feedback. Some cool local bands we dig are Moonunitt from New Paltz–super chill, tight, and pretty prolific–Lemon of Choice from Albany–surfy, chaotic psych rock and great stage presence, and many others that people should check out on our “Gramppappies’ Friends” playlist. Moon Tooth I think deserves a notable mention. They’re kind of like the hometown heroes in my eyes. In a previous line-up of the band, we used to practice in the same space–the guitarist Nick Lee and our former drummer Jesse Grayer used to live there. They’re blowing up. They just got signed to Pure Noise Records and were on Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums list in 2019. They’re a big inspiration for us.
RRX: I think my favorite moment on the new record might be the transition from the blistering solo on “Thad B. Radd” to the sweet and catchy riffs on “Poppies,” is that sort of juxtaposition something you guys thought about a lot?
JK: Yeah, so although we’re broke and can’t really afford to have vinyl records made at the moment, we think of the first five songs as the A side and the latter five as the B side. We chose the first songs of what we think of as the A and B sides, “Murder Hornets” and “Poppies,” to release as singles because they exemplify the hard rock quality of the first half of the album and the chill rock vibe of the second half.
RRX: What makes Kingston unique to you? What’s the go-to spot to catch a show?
JK: Kingston is awesome. After having lived in New Paltz on and off for five or so years while going to SUNY for undergrad and grad school, it was a great shift for me to move here. Being that New Paltz is a college town, it can make you feel ancient when you’re only in your late 20s. I do miss the abundance of bars and house/basement venues in New Paltz. In comparison, the Kingston music scene is pretty sparse, sadly. Tubby’s is a great spot for great shows, but it’s tiny. Since it’s like the only place in Kingston for live music, it can be hard to book there since they’re inundated with so many booking inquiries. The deaths of BSP and The Beverly were a big blow for the town’s music scene.
RRX: You’re all phenomenal players, how did you first come together as musicians? Do you find that you push each other to grow as songwriters?
JK: Besides me, Andrew’s been in the band the longest of the current line-up. I met him through our mutual friend Brandon, who–fun fact–played drums on the last three songs of our 2019 album The Gramp Stamp. Before meeting him it was tough for me to jive with other guitar players, but our styles blend pretty awesomely I think. He’s definitely a better lead guitar player than me, so it was nice to take a more reserved approach to writing my guitar parts, focusing on rhythm so as to let his lead guitar skills shine.
When our former drummer Matt told us that he planned to move to Philly, our former bassist Freddy hit up his friend Tony to join the band. Tony’s got a background in heavy rock, so after jamming with him I gleaned from his style and skills and was inspired to write some heavier stuff, utilizing his double bass pedal for example.
After graduating, Freddy moved back to Queens, so it was pretty tough to get together for practice. I met Jake at a dog birthday party–yep, you read that right. Our mutual friend Kevin had shown Jake Magnum Grampus, and he was a big fan of it, so I asked if he’d be interested in playing bass for us.
RRX: I love the sense of humor that comes out in some of the track names, where did the concept of “grampfather” and the personality behind the band come from?
JK: So yeah, again, the juxtaposition between an agéd, decrepit old man for the name and the enlivening, wavering energy of the music is pretty amusing to me, and I hope others feel the same. I think it’s fun to think up a bunch of ridiculous band names for projects that’ll probably never happen, many of which end up becoming song names. For example, “The Myspace Tom Continuum,” “Large Garbage,” and “Praised Bork” would be pretty funny band names. Maybe I’m the only one laughing, I don’t know. We have fun.
RRX: Finally, the album, “Gramppappies,” will already be publicly released when this interview is out (congrats!) Are there any shout outs you’d like to give or anything special you’d like to tell the readers?
JK: Thanks! We’re all so happy with how this album came out. Big thank yous to Westfall Recording Company for mastering the album and making the songs sound crispy, our friend Simon Mandic for filming and editing our music videos, Jake’s sister Emily Offermann for making the “Poppies” single art, Cole Solis-Jativa for designing the “Murder Hornets” single art, Jake for creating the album art, and to all my bandmates. After having so many people bail on this project, it’s so awesome to finally be making music and playing shows with such a committed group of amazingly talented, funny, and genuine people. I hope everyone enjoys the album. We’re always cooking, so follow us to stay updated on new music and shows.