Reviews

The Grasping Straws – Interview


Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)

PD: What type of artist are you?

TGS: We are grungy, jazzy, expressive, psychedelic, experimental, dreamy. Like an angry, angsty softness. Enveloped in dichotomies, a scream and a whisper, raw and controlled, dissonant and harmonious, abstract and specific. Each song is a moment in time as we connect ephemerally through sound and emotion.

Someone listening can expect unexpected leaps, dynamic shifts, introspective lyrics, raw emotion, teleportation, time travel, interplanetary connection. Our recordings are moments in time captured like a sonic time capsule. Our sound is always changing, transforming, evolving and escaping into the universe. 

 

PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.

TGS: Struggling to find a satisfying creative outlet, in 2012 I felt compelled to start writing songs and performing them to anyone who would listen- at parks, bars, subway stations, parties. It started with me, Rob and Oliver meeting up to play under the arch at Washington Square park with guitars and a cajon. Then I was immensely inspired by the antifolk scene at Sidewalk Cafe, and by the new music and art I was experiencing around New York City. One night I dreamed my childhood friend Sam was in the band with us playing the bass, and it came true. I remember the first time Jim’s drumming blew my mind in the basement of an NYU building. I started touring and playing a lot more shows, developing, screeching, sleeping on floors, and meeting soulmates. I started to accrue even more collaborators: Jake (bass), Henry (drums/percussion), Edwin (cello), Clair (viola/violin), Marcus (guitars) + more. Each iteration has a variety of sounds we embody and songs we play depending on serendipity and the moment and who is available for a specific show or tour or recording concept. We adapt to the space we’re in. Musical collaboration and sharing is a study of humanness. We’ve become like a collective, beyond the idea of a band with specific members and it’s the same every time. 

 

PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

TGS: Jeff Buckley, Björk, Cat Power, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden/Chris Cornell, Alice in Chains, Grace Slick, Heart, Jeffrey Lewis, Phoebe Kreutz, Debe Dalton, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, St. Lenox, Deerhoof, Hiatus Kaiyote, Laura Stevenson, Led Zeppelin, Screaming Females, the Gits, Courtney Love, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic, Fiona Apple, Tegan and Sara, Van Gogh, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Angela Davis, and so many more…

PD: What are your dreams and goals?

TGS: I am in love with touring. With the recent state of music and travel, this is the longest period of time I’ve gone without touring since 2014, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I’m excited to start booking our tour dates again, and to rejoin the larger DIY touring communities around the US, Canada and Europe. I can’t wait to see and travel with our bandmates in New Orleans again, Edwin and Clair on Cello and Viola!

 We have more recorded tracks in the works! I had a concept idea of what could be our first vinyl album release: Dichotomy. One band configuration on side A, and another on side B. I’d like to try and get all of the bandmates and collaboration captured through time. Two opposing forces create each other.

 I also want to get deeper into the summer festival circuit, and continue meeting new bands and exploring the overlapping music scenes in NYC.

 

PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?

TGS: Me, Mallory! I sing, write songs, and play rhythm guitar. I find myself writing about a wide array of topics including situations that frustrate me, existential dread, relationships, how capitalism is the antithesis of freedom (what’s free about conformity for money?), and my respect for life and nature amidst all of the intense weather changes and storming around us. One recent song was about how disorienting it can feel to live with so much less human connection, and so much more virtual connectivity. Writing gives me an outlet through which I can process my emotions and share them with my community.

On Halloween of 2020, I wrote a quarantine halloween song about how with the pandemic virus, the high death toll, and the state of our democracy in America, this was by far the scariest Halloween I’ve ever experienced.

 We also have a new single coming out! “Poetry” is about text message love letters. The NYC scene. The words. The poetic arousal of imagination. We develop new and insatiable curiosities as we make love with art.

 

PD: How do you promote your band and shows?

TGS: I created a website for us! https://www.thegraspingstraws.com/

I also use instagram and facebook, and I go out to support friends’ bands and seek out new music whenever and wherever I can. I’ve been appreciating the return of live music and being part of a community again so much.

I create lots of visual art, mostly in the form of weird drawings, and I make posters for our shows and wheat paste them up around the city! I’ve compiled an email list of people who have come to our shows over the years, and I let them know when we have shows and new music coming out!

 

PD: What do you think about downloading music online?

TGS: I’m not into illegal downloading. I’m all for streaming, and paying to download tracks from bandcamp, but storing lots of mp3 files gets unruly for me after a while. I like owning physical CDs, vinyl and artwork from bands I love. I think buying merch and attending live shows is the best way to support bands.

 

PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?

TGS: “The Ballad of Throat Culture” by Phoebe Kreutz comes to mind because I think it’s the best-written song I’ve ever heard. The first time I heard this song, Jeffrey Lewis covered it at a live show. It stood out to me because the lyrics are so poignant and funny, and it tells a story about the experience of forming a band. Highly recommended.

 

PD: What are some of your pet peeves?

TGS: People who talk too much/too loudly at a show while the artist is playing- especially at a really quiet or interesting moment in a song. Close talkers. Apologizing too much. Being in a group of people with everyone’s faces buried in their phones. Anything to do with the DMV/bureaucracy/capitalism- you’d better not lose that piece of paper! 

 

PD: What is your proudest moment in music?

TGS: Our second tour in Europe felt amazing!! We had loads of adventures and some really successful and interesting shows. Edwin (cellist) and I played a show in Freiburg, Germany at a Wagenplatz (an anarchist trailer park) filled with artists and structures made with found materials. We made collages during the daytime zine fest, and then we opened for a cello duo from Berlin called Razor Cunts. At night, we sat around a bonfire. I got chilly and was encouraged to take a jacket from the free store. We went to sleep in our wooden trailer with lots of blankets.

I’m also really proud of the new recordings we’re working on now, with the help of Mat from Animal Farm (mixing/producing/mastering). Very excited about our single release, and being able to play live shows again!

 

 

PD: So what are you working on at the moment?

TGS: Writing and rewriting songs, booking shows, and putting some finishing touches on some more new recordings.

 We recorded 7 songs at Ground Control Studio with Murray Trider before the pandemic. That studio has the drums in a windowed isolation room, so we were able to capture very clean and well-recorded drum parts as we played live. I took the stems and I’ve added layered vocal and guitar parts from home, taking my time with it and learning more about the home recording process. I released the first track from this project, “Help” on the winter solstice of 2020, mixed by Somer Bingham, along with a music video created by Erica Schreiner. 

 Our new single, “Poetry” is the next track from this recording project, which was mixed and produced by Mat from the Animal Farm. “Poetry” will be released on Sept 12th 2021 at Mercury Lounge in NYC, and we’ll be screening our music video by Erica Schreiner!!! and Erica will be VJing during our set!! We’re opening for our friends Lorraine Leckie and her Demons!!! More shows in the works, and I’m thinking about planning a small tour for us around the Northeast US.

 

 

PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?

TGS: Here’s a description of all of our releases. All available through bandcamp, and our website.

https://thegraspingstraws.bandcamp.com/ 

https://thegraspingstraws.com/ 

 We released our first demo in 2013 which was recorded and produced by Joanna Fang and Nick Zinnanti. These recordings captured us with a jazzy experimental feeling featuring saxophone and some of our first songs. 

 Next in 2015, we released our first album, recorded on 8 Track 1/2” tape with Alex P. at Basement Floods Records. We stayed the weekend in Woodstock, NY (before Basement Floods relocated to Catskill), and Alex would make breakfast for us while the tapes rewound in the morning. This album captured us exploring distortion and tape delay effects. We used my dad’s rat pedal from the 80’s and felt inspired by the analog recording process.

 We recorded again in 2018 at Ground Control Studio with Murray Trider. I released the first track from this project, “Help” on the winter solstice of 2020, mixed by Somer Bingham, along with a music video created by Erica Schreiner. 

 On Halloween 2020, I woke up with an idea of this song in my head. I spent the day playing around with it and thinking about how with the pandemic virus, the high death toll, and the state of our democracy in America, this is by far the scariest Halloween I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to see if I could write, record, and mix the song by myself in one day, and I think performing it as a solo-acoustic track is emblematic of what musician life in isolation is like. There are two voices, and they are both my own. I released it as soon as possible in November 2020, because I wanted it to evoke a specific moment, the same feelings when I wrote it.

The Grasping Straws links:
Band/Artist location – New York City
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