Grass House admire their heroes out loud. More than just by the music, they are inspired by the work ethic, perseverance, and patience of such greats as Captian Beefheart, Brian Eno, and Johnny Cash. It makes no difference to them whether they hail from the US or the UK, for truth and good music are universal interests, and not too hard to come by when you are surrounded by great friends who think alike. Band members Liam Palmer and Steven Dove shed some insight on what prompted their journey down America’s beaten highway, and why that journey’s only just begun.
How did you find your way to this sort of music? Did you grow up near a really good record store, stocked particularly with Americana? If so, did you get hacked-up versions of albums, the same way we did for the Beatles, Kinks, et al?
Steven: It’s a strange one really, none of us (bar Ross) grew up in a city so there were no record stores around, certainly not good ones, in fact the closest thing I had to a record store was the high street Woolworths.
I also went to school during the arrival of the Internet so in the early days it was sharing CDs, mixtapes and what not with friends, stealing stuff from parents, that kind of thing. Fortunately, amongst my Mum and Dad’s Chris Rea collection were a few gems, a lot of Johnny Cash, early Rolling Stones, lots of Motown so you inadvertently become fans of these musicians at a young age and that’s the foundation blocks of great taste!
I hear some Johnny Cash and Tom Waits in your sound, as well as barrels of reverb; do you strive for a certain purposeful muddiness? A kind of impure purity?
Steven: Well observed, we’re all big fans of both those guys!
As far as reverb goes, there’s never the intention of making anything muddy as such, it’s a tool which we like to use to create space, offering a sort of musical soundscape for the vocals to sit on.
When did this desire to pursue music come about? When did you feel comfortable quitting your day-jobs (literally or in a manner of speaking)?
Liam: I’ve been plugging away writing songs since I was 13 years old and Steven and I both started playing guitar together back in Yorkshire on holidays from uni but not properly until we both moved down to London, it’s always been the dream that it would succeed on some level and pay for us to live, not just yet though!
We’re all are either working or studying and I’d quite like for us to remain doing other things in order that the music keeps fresh, I’ve always been wary of what happens when bands get too much time and self-importance, it’s good to keep grounded in order for better ideas to flow. I think if we gave up work/study and indulged ourselves completely in music we’d have a significantly shorter shelf life.
Do you feel like things are happening for you guys relatively quickly?
Liam: No – sometimes it feels like we’re going in slow motion. The problem with starting a band is setting unrealistic timeframe markers, I think our younger selves, on conception of this band, would look at where we are now and not be overly ecstatic, but like anything it’s so much more complex and hard work than you can envisage.
One of the toughest things about being in a band is the interpersonal dynamic, it took us a long time to get it right, but is incredibly important, it’s the kind of thing that if rushed will blow the whole thing up later down the line.
Although everything’s always felt like it was progressing, however slowly, it seems like right now things are really starting to fall into place, we’ve got great people around us and it really means we can step back and concentrate on the music.
Did you have support from a local network of musicians?
Liam: We know a few people in bands, though not all that many, and in bands not all that similar to us. It’s good to be around other people in the same boat because at times it’s a frustrating old process so it’s good to have that common ground with others, it stops you feeling like it’s a personal thing every time something goes tits-up.
For the single Al Spx (of Cold Specks) came down and helped out with some vocals, it was really nice having her involved, she’s got a hell of a voice and added a lightness that we can’t get with our bottom heavy voices. Since then we’ve become good friends and we’re going to do a couple of dates on her upcoming tour with them.
What is this UK fascination with early American culture? Then again, the same can be said about an American fascination with 60s/80’s British culture…
Steven: America is such a big machine that it’s impossible not be influenced by it on some level and whether it’s the movies you watch, the food you eat or the music you listen to it will more often than not heed reference to some form of American pop culture.
Be it New York in the 60’s, Kraut-rock Germany or Joe Meek in 50’s London, I’m fascinated by interesting people doing interesting things, creating whole waves of new ideas and without wanting to sound too pretentious the beauty of all of these things is that they’ll live on forever, longer than any of us. I guess that’s one of the main inspirations to writing/recording music or any art form for that matter.