goodstuff 033

Rebecca Steele photographer

Grails Tap

The sound cultivated by Portland, Oregon-based band Grails on their latest release, Deep Politics, is out of this world. Level had a chance to speak with founding member Emil Amos and get some insights on the project.

For those unfamiliar, tell me a bit about how you guys got together as Grails, and some of the projects you’ve worked on leading up to Deep Politics.

The band has been around since around late ’99/early ’00… it feels like it’s gone from being a typical ‘band’ that played weekend shows to some sort of art production warehouse at this point… there’s more of a back room/mad scientist element in revealing these experiments to the rest of the world than the usual trajectory or goal-set of a normal band. It’s more of a lab that churns out various forms of art and throws the name ‘Grails’ over it.

When did you first start working on the current project?

This record took just over a year to complete… but it’s hard to remember when it started exactly. We’ve been traveling a lot and working on various projects so that made the process more choppy than usual. The disparate nature of the styles on Grails records usually reflects how many different record collecting tears we’ve been on in that particular year. Deep Politics has some pretty obvious sonic affinities, but hopefully the variation/re-imagination keep it above being more than just a shallow amalgamation of genre flirtations.

I’ve read that some of the inspiration for the record came through investigating the relatively obscure library music era of the 1970s. How did you come to experimenting with some of these sounds and themes?

Library music is pretty standard fare for hip hop DJs so it’s relatively inevitable that you’ll end up in that crevice at some point when studying obtuse 70s production… and we’re always looking for a idyllic area in music that will grant us total stylistic freedom. Every genre we’ve messed with generally presents its own dead end so we’re continually looking around for something without a ceiling… library music, like film music, comes relatively close to giving us that kind of freedom. Softcore soundtracks, hip hop production, melancholy Italian piano ballads and German hippie prog/folk all presented implied freedoms that helped build the albums’ sonic template, but any one of those things alone would’ve been too boring and nerdy to get stuck in.

Your albums have all been self produced. How did this project differ from some of the others you’ve worked on in terms of recording and production styles and techniques?

Our record collecting interests just drift across different eras and styles (I’m currently addicted to Barry White) and the records follow whatever passing fetishism has a hold on our minds. We’re terminally bored with any rule-based record production so each song has at least one element that we haven’t tried before… unconsciously this kind of progressive production/composition probably motivates our band more than playing or touring… it’s as though production is a way of life… like it would’ve been for any film soundtrack composer who woke up everyday, had some coffee and went down to the studio.

Are you planning any shows in support of the project?

There’s an east coast tour coming up in April beginning in Louisville, stretching up into Canada and ending down in Chicago. The west coast is being planned for sometime around two months after that.

Are there any other projects from Grails we should be on the lookout for in the coming months?

Next we’ve got a split release lined up for sometime in the fall called Black Tar Prophecies 5 with one of our favorite bands.

, 21 February 2011