PHOTOGRAPHY Nuria Rius
WORDS Julian de la Celle
If you're asking yourselves, "Who the hell are Grim River?" it's probably because they haven't really released any music except two demos which you can find on their Soundcloud page. What they do have to offer is fucking good. Even though they now all reside in New York, they're all from out of state. "We're a nice little snapshot of the USA," says Alex. "Drew's from Sacramento, Aris is from Tucson, Trey's from Richmond, I'm from Boston." Right now, they're focusing on recorded more music so that they can put out something new for our ears and our souls.
So, tell me a bit about how you guys all met and when and why you decided to start a band together?
Drew: Alex wizarded it all. We were all bored.
Aris: Alex and I used to play in an outfit by the name of Psychic Warden, some 3-4 happy years ago. When the band dispersed in mid-2014, the guitarist and I left for London to pursue the theatre.
Alex: Then the following year Trey and I got set up to jam by our girlfriends. No shit, it was a playdate. It was too strange and funny to say no. The synergy was pretty electric, and of course he turned out to be a singular talent so I was determined to stuff him in a burlap bag and take him away from everyone else who would want a taste of his power. Around then Aris moved back to New York, ready to jump right back into action, and I asked Drew if he wanted to hang. We've been gum in each other's hair ever since.
There's very little to find from you guys online, but what there is to find is really cool! Do you remember the first time you were really exposed to rock music, and if so, what it was?
Aris: Probably when I was touched.
Alex: Everyone in my family is a musician so there were always good sounds bouncing around the house. My dad is a jazz guy first and foremost, but he could hang with all the rock everyone worships from the 60s and 70s and my older sister was always heavy into Beatles. I got sucked deep into the vortex of all the early-aughts nu-metal garbage my friends loved. Maybe all the jazz in the house had made music originally seem more like something for people who do crossword puzzles, and I hadn't realized it could be something more elemental. Once I started playing I finally learned up on Sabbath and all the old players I grew to love: Ginger Baker, Billy Cobham, Tony Williams etc.
Trey: One of my hip aunts exposed me to rock music. She had just moved in with her boyfriend and they had a bunch of the same CDs and cassettes. She offered me the duplicate CDs so I walked away with all these contemporary releases: REM, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mazzy Star, Blood Sugar Sex Magic.
Drew: Christian Rock radio.
Do you remember what the first record that you bought was?
Alex: Issues by Korn. I tricked my mom into letting me get it by presenting it to her with my thumb over the Parental Advisory sticker.
Drew: Big Willie Style.
Trey: Vs. by Pearl Jam
How about your first concert?
Alex: Of my own choosing? Once again, Korn. That was before their ranks swelled to, what is it now, forty people and a DJ. I one hundred percent saw Barenaked Ladies with my mom before that though.
Trey: Not really a concert, but I remember old-timey bluegrass musicians picking in a circle after service or at a town parade or something. I was 8 or 9 before I ever saw a live rock band plug in. Music was always around, but more as a back drop to something like church service or a fish fry.
Drew: Britney Spears/A*Teens.
When you aren't playing music, what are you guys up to?
Drew: We went quarters on a car and do Uber/Lyft.
Trey: Everyone in the band lives a sort of creative lifestyle, for better or worse.
Alex: When we're using our time thoughtfully, Trey's a graphic designer, Aris makes jewelry, Drew's a photographer, and I write, sometimes on my own but typically with two partners.
If you could spend 24 hours with someone in music, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Aris: Townes van Zandt or Bach.
Trey: It'd be cool to jam with some of the greats, I don't know about hanging out, though.
Alex: All our friends in all these bands we've played with because the hanging's that easy. I think many people's dead idols would turn out to have creepy hang-ups common to past generations anyway.
Drew: Young Madonna.
Do you guys have a spirit animal?
Alex: The box of garbage bags that gets fed to the last bag from inside itself.
How did you guys come up with the name Grim River?
Drew: No idea.
Trey: Every other name we came up with sounded like a boutique tattoo parlor.
Alex: Picking a name for your new band sucks with Old Testament power every single time, I swear. I've never known it any other way.
Aris: When we were caught on the Rio Grande up a shit stream with no paddle, right?
Are you guys all from New York?
Alex: We're a nice little snapshot of the USA. Drew's from Sacramento, Aris is from Tucson, Trey's from Richmond, I'm from Boston. Aris and I both moved here in 2008, Drew and Trey weren't far behind. I don't understand how we, or any band in New York at this stage, are still kidding ourselves. Being a drummer here in particular is like a cruel 1800s Russian joke -- I touch a drum kit with the living tissue in my hands two days a week. I think obsessively every day about how fucked in the head we are for not going just about anywhere else. If we lived even an hour outside of town, the work-play balance would become unrecognizable, and we'd live in imitation Scottish castles for a dollar. You meet fascinating people here, but that can't be enough to justify the toxic avarice that runs it all. The party was long-dead already by 2008 and it only gets creepier here every second. All the other American cities with "booming creative classes" are getting glassed up just as fast and sometimes faster, so if you want a free, creative life in 2016 and you're not made of money, move to the middle of nowhere with your friends and keep your heads down (don't install an exquisite coffee shop downtown, that's step one to fucking up the party, make coffee at home, you will survive without these extravagances, I can't believe people still can't grasp this), and if your friends are too chickenshit, talk to other artists on the internet. The pizza here is good though.
When do we get to hear some more music?
Alex: We're taking a good long break from gigs to go deep into a Buffalo Bill pit of writing. I'm hoping we'll come screaming back with the sounds we're looking for by late summer/early fall, but we're taking extra care not to rush ourselves on this one.
Trey: Well, we recorded several songs a month or two ago but by the time we got them back we had already started working on new material. We felt the songs weren't quite us or where we are heading. We kind of looked at each other after a particularly crazy show one night and asked, "Is this the band we want to be in?" You know it's fun to be in a loud, uber-rude group but I didn't want us to just be this party band. It all felt a little goofy to me. We're in no big rush at the moment, we just want to be stoked on what we do musically down the line, not just what happens on stage. Recently an old 4 track cassette recorder fell into our lap and we've been doing some demos... We're ready to show people the new material we've been working on.
Aris: So, hopefully in the next couple months.