"I must be the devil's daughter/ what a dark father to dwell in me oh I must be the devil's daughter/ such a dark father to dwell in me bastard child that I am/ oh you can see it in my swagger in the palmist's lines of my hands/ in my lips that bud like daggers look out young son/ when I bloom you'll come a-crawling - “Look Out Young Son”
How do you explain on a piece of paper the elements that make a band truly exciting and genuinely unique? Sometimes, a good starting point is simple geography. When Grand Ole Party sets the stage for their live show, the placement of their drums and amps is the first cue: three abreast, with the drum kit front and center. The uninitiated will then experience the next surprise when the three-piece takes the stage and the lone female musician moves her diminutive frame behind the kit. The third moment of wonderment comes when lead vocalist Kristin Gundred opens her mouth to sing and a cavalcade of power and passion comes out. But none of these things are gimmicks, and Grand Ole Party isn’t trying to shatter your preconceptions, they just wanna rock out.
Since late 2005, musicians Kristin Gundred (vocals, drums) John Paul Labno (guitar) and Mike Krechnyak (bass) have been writing music, touring clubs and putting on the kind of live show that makes friends tell friends to get off the couch and into the club. The trio met while attending University of California, Santa Cruz, jammed together in a loose collective, then decided to get serious, taking the newly-formed group around the U.S. until they found a place that seemed like a good fit. San Diego is where they landed, and where they have gone on to cultivate a rabid following of fans devoted to their raucous live show.
It has all unfolded very quickly, as tends to happen with bands who have that rare combination of fierce songs and onstage electricity. Grand Ole Party’s first show was at a friend’s house in February 2006, and the word spread like wildfire about their compelling live set; they’ve played a host of club dates, including opening for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs just eight months after their humble beginnings.
The group was nominated for the 2006 San Diego Best New Artist Award in and set out to record their debut CD in March 2007 with Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley and The Elected at the helm. It was a blitzkrieg of 12-hour days, five days straight, largely live-to-tape, according to front-woman Kristin: “We recorded live because we wanted that same energy from our live show to be present in the studio. We were pretty excited because recording Humanimals made us more self-aware of our sound and took us from a live-only project to a tangible, playable thing.” Guitarist John Paul Labno also echoes the enthusiasm of Sennett’s production talents:“In the studio, his biggest asset was in coaxing us to do good takes, and knowing when we had them. It kept it exciting. He had certain ideas and helped us experiment with them. In the end, it sounded just like GOP.” That Grand Ole Party sound – freshly infusing raw funk and stripped-down soul into primal, infectious rock and roll – was truly captured on Humanimals.
Listen to tracks like “Gypsy March”, “Dirty Spirit Rag” and “Belle Isle” and you’ll hear a host of timeless influences coming clearly through Kristin’s vocals; the singer cites inspirations including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Grace Slick and Motown girl groups. “It took me until I was 20 to break free from total shyness and start actually doing something,” explains Kristin. (She’s now 23)“When we play together I feel whole… It's me at my best.” While you’re listening, take note of disc closer “Radio” which was remixed by dub legend The Scientist.
Bassist Krechnyak confirms that Humanimals was a challenging process, but believes that every ounce of energy invested was well worth it: “We have sacrificed a lot but it has never been a very tough decision to do so. Music and art in general is a way of living…it's also a response to the world around you, it's survival. This record, and the music we're making, it's a very natural thing for us because it's what connects us to the elements, to the world.”
The word is spreading fast, brothers and sisters. Just prior to a fall tour with Rilo Kiley the group was once again nominated at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards, this time in two categories: Best Alternative Artist and Artist of the Year. Without question, the more they play, the more the excitement builds.
This is your official invitation to the Grand Ole Party.