This weekend Grandfather Child releases their self-titled debut album for New West Records. The label has already had success with Robert Ellis — a GFC member when not on the road himself — and Buxton, its first two local signees from the modern Houston music explosion.
Grandfather Child's album is nine tracks of salacious Prince- and Frank Zappa-infused stomp — with an ever-so-light touch of twang — and the perfect representation of the rapturous, lauded, sweaty live show the band has been spoiling Houston with for years. They made an R&B record with a country rhythm section. How much more Houston can Grandfather Child get without having Bun B himself on it?
Tracks like "I Would Like to Thank the Universe/Planet Earth" and "Gonna Have Ourselves a Vision" allow the band to stretch their avant-garde legs, which isn't hard with the likes of Ellis and Geoffrey Mueller in the studio. Lead singer Lucas Gorham talked with Chatter about recording the album, nervous breakdowns, and the trial and error that went into finally delivering the album into your hands.
With the Suffers and Marmalake, 8 p.m. Friday, August 31 at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, 713-862-3838 or www.fitzlivemusic.com.
Chatter: The recording of the album. Take us inside that.
Lucas Gorham: We began at SugarHill Studios. We locked out the studio for two weeks — the way bands used to do it — so that we would have two undisturbed weeks to hash out ideas. This is where we did most of our basic tracking for the album. At this point, engineer Chris Longwood was working in tandem with our drummer, Ryan Chavez, to record and get killer sounds.
I clearly remember working on this record at SugarHill where we would regularly do 12-hour days and feeling like I was trapped in a studio bubble. Ryan and I started getting delirious and weird after a few days. We were literally losing our minds and had nervous breakdowns, laughing fits, unstoppable coffeepots. I even think I broke SugarHill's French press.
Months after the fact, we returned to SugarHill to record the string arrangements. I did all the arrangements, but for the most part, we brainstormed to develop the string parts as a band. I cannot wait to get another opportunity to do string arrangements again.
We did some tracking at Steve Christensen's home studio, "The Treehouse," where we did some of the instrument and vocal overdubs and arrangements, and where the actual mixing of the album took place.
We also recorded much of the album's overdubs and a few basic tracks at Ryan's parents' house in Clear Lake, what I lovingly call Clear Lake Recording Studios. We used his mom and dad's bathroom to record and get some awesome natural reverb and vibe on some songs. Ryan has experience recording bands and had some great gear. "Magical Words" was almost entirely recorded at Ryan's momma's house!
C: Were there any directions that you explored sonically that didn't quite work, or did you come into the studio with the whole album plotted out?
LG: There were many things we tried that didn't work. "Across Our Minds" was nailed after three attempts. That was nerve-wracking. We scrapped the whole thing twice before we were happy with the basic tracks and could begin overdubbing.
There was a lot of trial and error all over this record, which is why we locked out SugarHill, so we didn't want to feel rushed to get out of the studio for another band. With two whole weeks, we had the opportunity to let ideas flow, and if they didn't work, we had nothing but time.
C: A lot of people will call this a record with an old soul or lazily call it a throwback.
LG: I don't view it as a throwback record at all, but totally understand how the average listener would. Honestly, we recorded this record with a lot of old-school techniques. We never used click tracks or metronomes to get good grooves and recorded much of the tracks onto 24-track tape with natural reverb.
C: And the damned thing is sexy as hell.
LG: We were definitely going for the "quiet storm" vibe for much of the album, and that comes across. We also were hoping to include some avant-garde and experimental moments, too.
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C: It's been a long road to getting this album in everyone's hands. Did you feel pressure to capture your live show on record?
Gorham: Thankfully, we blew (New West co-owner) George Fontaine's mind when we opened up for Andre Williams a few years back, which started our road to getting signed with them. We became friends and met with him often during and after the recording process.
During many of these meetings, he would express concern in his own gruff manner of speaking. "Well, you guys are great live, but can you get it on record?" he would ask.
That pressure was certainly there. In my opinion, we pulled it off.