The Rocks Off 200: Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Square and Compass guitarist Tommy Grindle
Photo by Joshua Justice
Who? Tommy Grindle is one of the driving forces behind Houston's own post-hardcore revivalists Square and Compass. Bringing back guitar heroism and heavy-ass riffage, combined with a flavor of '90s emo and alternative, they're one of the few bands in our local scene who haven't been persuaded away by maudlin acoustic guitars, brutal death-metal growling, or electronic synthesizers.
Instead they play something rawer, akin to Texas boys like the dear departed At the Drive-In from El Paso, San Antonio's SOHNS, and our own Black Congress. Grindle got started though on heavier material.
"My older brother was into Iron Maiden and Anthrax, just metal in general," he says. "That made me want to start learning music. I wanted to be as bad ass as Steve Harris."
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Much to his mother's dismay, Grindle explains with a laugh, he ended up being one of the few third graders listening to Slayer and Sepultura. After a stint in his fifth-grade orchestra, cutting his chops on the bass, Grindle decided he wanted to play, by his description, "kick-ass thrash."
He's been doing just that in the Houston scene ever since, even if his current band skews more melodic.
Home Base: For his writing duties in Square and Compass, Grindle's ideas start in his head and flow from there. That means he can develop ideas from anywhere, even while driving, and play them out on guitar when he gets home.
When he gets together with the band, they practice at Sterret St. Studios, where they share space (and drummer Dylan Jay) with the Manichean. His favorite place to play is Walters because of their sound man.
"That dude makes a giant concrete room sound killer," Grindle says.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Houston is fucking bad-ass," he says. "Anything that you want to find or do is here. Someday I may venture out, but for now I will keep on sweating."
Story continues on the next page.
Good War Story: Grindle's worst show of all time happened in San Antonio. In his own words:
The whole day was a nightmare. Everyone was late to the rehearsal space to load out. U-Haul wouldn't give us a trailer. The van we were taking had no AC, and there were five us crammed into an Astro van with all [our] gear. I really couldn't believe that we fit.
So, anyway, shit just kept slowing us down and we didn't even get out of Houston until around 4 o'clock. We were finally out of traffic, cruising down I-10, and the back tire blew out. At this point, I said fuck it.
Everyone else calmed me down, and we got towed to a tire shop. For some reason, they took two or three customers ahead of us, and I'm pissed and tell them to put a tire on our van before they even look at anyone else. Luckily, there was a convenience store with ice cold beers next door.
We finally made it to SA to like ten people in the crowd. I was ready to rock them, but they left during sound check to go smoke outside. We played a 30-minute set for the bartender and drove home. Worst show ever.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "That you need to be in a cover band to get paid decent money," Grindle grumbles, but then laughs. "Honestly, I like a lot of whats going on in Houston. We've played with all kinds of bands, and everyone is cool."
After a second, he did come up with a few more complaints: "I would like it if more people were into post-hardcore," he says. "Also, I kinda hate promoters that want you to sell pre-sell tickets."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626)
- Senses Fail, Life Is Not a Waiting Room
- Propagandhi, Supporting Caste
- The Black Dahlia Murder, Nocturnal
- Pedro the Lion, Achilles Heel
First Song You Fell In Love With: The Beach Boys' I Get Around" or Iron Maiden's ""Flash of the Blade": "I was so young when I heard them both, I cant remember," he says. "I used to listen to both repeatedly, and piss my mom off."
Square and Compass play what they say is (maybe) their last show ever October 23 at Warehouse Live.
THE ROCKS OFF 200
See the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni on the next page.
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