GROUCHO'S Jaw-Dropping Revelation About Upcoming New Album: "It Seems Like a Bit Of a Milestone!"
GROUCHO never cease to delight their fans with new material! The band is back with an impressive new single and music video, a cover of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart."
This summer, GROUCHO has been actively touring, and now they are gearing up for the release of a full-length album and working on new tracks for 2024. They are always in search of new creative avenues, and currently, they are focusing on creating live videos based on their 2016 album. Get ready for some winter regional tours! GROUCHO consists of Dustin Howard, Royce Buckmaster, and Layne Farmen. Their music blends elements of 90s rock, stoner metal, and guitar-driven music into an amazing mix of psychedelia and post-rock. Their lyrics touch on topics ranging from addiction and recovery to aliens and spirituality.
Indie Boulevard had the unique opportunity to sit down with the guys, talk about their new single, the upcoming full-length album, and, of course, their plans for the future.
IB: Hello, guys! It's an absolute pleasure to have you here on Indie Boulevard. We'd love to hear more about your latest release, "Never Tear Us Apart." What drove the decision to cover an iconic song like INXS's, and what deeper inspiration or connection do you have with it that compelled you to put your own spin on it?
Dustin: From time to time we have played shows that required a longer set. So sometimes we would jam a bit (hence the instrumentals on our new releases) and other times we would pick a cover song or two just to throw in. Never Tear Us Apart is one of those songs and it really resonates a lot with folks live. The 3/4 swing of the song really grabs people and we just loved it so much we decided to record it to try and capture some of that vibe.
Layne: I am writing my dissertation on Modernism and Adaptation, so the idea of taking a song and putting it in a different context is really fascinating to us as a band. The interesting questions to us about this move are in the ballpark of…what parts of the lyrics are cast in a different light when the guitars are heavier, when the lead is from a Fender Jaguar instead of a saxophone? Rather than questions about doing justice to an original, we’re more interested in the elements of the song that reflect and refract differently using our sound.”
IB: The music video for "Never Tear Us Apart" is visually striking. How did the concept for the video come about?
Dustin: Honestly, I'm a massive fan of older cinema. Things like Star Trek (TOS) or growing up with old Bond movies, etc. Obviously times have changed and so have expectations of society. The introduction to “From Russia with Love” was the inspiration for the visuals came directly from that. The cinematographer is a friend of mine that I've worked with from the film world (running sound and composing for film/documentary) and he is a really solid person. I think the image we wanted to paint is “timeless.” He was the perfect person to do this.
Music videos almost always look dated really quick in my opinion and there is an element of sensuality to this song and video, that we didn’t want to come off as tacky or even worse, misogynistic. The talent and dancer is a friend of a friend who approached us a year or so ago about doing a video together. One night while cruising old bond videos, that film (From Russia With Love) came on, and the pieces fell together. Bryce (cinematographer) was the absolute perfect person to work with and completely understood what image and aesthetic we were going for - Ambiguous, mysterious and timeless. The projecting of lyrics on folks came from that film intro as well.
Layne: We talked a-lot about a vintage, 70’s kind of style, films and text like the opening credits of “The Omega Man,” or this really obscure Marlon Brando action thriller “The Night of the Following Day.” Also some of us are Bond fans, so those intros are a gold standard for music video aesthetics. One day it would be really cool to use older equipment, Documentary Now! Style, and make it look like we’re actually ‘in’ something like that. For now, this is our 2023 state of the art attempt. The Arctic Monkeys channeled Kubrick a lot in their videos for “Tranquility Base,” alongside screenings of films like Le Cercle Rogue…that’s the kind of company we want to keep.
IB: Who were the key people involved in making the music video for 'Never Tear Us Apart,' and how did their work influence the final product?
Dustin: I think the above answer accidentally covered that question - but to reiterate Bryce Riedesel was the camera and Bethany Ferguson is the main talent. We filmed in basically an empty building that has now become a rehearsal space in Tulsa, OK.
IB: Can you share any interesting anecdotes or challenges you encountered during the creative process of recording "Never Tear Us Apart"?
Layne: Rivers Cuomo is a hero of mine and for me I sort of channeled Weezer with what I brought to the bass line. Rudimentary, formulaic, comfy, fuzzy. The key to nailing a cool cover song is hitting something that has cult-classic status. You want like 5 people to be in the audience swaying and singing along while the others pretend they’re cool and in the know.”
Dustin: The day of the recording my window got busted out actually. Like a freak accident of just shutting my trunk the wrong way. If there is any extra aggression in the vocals or playing, that's where it came from. Really working with Trent Bell is a breeze though. Truth be told, he mixed that one while we weren’t even at the studio and I gave him a lot of liberty with the process. The tremolo guitar mixed in was him, but the guitar and bass tones were dialed in for a while. He’s a world class engineer and has worked with tons and tons of killer bands. He’s got a Grammy under his belt. Trust in the engineer always keeps the process light and fun. Just play the parts and they will let you know when you got “the” take. Pretty sure the guitar solo was one take though!
IB: Your music spans various genres, from 90s rock to psychedelic and post-rock. How do you balance these influences while maintaining a unique Groucho sound?
Dustin: *looks at Layne.*
Layne: This is sort of an ongoing process between the individuals in the band, but some of the greatest musicians of all time are able to play just about any kind of genre and still maintain their sound, or flavor. Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Lauryn Hill: Miseducation is more of an anthology than a conventional album and it might be the greatest of all time. If people listen to a given track and go “Is this Groucho?” then we did our job.
Royce: Honestly we just kinda write what we wanna write. We haven’t set out to balance genres.
Dustin: Personally as much as I love say, Queens of the Stone Age, I love Harry Nillson or movie scores as much if not more.. Legitimately, I feel I have a pretty eclectic taste. The band has really encouraged that with us genre hopping. The weirder the better. Chill to Kill mode.
IB: You recently released the EP "Beware the Bearers of False Gifts and Their Broken Promises." What's the story behind the EP's title, and how does it fit into your musical journey?
Dustin: The title comes from a deciphered crop circle. When we (humanity) broadcast the Arecibo message, we basically sent out a cosmic “sup” into the galaxy, along with some binary code explaining our DNA, and various other traits that describe the human condition. At some point, we received (here come the naysayers) a reply via a crop circle message. When deciphered, it basically says “Beware….” Whether we did or not receive that, is of course debatable. The subject of disclosure and UFOs is riddled into our lyrics in a sometimes not very subtle way. I would urge anyone interested in this subject to exercise caution, and maybe start with Jaques Vallee, or other legitimate researchers. if you find yourself wanting to learn more about it, “beware the bearers of false gifts….” and at the end of the day, it's a fascinating subject and one that has the power to change our idea of ourselves and our place in the universe. I can't really think of a better time in human history for us to examine ourselves as a species. Maybe its time we accept that things are more fascinating than the material world.
IB: The EP has received a great response with over 30k plays. How do you feel about the reception, and did it influence your approach to your upcoming album?
Dustin: We’ve built a decent push online by relentlessly posting. Reddit, FB, IG and more. We’ve invested in google ads and tried to connect with folks who like this genre because they are out there. Touring and playing shows outside of our home town and making connections with folks has been deliberate and genuine. I like to think that some of the response is it landing with folks and some of it is pushing ourselves out there to see what sticks.
Layne: For me, this is the first band I’ve played in where I can get used to playing for a room full of people. That’s a big deal to me. Dustin has done a great job facilitating the business end of all this, like getting the art in front of the people who will dig it. I’ve played in bands before that made absolutely sublime music, doing things I’ve never seen done in any context, at any level. But if you don’t have the apparatus in place to promote it, it’s just not getting out there.
"WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO DIG OUR MUSIC"
IB: Can you give us a sneak peek into your upcoming full-length release? What can fans expect from this new album, both musically and thematically?
Dustin: Vinyl (hopefully) is something we want to work towards. It seems like a bit of a milestone, whether its vanity or just ego, I'd like to do that before I die. One thing I am extremely grateful about modern times is - self publishing. For as insane as the world is now.. in the 90s or before, you could be an absolutely amazing group but you had to “make it” or whatever that means. Plenty of more talented and ambitious people faded into obscurity as victims of their time. The internet has changed that of course. Now, I feel that taking the time to get your image and sound in order, you get the chance to just enter it into the public record. By virtue of existence and putting it online, you’ve effectively left it there for the rest of humanity, for better or worse. You’ve “made it.” So I'd like to take the time to get it right, with a full length. Some of the tunes will be rerecorded older songs, some from the newer EPs and some that are as of yet unpublished. We’re sitting on 3 or 4 really well produced songs. Were aiming for Spring, but if it takes longer it takes longer.
Layne: You know, we’re still kind of figuring this out. We’ve been inspired by other bands, like HotWax from the UK, who keep releasing these EP’s, on Bandcamp and the like. Eventually we’d love to do some vinyl, and we could potentially craft our material into a full length at some point. But my favorite band of all time, Manchester Orchestra, just released their 7th album “The Valley of Vision” and it’s 6 tracks, 25 minutes long. I think we’re in an age where “what an album is” can be stretched, both longer and shorter than it historically has been, now that we’re not restricted to the space of a physical medium.
IB: You're currently on an autumn tour and also working on new material. What are your plans for upcoming concerts and events during the winter season?
Dustin: Layne loves video games and is trying to finish his dissertation, and raise two boys. So hes got a full plate. Royce has a family and geeks out on music gear these days, and I just opened a business and have found myself domesticated as well. So while we do have some dates booked in OCT, for the rest of the year we're gonna take a few select shows. (We're opening up for David Cook (American Idol) in Tulsa this week. Also, playing with national act Al1ce in early Oct as well. ) We’ve got some time set aside to do a bit of writing, and plan out early 2024. I'd say a realistic timeline for a full length release is Spring, with some tour dates, etc to support it. Honestly we recorded some of these songs over a year ago. I think that's kinda what it takes these days- keeping stuff in the pipeline. I've literally taken gift baskets to regional radio stations hoping to get them to listen, so if we could crack that cookie further out into the midwest it would be time to do some cartwheels and travel further. Tell us where we should go! We'd love to hear from people who dig our music.
IB: And the last question. When you're not performing or making music, what are your favorite ways to relax and have fun? :)
Dustin: Mushrooms. JK. Lol, but really - I've been spending time with my GF and kids. We’ve been projecting movies in the backyard. I've also got a local business in town that is effectively rehearsal rooms and all ages space/venue. So a lot of my energy has been community based. Giving lessons, and writing music for film, which yes is still music.
Layne, as mentioned above, is writing his dissertation so he has no fun. None. He has become the dissertation.
And Royce, well Royce is currently deep diving gear and building amps and cabs. He is on an ever present quest for sick tone. He’s in the tone zone, thriving and unbothered.
All said and done, we’re a group of strange folks, with a wide spectrum of interests and pursuits, but at the end of the day, it comes back to music.