Dave Shouse talks with his hands. Hell, he even talks with his hands when he’s singing sometimes. Listening to him talk is fun-- he’s got a point of view; he’s funny; his vowels carry a delicious hint of a Memphis drawl; and he knows how to use the word “fuck” effectively (always a plus in my book). Dave sings and plays guitar in the Grifters, a genre-splicing “post-indie” rock band that released its fifth LP, Full Blown Possession (Sub Pop) in late September 1997. Dave, always the polite Southern gentleman, invited fan m bates into the tour van and fielded questions (while his food got cold) before the Grifters show at Santa Monica’s Alligator Lounge (RIP). The story unfolds...

How’s the tour been going so far? You guys have done a lot of that lately.
We started early September, and did like 7 weeks: East Coast and Great Lakes and Canada, drove the 2,000 mile round trip to play a Halifax, Nova Scotia festival.
It was great.
You got a good reaction there and a turn-out and everything?
Yeah, it was a fun. Y’know you go to a place like that, and being the festivals we’ve been trying to get to like the past three years, it was neat to get there. And our tour manager is from Halifax, so we have some friends up there. But, yeah, we did like 7 weeks, and then took a week off and now we’re doing 4 weeks of the West Coast, and we’re just trying to play big cities and little places, ‘cause people aren’t really going out to shows the way they used to, particularly rock music. So, you gotta go play as many places as you can for whoever shows up, just to, either keep reminding people that we’re still around, and we have some new songs, or anything, y’know. A lot of bands are starting to throw their hands up in the air, and going, “Fuck it.”
It seems to be that way, yeah.
Yeah, that’s natural.
I guess there’s the boom and then the bust, and now a lot of people are getting really discouraged.
Well, y’know, no one likes being told they’re a failure.
Have you guys run into that w/ the record label? ‘Cause I heard some sort of semi-bad stuff that Sub Pop was starting to get a little like...
We haven’t gotten that. It’s really weird. It’s almost a parental type of thing, where as yr growing up, yr parents make decisions that they say are in yr best interest, or in everybody’s best interest, the family’s, and yr going, “Fuck that! That sucks!” B/c at that point in yr life, you have an agenda that’s personal for you. You feel like that’s part of yr growth, and if you disagree w/ yr parents, it’s tough. And label stuff’s a lot like that. ‘Cause they’re going, on this record particularly, “We should have someone come down and mix this record for you guys.” And we’re like, “Whooaa!”
Like keeping the band totally out of it?
Not totally out of it, no. This is...
Or just bringing in “the expert?”
Bringing in a guy that’s going to try to harness the sonics a little bit. And we knew that, well, we were pretty sure that was what was going to happen. And it scares a little bit, b/c that what we’ve always tried to do, as far as when we record the songs, then let’s go in and mix the stuff, let’s maybe do it-- not necessarily fucked up-- but maybe a little wrong-headed. We always talk about doing things wrong-headed, b/c we didn’t really expect that anybody else would do stuff like that.
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think you guys have ever turned out a cut that I would hear from any other band.
Well, Ain’t My Lookout was-- to kind of put the moral of the story about the mixing-- we didn’t have time to mix that record like we wanted to, ‘cause we wrote most of it in the studio.
Yeah. From what I heard it was almost like instant magic on some of the songs.
It was really cool. We ran out of songs, and we had to dig into a couple of solo projects to pull songs out, and then it was OK. But, we loved the songs, and we liked what happened in the studio. The writing and the fact that some people like-- “Hey, Tripp [Lamkins, Grifters’ bassist]! Don’t play bass, go out there and play organ.” And Tripp would go out on one cut and play this organ thing, and we’d go, “Whoa! We’d’ve never thought of that!” Y’know? Or the people that play keyboards all the time and whatever-- friendships, y’know, that people come into the studio, “Come play keyboards!”-- they wouldn’t, you know. So that was really great. But it was like, “OK now, for this new record, we need to leave plenty of time to mix the stuff.” Then they come up with, “You need a mixer,” so it was really... that was weird. And cover art was fucked up.
Really? They didn’t like Tripp’s...
They didn’t like Tripp’s thing.
Oh, yeah. ‘Cause it gets covered up, right? When you buy the album it gets covered up with that big black sticker.
DS: Oh yeah, oh yeah. That sticker that looks like something from Kinko’s. It was like really... I was out of the loop on a lot of the stuff, b/c I was really in a weird place myself, so the recording was hard enough, and the mixing was... Y’know to sit there and listen to yr same song 15 times, doing one song a day for two weeks. Yr just like, “Fuck! What’re we shooting for here?”
You haven’t released it yet and yr already sick of it.
Well, y’know, if someone had said, “We’re really gonna try to put on a song on the radio.” I might go, “Well, OK.” That might justify the amount of time. I don’t necessarily agree w/ that logic, that you’ve gotta do what radio dictates; we’ve gotta go in and make this thing ready for radio. It’s like, “Why don’t we fuckin’ make them change something?” But, having to listen to that stuff that much and have it that scrutinized, and then find out Sub Pop’s like, “Well, we’re kind of going back to our grassroots. We’re not going to work radio.” It’s like, “Well, what the fuck have we been spending fifty thousand dollars for?” I mean, we made this new record for 3 to 4 times the cost of Ain’t My Lookout.
Oh really?
And no one said... Everybody’s like, “We love that record!” The label. It’s like, “Then what the fuck is wrong?” But I think what’s wrong is when you take X millions of dollars from Warner Bros. and you don’t show a profit and they come down yr ass.
Oh yeah, yr screwed.
And the food chain starts up, and we’re like the little minnows, so we’re gonna get... And the only thing we’re really disappointed in Sub Pop is that they just didn’t say or hint toward what was going on. Hint that the business was a little fucked up. It wasn’t like there were leaks in the boat, it was just like the boat was out of supplies. [laughs] You know, “We’re still on the high seas, guys, but we’re out of money, and Warner Bros. hates us.” Not hate-- I don’t know what goes on. But after all that rambling, we got through it OK.
I mean, they haven’t turned out another Nirvana yet, which is probably what the WB was hoping for.
Well, I mean, they weren’t even looking at Nirvana necessarily. They were looking at, when the deal went down: Sunny Day Real Estate was still playing; Velocity Girl looked like they could take off; Sebadoh, the sky was the limit, here was a band that had just sold 75-80,000 copies of I guess, Smash Yr Head, or whatever it was. And it was like, “OK, everything’s poised to go.” It looked good, and Matador had done an Atlantic deal, and that hadn’t really soured yet. So, it’s one of those things where you take chances. And I would rather... I can’t sit here and second guess them, I can’t sit here and... ‘cause I don’t really know how all that shit works. We probably should, since one of the things Sub Pop does is encourage you not to have management. They try to cut out the middle man, which is fine sometimes, b/c you get this kind of family feeling. But other times it’s like, yr too busy, yr too hung-over, you’d rather worry about writing a song than whether or not this record is licensed in Pakistan or not, so it would be nice to have a manager. But they’ve circumvented that, and it leaves us trying to second guess some stuff. And every once in a while we’ll bump into people who’ll say, “Have you looked into this?” And we’re like, “Wow. I don’t... know.”
It never crossed yr mind.
Yeah. So, to sit here and try to figure out what’s going on, we’re just gonna... The thing about being on tour is they do give us tour support, which is good, b/c we can go out and take a sound guy and take a merch guy, and throw all the gear in that piece-of-shit trailer back there and lug it all over the country, and not worry too much if only fifty people show up instead of a hundred or two hundred. So that’s good. And they really can’t fuck w/ us on tour. They can’t come to the shows and go, “Play that set you played in... ‘cause that flowed really well. It played all the hits.” You know, that kind of thing. They don’t do that. Not that I know anybody that really does. I’m sure somebody in this city might.
Yeah, it’s gotta come around sooner or later.
But, the contract’s ready to be discussed, and we’re keeping our options open. We just need to be somewhere where we can make kind of record we want to make for however, couple thousand people that want to buy it, y’know? We’re never gonna sell a lot of records. B/c we would have to totally change the way we what we do.
I mean, I think that’s part of the appeal to you guys. Is that yr skewed in all the right ways. On some of yr older stuff, it really blew me away-- I mean, I think that I enjoyed Lookout and Eureka more than some of the other stuff maybe b/c it was a little more melodies in yr face...
We like those records, yeah.
But, on the older stuff, what really blew me away was, and I think you’ve said this about the band in the past, is yr attacked for sort of being... yr records sound like compilations.
And even just within songs sometimes, it’s like two different bands spliced together.
Yeah. Well, I had a conversation w/ Bob Pollard from Guided by Voices once about running an autocratic situation or band vs. a democracy. I should say “autocracy vs. democracy.” B/c Bob pretty much believes in a powerful single vision, and he is a powerful single vision.
I mean, he’s the only remaining member.
Yeah. But we try to do the democratic thing, and it’s been a plus, and sometimes it’s a minus, both for the music and the business, when you try to get 4 people to concur. Or to just-- I don’t mean to sound athletic and say, “a team”-- but thinking close enough where you present a front to any kind of challenge that comes in, instead of like, “Oh, the Grifters are easy, ‘cause you can get one guy and turn him against this guy.” That’s the downside of it all. But, music is really interesting, b/c someone’ll come in, and the first thing that has to happen is the songwriter’s ego has to be prepared to take a shot. B/c yr going to turn this song over to the band, and it’s going to develop, and it’s going to go whatever way everybody wants it to until it feels right for everybody. Songs-- we had a conversation w/ a girl in Baton Rouge, who pretty much hit the nail on the head when she said, “Yr the only band I can come see I can’t sing along, or I’ll try to and you guys’ll throw this curveball.” And she was curious as to why that was, and I said, “Well, the recorded version was the way we played the song that day.” And then, the next day, something different may have happened. So it’s like raising little kids in this 4-person committee, where one person might pop up one day and say, “Y’know, this song just isn’t doing it for me anymore.” And another person’s like, “Oh, yr kidding, man. That song’s perfect!” And we’ve just spent so much time together that we know that eventually we’re going to kick it around enough and work on shit, or there’s gonna be an arbiter somewhere who’s gonna go, “OK, guys. We’ll try this, and take this and...” It’s fun, especially when you do 60 or 70 shows, if you’ve got plenty of songs, and within those songs you have opportunities to escape. And a lot of times, people’ll fuck up on stage trying to do something, and it’ll totally steer the band out of the song, and it’s like, “OK, what do we do now? Do we try to actually get back into the song, or just let this go?” And you know that yr asking a lot of the audience, and on record we’re asking a lot of the audience, like you said, b/c sometimes yr getting the input of 3 and 4 different people per song. You know, it’s not like that, “Paul McCartney writes a song. John Lennon wrote the bridge. It was a match made in heaven.” Our situation is we might have one person write the verse, the second verse is pretty much the same thing except someone has decided they’re gonna do this, and it really changes the color of it, and the bridge is somebody else’s, and then there’s a little pause or something somebody wrote. But if you can get the seams not to show, yr in good shape, and that’s hard. It’s fun, though, at the same time. ‘Cause I can’t imagine doing this with any other band right now.
That’s what’s kind of impressive about you guys-- as you were saying earlier, people are throwing in the towel as a dramatic rate these days; they come back, “This is the band featuring the guy from....”-- and you guys’ve stuck together since... when? When did you turn from Bud to the Grifters and sort of stabilize the foursome? Early ‘90’s?
Yeah. It was like late ‘90, early ‘91.
And I’ve heard a little bit in the press about band tensions, and then you guys iron it out. Has that ever gotten so bad, the interpersonal stuff, that you’ve sort of wanted to throw in the towel? Any of you?
Not necessarily throw in the towel, but there’s definitely times when-- you know, like with any relationship where-- either b/c you don’t understand somebody’s agenda or b/c yr ego is driving you so hard you kind of get blinded to the fact that somebody else might have something more important on their mind or whatever, you question this person. Something runs through yr mind like, “Maybe it’d be better if we had somebody else.” But you wake up pretty quick to the fact that you’ve done this for this long, and we go out and we can tour for 11 weeks and not hate each other. And that’s a fuckin’ major accomplishment. Y’know?[laughs]
Yeah. You hear all this stuff about, once the money comes in, people are in different vans or take totally different routes somewhere, or even if they’re in the same van, they’re not talking.
There is, though, in this band a tendency to swallow a lot of what’s buggin’ somebody instead of confront it, just like there is, I guess, in life. And things come to a head every once in a while and you have to deal w/ it, so we’ve had definitely our share of “band meeting nights,” y’know, where we go, “We’ve gotta solve this problem, b/c we’ve gotta move ahead.”
Does the music pull you guys together? Or maybe just the relationships that are there?
No. I think this a band that when we go home, just we do not hang out with each other. We see each other here and there. We talk a lot, but we spend so much time on the road, in the studio, and we all have... 2 guys have families, I’m married. We go home and we-- and now we have solo projects, 3 solo projects-- so there’s plenty of stuff so that we don’t have to feel like we’ve got to lean on each other all the time, ‘cause they’re all pretty different people. And I like that. I like the fact that we can have a concentrated period of time where we manage to get along despite whatever goofs, and verbal gaffes, and stupid shit that goes on. But when we go home, we can see each other if we want to. And if we don’t want to, nobody gets hurt or offended, b/c everybody’s...
Got yr life?
Hanging out, yeah. Then the music is like, OK... and all you gotta do is get back on tour or get back in to rehearsal and go, “Ahh, this is good. This is why we still are doing this. This is still worth it.”
So, like you said, I guess the majority of the band has someone at home when they leave.
Mmm hmm.
Can that be tough on these extended tours? Or have you sort of gotten used to it?
Well, I mean, luckily we have some pretty understanding people. The drummer [Stan Gallimore] has a wife and two kids, and she’s also our accountant. So she’s pulling double duty. She’s pretty cool though. And everybody’s kind of used to it. Y’know, this 7 week tour we just did, that was tough. ‘Cause I think we haven’t been... We were out last spring in ‘96 for a long time but we had several breaks. But we toured for 5 months, and we would come home every 3 or 4 weeks for 3 or 4 days, so we try to accommodate our significant others as much as possible, b/c they’re gonna outlive all this. It’s fun. Everybody’s pretty understanding. And y’know, we did something this past spring, we toured the whole country in 5 weeks. It was really intense.
Was that w/ the Scud Mountain Boys?
Yeah. It was good. We had a great time. The shows were good. There was some crazy shit going on w/ our other guitar player [Scott Taylor] getting a divorce and a really good friend of ours dying while we were on tour.
And that was intense. But all in all, the shows went fine. And we realized that we might be able to cut the touring down a little bit, or cut the places we go down. If things are slacking a little bit, there’s no reason to rush up to the castle and beat on the doors, like, “We’re still around! Don’t forget about us!” Not to be... Nobody really wants a post-indie rock band as horsefly, y’know? “Get away from me!” We can disappear for a little while. We’re talking about that, maybe taking a break after this tour for a little while, seeing where this contract thing is going to lead to, and maybe not resurfacing for a little while. I don’t know. You always toy w/ that idea. It’s like, “Let’s take a year off.” I’m doing some stuff w/ this other band I work w/, and I think Tripp’s gonna do another single w/ his thing, and Scott might do some shows, so... But that’s good. B/c after we’ve been doing this thing for nine years, it’s like this is nice to have...
Other outlets?
Extracurricular shit going on, yeah.
Yr other band you were talking about, Those Bastard Souls...
Uh huh.
I actually caught you guys opening for Sebadoh last time you came through town.
I see yr shirt, yeah.
Yeah. I guess this was maybe specific to that tour.
What show? Was it the one at...
Galaxy and El Rey actually.
Both of ‘em?
Yeah. I’m a pretty big fan of them.
That was a fun tour.
Lou kind of freaked out at the Galaxy it seems. He walked off in the middle of the first song.
In the Galaxy, that was...
In Orange County.
The first night. Yeah that was a weird place. Some thing was... Where did we come from? We’d come from Phoenix. Phoenix was a strange show. I don’t know, Lou freaked out a couple of shows. He freaked out in Atlanta, freaked out in Denver.
I think that the last time around he really had his behavior in check...
I thought he did pretty well.
And he was really going back to the old school of walking off stage and...
Well, he has spasms. ‘Cause a lot of times he was the total well-behaved gentleman on stage and so that was even more shocking when you thought that he was in the pocket, and he would just freak. And it was also really weird how Lou responded to the people around him, and us playing, and him getting to know-- I already knew Lou-- but getting to know him better, and him getting to know some people in the band and stuff. He would gravitate toward you on the nights when you were struggling the hardest. If you were sick. If you kept breaking strings. If the sound in the place sucked. If the crowd was weird. Anything that caused you to crack a little bit and to display frustration or whatever, he immediately was there w/ you. And would come up after the show and go, “Man, that was really a great show.” And yr going, “Oh yr kidding. That sucked.” And he goes, “No man, that was...” So that was really interesting, that yr not having somebody who’s either like a spoiled brat who’s throwing a temper tantrum-- which a lot of people I think see Lou as some kind of a kid, a child sometimes-- you really got somebody who’s struggling w/ a lot of shit, y’know? What we all struggle w/, playing music and trying to be in a business and not fuck up. And try to please yrself, and then make as many people beyond yrself happy as possible, w/out fucking up. And Lou’s very conscious of that shit.
I mean, he’s always had this issue of professionalism as something to avoid, it seems. Like, do it b/c you love, and do what you love, and what feels right, rather than, maybe, trotting out the hit single.
Well, it’s very easy in this business to become mechanized, to go out and play those songs, to lose some of yr humanity to the business side of things, to the things that yr told by somebody in the business that you should do to get more fans. It’s like a fuckin’ video game. Y’know, you knock out level 3, and you go, “We just played for four hundred people tonight and it was great.” And you think, “Wow!” And the next week, something like the label or management or whatever, or a friend sometimes-- I won’t say friend, just somebody you bump into-- will just go, “Man, if you did this... If you sold stickers... If you get this thing on the radio... If you played this fuckin’ festival...” But to do that, it seems like every level, you’ve got to give up some of yrself. It’s like emotional strip poker. You lose a piece of yrself. Every time you have to gain more people, you have to lose a little more of yrself. B/c you gotta make it a little more bland or a little more palatable or something.
I know “Spaced Out” turned up on the Grifters album. That was a song you were playing out w/ Those Bastard Souls.
DS: Yeah.
Was that a weird thing in any way? B/c I mean, as you were talking about and as I’ve heard, it tends to be: Person A brings a song to the band, or a part of the song to the band, and it becomes “Grifterized.” That one already has sort of a band voice to it, as played by the Souls.
Oh yeah. That’s a little strange. That’s a song that I really like a lot and the Grifters version, I don’t mind. It’s a song that we play better some nights than others. But it was definitely written w/ the Souls in mind. But here again... I didn’t have as much music for the Grifters record this time as I usually do. A lot of that has to do w/, I guess my songwriting’s changed a little bit in the last couple years. I’ve stopped trying to go, “Oh, I’m going to make this crazy chordal dash and weird stuff.” I sit home and listen to Bob Dylan records. And I just like simplicity, and I really enjoyed that in a lot of stuff I was doing. Not that “Spaced Out” is the most simplistic song, ‘cause there are others that the Bastard Souls are doing that are even, like 2 chords from the whole song. But it’s weird, b/c when you have people in the Grifters putting stuff into the music, it can easily become overwrought, and it can easily become too note-y and too whatever. But the bottom line is, that’s what we’ve always done. Those guys wanted to do a version of “Spaced Out,” and I said, “OK, let’s do a version of ‘Spaced Out.’” Whether every night I’m totally going, “This is fuckin’ the shit!” B/c there’s some songs that we latch onto and play and we know right off the bat that it’s a perfect fit. And there’s some songs sometimes that the harder we try to make them a song that we really love to play, it’s not working. And there’s plenty of songs we’re not playing on tour from a big catalog of songs that we have. And you hate to disappoint people, but you just have to say, “Look, for one reason or the other, this song has either gone back to the drawing board or has lost its stamina. I’m sorry.” I mean, last night I played 2 songs by myself, ‘cause these people from San Diego that we really like would not shut up about these songs. Like, “OK!” Tripp had to go piss. Like, “You piss, I’ll play part of the song.” And it was fine. I was able to give them a morsel, but there are some songs that just haven’t either stood the test of time or whatever. And here again, that’s usually b/c one or 2 people in the band are not hanging with it well. And if it’s forced, then everybody else doesn’t really care for it. And you can’t try to make something work, ‘cause that’s the mechanized way. Y’know, “Go out and play...’” whatever song, I don’t know. There’s been 2 songs from every record, it seems like that... Like, “Cinnamon” was a big song from Crappin’ You Negative. “Cinnamon” was like the afterbirth. We threw that song together in the studio, just like blaaahh. And just happened to go, “That’s kind of interesting.” But, we never liked the way it was arranged and lyrics-- there are some songs that have overtones of our interpersonal problems in the band, b/c hey, y’know...
It’s what yr living, so it’s what you put into yr music.
Yeah. Yeah. And with most musicians it’s much easier to sing about it that to talk about it. So those songs-- that song, “Whatever Happened to Felix Cole?” off the EP [Eureka] is one that’s never seen the light of day, “Day Shift” off Ain’t My Lookout, the new record, we’re not playing but half the new record. Well, you don’t want to come out and go, “Here’s the new record tour!”
Yeah. “Go out and buy this!”
I mean, you’ve been listening to this stuff for a long time. Why shouldn’t you be able to come see a Grifters show and hear songs that’re six years old, if they’re still relevant for us, and there’s plenty of shit that is. So we play... I think we’re playing 4 songs off the new record tonight out of 16 or so songs.
That’s what’s interesting about a band, say, in yr position, is compared to maybe like-- I mean, God know I can’t come up w/ a good current one, but maybe I think back in the day Radiohead when all anybody really knew them for was “Creep”...
DS: Yeah.
It’s like people come to the show, and it’s like, “Creep! Creep! Creep! Creep!” W/ you guys, probably from album A through album Z, different fans have their different favorites.
Oh yeah.
And maybe that creates more of a fractured thing, where people are sitting there yelling at you... I mean, if I was the type to yell I’d be there, “Dead Already! Dead Already!”
Yeah. See, that’s a song we don’t play a lot live...
‘Cause that’s kinda solo almost. There wasn’t a lot...
It’s not only that, but it’s a tough... Some of the songs, like the slower ones are tough to-- like “Junkie Blood,” which we don’t do much anymore-- both that song and “Dead Already” are connected to personal experiences that are kind of heavy, and that contributes to it sometimes. And there’s certain times during the show, we’re retuning guitars or something, and Tripp steps to the mic and is like, “Well, umm, what do you want to hear?” And we’re like, “Oh fuck! Don’t say that.” ‘Cause everybody’s like, “Na na na na na!” And usually 70% of the songs they ask for are stuff that we’re either not doing on tour or we’ve done 4 times the previous 4 nights, and we’re like, “This song needs a night off tonight.” But a lot of times we’ll go, if people are persistent and we’ve had enough to drink. For a long time, “Black Fuel Incinerator,” a song off of Crappin’, we weren’t playing, and people were insistent. It’s almost karmic. Y’know, yr like, “Fuck this song...”
As soon as you put one on the bench...
That’s when everybody’s calling for it.
They’re like, “Wait a minute.” So “Black Fuel” was like that. “Skin Man Palace,” the “Mambo King” tune off of Crappin’, was one that fell into disfavor for a couple months, but it’s fine and back in business.
I don’t know if comparisons get insulting for you guys, but that one somehow made me think Jon Spencer’s... not in a bad way though.
Well, it’s funny, ‘cause when we did that song, the first interview we did... we were somewhere we did a bunch of interviews in a row... it wasn’t Memphis. Maybe Chicago? I think we were in Chicago talking, and the one of first thing somebody said was, “Yr copping Jon Spencer.” And we’re like, “Well, Jon Spencer kinda cops our hometown.”
Good point.
Y’know? I mean, we sit there and listen to white rockabilly, trashbilly, Charlie Feathers... Oh God, who else? I can’t... “Polk Salad Annie.” Who did “Polk Salad Annie?” [Tony Joe White] I can’t think of his name. Curlier haired guy. But, I mean, we go down to see RL Burnside and all that stuff in Mississippi playing juke joints long before Jon-- and not that... I like.. I think what Jon has done for that kind of music is pretty cool. I also think what Jon might want to do is shift gears here pretty soon, before he becomes a parody of himself. That’s the scary thing about it, but that’s beside the point. Yeah, that was a fun exercise in writing a piece of Southern fiction, and given just kind of a boarhog-grind beat. We’re kind of a little self-conscious about introducing too much blues stuff b/c we’re from Memphis and we’re somewhat respectful of what has happened down there. And we’re a bunch of white guys, who... Y’know, I grew up listening to prog rock and jazz, and other guys grew up listening to Van Halen and Kiss and shit. I mean, and we’re gonna play blues stuff just b/c, “Hey, we’re from Memphis, we’re blues, man!” That’d be pretty hollow. Plus we don’t have the-- I mean, one of the things about Spencer is this amazing live charisma that he’s got, and we can’t match that in any way. But we introduce blues into music just like we introduce everything else into our music. Whatever fancies us.
Whatever you grift.
Yeah, right. Exactly. And the deal is to throw all that shit into a blender and --bbvvvv-- puree it, and see what comes out. And then see if we can get away with it. So, yeah, that “Mambo” thing, we knew when we were making it, said “This is gonna get some Spencer comparisons.”
OK. Well, sorry to...
Oh, no. Things like that don’t bug us b/c...
Yeah, I mean I remember one of yr liner notes said, “after 32,000 Pavement comparison”...
Yeah, the Pavement stuff, that’s just become inane after a while. It’s just like...
And the scary thing was that I just saw another one. For some reason w/ their last album, some magazine decided to do a sidebar and accuse all these bands, including you guys, of being Pavement rip-offs. Like Archers of Loaf, and a couple that was like, “Are you sure you listened to their records before you put that in the magazine?”
Yeah, I remember seeing that. I forget what magazine that was in. Y’know, it’s just, people... We discovered pretty early on that a lot of writers have to give the audience, who they’re not totally sure who they’re writing for and they can’t take a chance on being exclusive, they have to make sure that if they have a new writer, someone picks up a thing and they read an article or read a review, they can connect to what the reviewer is talking about. And comparison is the easiest thing. That’s cool. If it’s Pavement, that’s fine. Sometimes, if they carry it a little bit further, and start detailing about why, we go, “Oh these people are so off the mark.” I remember some guy writing... To me it makes perfect sense that 2 bands that don’t know each other can evolve in different parts of the country b/c they listen to the same kinds of music, and they have whatever take on it. So, we got to be friends w/ the guys in Pavement, and we all get along and enjoy each other’s music. But, it’s one of those things you just don’t worry about. I stopped reading stuff too. After a while it’s like...
That seems to be the easiest way to sanity for a lot of people in yr field.
It’s just yr skin isn’t thick enough sometimes to escape something that somebody says that just touches a nerve, and it can easily dictate how you spend the next 24-48 hours dealing w/ yrself and other people. And sometimes I read some really good stuff, and I go, “Huh?” I’ve read reviews of our records that are just laudatory, and I’m going, “C’mon! Y’know? Yr spilling words like...” People are like, “something something genius.” It’s like, “Don’t use that word just like it’s fuckin’ a... a...”
There’ll be another “genius” next month. Or maybe in the very next review.
Yeah. Here another paper mache word. It works well until somebody spills water or something on it, then it just gets all... you can’t use it. It’s like, “Careful now.” You read plenty of things.
I guess comparisons might the easiest shortcut for a writer w/ you guys. If I had to describe you guys, it takes a paragraph, and a bunch of hyphens, and depending on the song, and depending on the album.
It does. It jumps around a lot. We’ve got close friends at home, who say, “I can’t understand...” or you’ll see this it in print: “I can’t understand why this band isn’t bigger than they are.” Well, point one: we don’t really have this kind of homogenized sound that’s like song-to-song-to-song-to-song-to-song. Or we don’t write three songs and blueprint those and fill a record up.
Yeah. I mean, if you had a hit, someone might go to the album and not hear another song like that.
And a lot of people are looking for that...
Oh yeah.
“Twelve songs like the hit.”
Mmm hmm. Yeah. Or at least something that they can... People don’t like to have to digest, chew a lot before-- y’know, yr parents are always like, “Chew 36 times before...” “Fuck that. I’m too hungry.” People want something that’s a little bit easily digestible and comfortable. And I can understand that. The Anglo-Saxon culture has brought music so far away from its, what we call “Third World” roots, which was a social, and religious, and whatever thing that actually had meaning and this kind of spirtuality and emotion. Y’know, now it’s used to sell burritos at Taco Bell. Therefore, it’s gotta be something the Taco Bell exec and the publisher who has signed Third Eye Blind or whoever...
“The kids’ll like that one.”
Yeah. They’re gonna say-- well, not only kids-- “On our marketing chart here, this 45-year old executive who really loves some Taco Bell, we don’t want to turn him off.” So it’s big business as it’s always been. And like I said, the higher you go up in the scale, and the more people you try to attract, the more you end up having to give up... the idiosynch-- well, I guess I shouldn’t say the idiosynchrasies-- but whatever makes yr music special to you. The great thing about being down here at this teenie-weenie little level is that you can still do things that some bands can’t do, and want to do, probably.
It’s like, you don’t have to answer for it the way, say, whoever would... They’re more scrutinized than you.
Oh yeah. Can you imagine Aerosmith just sitting around going, “We’d really love to break out and do this... whatever record.” And everybody’s like, “There’s no way you can do that.” You know?

So the Grifters ripped up the Alligator Lounge that night while a medium-sized crowd of fans grooved along. The band jammed as an organic unit, shaking down the funk and letting the noise peal out, providing their diverse set list with a commonality and flow in the songs’ live incarnations. It’s amazing how the songs, bastard children of four very different musicians and spoken of by one of their writers as if they have their own lives and spirits, hold up as much more than patchwork, but energized, emotional trips through lifted and manipulated styles. Bigger things? A lengthy hiatus? We’ll have to wait and see what the Grifters do next. Good money says they’re in it for the long haul, whatever styles or trends come and go.