GRAND ARCHIVES: So the Story Goes

The story usually goes something like this: band meets, jams in the garage, plays a few shows at the local watering hole, records a three-song demo in the basement studio of the bass player’s creepy uncle and then gases up that same uncle’s 1974 Econoline van for endless tours that find them playing to only the bouncers and bartenders at filthy dive bars in every town within a 500-mile radius that ends in “burg” or “ville.”

The story usually goes something like this: band meets, jams in the garage, plays a few shows at the local watering hole, records a three-song demo in the basement studio of the bass player’s creepy uncle and then gases up that same uncle’s 1974 Econoline van for endless tours that find them playing to only the bouncers and bartenders at filthy dive bars in every town within a 500-mile radius that ends in “burg” or “ville.”

For Grand Archives, the much-ballyhooed Seattle quintet led by Mat Brooke (Carissa’s Wierd, Band of Horses) whose Sub Pop debut dropped in February, the process was a bit different. After Brooke left Band of Horses in March 2006 following a falling out with head horseman Ben Bridwell, the guitarist returned to Seattle and began writing songs for a new project.

“I didn’t want my next band to sound like another Pacific Northwest indie rock band-I wanted something a little more timeless,” Brooke explains. “When this band got together, one of our first goals was to try to do a decent cover of ‘Sister Golden Hair’ by America. Once we did that and it sounded good, we figured we were all on the same page and thought we’d give that breezy, carefree, four-part harmony music a shot. I wanted something a little sunnier than what we actually have up here in Seattle.”

In late 2006, Brooke-along with drummer Curtis Hall, guitarist Thomas Wright, bassist Jeff Montano and multi-instrumentalist Ron Lewis-entered the studio with local engineer Ben Kirsten to record a four-song EP to shop to record labels. Even before Grand Archives stepped on stage in March 2007 for their live debut as the bottom band on a mid-week bill at Neumos in Seattle, Sub Pop was ready to ink them to a deal. Two days after the show, Brooke and company signed on with the label.

“Isn’t it funny how things work?” Brooke says with a laugh. “With Carissa’s Wierd, we struggled and struggled but just could never get a leg up. I kind of figured that would just be the par for music for the rest of my life, but then this band comes along and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. Everything just went in our favor this time around.”

Following some high-profile gigs opening for Modest Mouse, Brooke and company jumped back into the studio during the summer of 2007 with Kirsten behind the board to cut their full-length debut. The Grand Archives is an 11-song piece of pop perfection that effortlessly blends the group’s love of ‘70s Laurel Canyon classics like Graham Nash’s Songs for Beginners and the saccharine-sweet melodies of The Byrds and The Beach Boys.

“Brian Wilson’s vision for a hook is just beyond me,” Brooke professes. “He was definitely the king of singing the saddest stuff you’ve ever heard with a smile. I think that’s part of why a lot of people are so drawn to those albums. On the face, it’s all happy and sing-along, but if you actually dive into it, you realize that there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface.”

The same could be said of Brooke. Whereas the songs he wrote in Carissa’s Wierd and Band of Horses may best be described as introspective sad-pop, the music he’s making with Grand Archives is “a little more fun and a little less dramatic.”

“We’re not trying to break down any walls with art pieces with this band,” he continues. “It’s less art piece and more sing-along, good-time rock and roll. I think everyone has a little natural progression with music. You start off with your Minor Threat and your Black Flag, when you’re full of teen angst and hate your parents. Then you get into whatever songs are gonna make you drink yourself silly. And then you’re finally at an age where you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night wearing a sweater and listening to the Beach Boys and America. You can’t stay young and pissed for forever.”



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