Grizfolk Details What Went Into Writing Each Track On New, Self-titled Album

Be it the band or the audience, when asked to describe the music that Grizfolk makes the answer is often the namesake itself: Grizfolk makes Grizfolk music. What that means is up for everyone to define — but it certainly includes surefire confidence with an Americana twang and undeniable head-nodding bops.

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The new self-titled album (add it on your favorite service) follows in the footsteps of the other projects for the band. It mixes in unshakeable energy, crowd pleasing sing alongs, but was able to add a live show vibe that was amazingly captured in a studio setting.

“It sounds to me like the bridge between our first and second record,” keyboardist/vocalist Sebastian Fritze says. “There are things that remind me of when we first started—the curiosity in terms of sound and innovation and coming up with sonic worlds—and also of Rarest of Birds and its organic, live instruments.

“It was a big challenge and a big accomplishment, a new way of writing, and so many things were uncertain. That uncertainty was weird and jarring, but also inspiring. When things calmed down a bit, we got out of panic mode and began to think structurally, formed a great team of songwriters and producers around us, and basically said: ‘This is the new world; let’s not cross our arms and refuse, let’s get into it and enjoy and absorb it.’ It’s opened so many doors for us.”

The band offered a track-by-track for the album, exclusive to American Songwriter readers.

It’s a voice for the voiceless..for people who want to speak up or take action, but can’t…in some ways it’s about overcoming fears and being confident to show your true self. We wrote most of the song in Nashville the night before we played Lightning 100’s Live on the Green festival, and we liked it so much that the day after the festival, we took it in to our friend Randall Kent’s studio and finished it with him. 

Be My Yoko:
A psychedelic love song about someone so special, you would break up the band for them. We wanted to take the phrase “Being the band’s Yoko” and change it in a positive light. We embraced a big anthemic Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” feel with this one. Gabe Simon co-wrote it with us, and as a producer, Randall Kent was able to bring the underlying colors of this record to life.

California High: 
This is an older concept that found new meaning when we were in Joshua Tree for a writing retreat. We’re a 420 friendly band and always try to sneak an anthem on every album, but this one is less subtle. It’s about the insanity of leaving everything behind to head out west. It’s a song about chasing dreams that sparkle like rhinestones in the California sunshine and smell of top shelf cannabis in the wind. 

Now That I Know:
It’s a song about that feeling of knowing something may not work out based on one little thing. Maybe you’re incredibly invested in something, but there’s one bad apple that ruins the whole basket, and it hurts so bad because you know in your head it’s such a small thing, but it’s not perfect and you’re a perfectionist. This was written in Nashville with Tim Bruns and Jeremy Luttito, with Lutito also producing it.

The Ripple:

We’ve been playing the ripple live for years…fans have uploaded clips of us playing it everywhere from Cleveland to Berlin. It’s always been one of our favorite songs, but every time we tried recording it, we couldn’t capture the magic of what the song meant to us. Rich Costey played an important part in guiding us towards how to finally get this song right- the instrumentation, tempo, and mood were all meant to be a little more subtle / understated than we’d had it in years past. Lyrically, the song touches on righting your wrongs and finding your truth through making mistakes. It’s a song about living life in the fast lane, until you realize the fast lane is actually slowing you down.

Gone was created via a few different streams of inspiration, but more than anything it’s a song about impermanence and the unknown. It’s also a song where the bridge might be our favorite section of the entire track: I think the melody, instrumentation, and emotion of that part perfectly sums up the entire concept, somehow. We wrote it in Nashville with Kyle Ryan, just a couple of months before the pandemic and ensuing lockdown started. The initial worktape/demo from that day had a magic to it that we knew we wanted to capture once we started recording it, and so we came back to Kyle’s studio over a year later post-lockdown and re-recorded it with him, keeping many of the original parts from that first worktape in the final recording. This is also the first Grizfolk song with banjo in it.

This is an older song that we actually started years ago. In the beginning of Grizol,s career, we would often go out on tour for months at a time only to come home completely broke with no money at all, just to turn around in a matter of days and go out to play more dates again because we genuinely love performing for our fans and believe in what we’re doing. Somewhere along the way, as a joke, one of us said ‘that’s how I lost all my money’ in response to a question about being a musician. It became a recurring quip that being in a band is how we lost all our money, and at some point we put a melody behind it and would sing the line as a reply to various spinal tap-type moments that would pop up. Then, during an extended break from tour, the melody kinda stuck with us and we wrote an entire song with that line as the chorus hook. We liked it, but didn’t quite know if it was good enough, and it ended up on the back burner for a while. After some years passed, we dusted it off and re-worked the lyrics, finally putting the puzzle pieces together and changing the chorus hook from ‘that’s how i lost all my money’ to ‘what would you do for the money’. A lot of other lyrics changed as well (we co-wrote this one with our friend Ollie, who contributed so much), but the theme remained the same: how far would you go to follow your dreams and do what you love? 

Queen Of the Desert:
This song has had a few different shapes and sounds. We wrote this song a while back and revived it during the writing process of this album. We felt it fit right into the dusty and desert vibe that some of the tracks have. At one point, the whole song had a sound that would fit perfectly into a spaghetti western movie. We actually ended up taking the original demo which has that more driving feel to it in the verses and mashed it up with the desert western feel version, which you can definitely hear in the final version. When we wrote the song, we were inspired by some of Quentin Tarantino movies. The song takes you on a journey through Hollywood, where we meet a female character who’s individuality is so strong, it pierces through the vanity of the city like a mirage. Her energy and boldness draws us in, and we are infatuated and almost possessed. We named her Queen of the Desert. 

When we first set out to create this album, the four of us took a band writing retreat to Joshua Tree, CA. We brought all of our gear and recording equipment and turned our airbnb into a studio/jam room where we could write new songs and record demos. We came up with dozens of ideas that trip, but more importantly, our third album started to take shape and come into focus. When we wrote ‘Howlin,’ it came out very quickly. We were sitting outside on the back porch of our house watching the sun go down and the moon begin to shine, and Fred played the chords on a nylon string acoustic (the iPhone voice memo we made of that initial idea is still maybe my favorite version of the song to listen to). Lyrically, it explores the subtleties of desire and the uncertainty that sometimes accompanies it.

It’s a song about missing someone that has passed on, and a sincere feeling that they’re still here guiding you. Perhaps they’re still seeing the same constellations as we are. The idea came from a memory Adam had of stargazing with his Dad, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2020. Before he passed, they spent time appreciating the beauty of the night sky, while pondering the meaning of it all. It wasn’t the first time a band member lost a parent to cancer, as Bill’s mom passed away from breast cancer a few years back. The song was written during a concentrated writing stretch in Nashville where we were writing at least a couple of songs a day, driving back and forth across town working with different producers and writers and putting some good work in. A lot of times during this stretch, as so often is the case, striking inspiration for a song idea could feel like it required maximum effort and concentration, but ‘Stargazer’ was the complete opposite: we wrote the song while sitting on Adam’s front porch in about 5 minutes. All of the hours we put into writing ideas that ended up being ‘just ok’ in the days and weeks leading up to that moment freed us up to write something we truly loved in a matter of minutes, and sometimes that’s how it goes. 

Grizfolk succeeds as a mix of both of the worlds their previous albums created, and in many ways it achieves the sound the band had been chasing all along but weren’t yet prepared to fulfill. In fact, the new era of Grizfolk may best be described as just that—an eponymous genre encompassing both the band’s name as well as their sound, created during a time of extreme planetary tension and only succeeding because of the sense of camaraderie the four players were able to maintain despite the circumstances.

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