Following the release of their 2017 debut album, Seattle’s Great Grandpa were very much in each other’s pockets. Then as the relentless touring began to slow down, they began to move apart, relocating across the States for a variety of reasons, and wanted or otherwise, they were forced to take a break. As well as a change of location, it also meant a change in songwriting approach, a change that ultimately resulted in their new album, Four Of Arrows.
Lifting its name from a Tarot Card that represents rest, and presented itself to band member Pat Goodwin in a reading, Four Of Arrows in the band’s own words took, “a creative turn toward introspection”. While Great Grandpa’s debut was playful and youthful, Four Of Arrows is a more grown up, mature and, in some ways, downbeat record. The album was written not as a collective, instead the members writing in isolation and only coming together when they entered the studio to record it; despite that though it doesn’t ever feel like a disparate collection of ideas. Whether it was down to their shared experiences as a band, or the wider experience we all go through as we grow into adulthood, this is a collection that feels coherent and entirely relatable, musing on themes of division, solitude and striving to hold everything together in the face of the challenges life throws at us all.
As well as thematically, Four Of Arrows is also a record that moves Great Grandpa on musically. For all the difficult themes it tackles, the album is unafraid to offer musical brightness, to combine poppy melodies and shimmering production. Take recent single Digger, which begins life as a bristling indie-rock track, with a searing Pixies-like guitar line, slips into a tranquil folk breakdown and ends with the year’s most bombastic guitar solo. Elsewhere, Rosalie could almost be early Rilo Kiley, Split Up The Kids is a gorgeous folk track resplendent with jaw-dropping harmonies, while English Garden is the perfect melding of Sufjan Stevens and Diet Cig. They even find room to show off with Endling, one of the best instrumental interludes we’ve come across in years, which starts life like Radiohead then slides into a fabulous piece of classical piano.
With the album out later this month, we recently had the chance to talk to the band about their different musical backgrounds, working with great labels and doing pretty much everything differently.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Great Grandpa?
Great Grandpa is made up of Alex Menne (lead vocals), Pat Goodwin (guitar, backing vocals), Dylan Hanwright (guitar), Cam LaFlam (drummer), and Carrie Goodwin (bass). We are best friends from Seattle, Washington and we like to play music together.
FTR: Your new album, Four of Arrows, is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?
Recording Four of Arrows was a really special experience. We spent about a month at the Way Out, which is a beautiful new studio in Woodinville, Washington that was formerly a horse barn. It’s tucked away in the woods which created a great atmosphere to create in- there are a lot of natural sounds such as birds, rain, and hail that we were able to capture and include on the record. We worked with producer Mike Vernon Davis and engineer Sam Rosson, who were amazing collaborators and really helped elevate the record to be the best it could be. We also recorded a lot of the vocals and piano at the Hall of Justice in Seattle, which is owned by Chris Walla (formerly of Death Cab for Cutie).
FTR: What did you do differently compared to your debut album?
Pretty much everything. The songs on the album were written differently, the recording process was much more condensed, and it was our first experience working with a producer through the entire recording process. This process gave us a lot of time and space to reflect more deeply and to be more vulnerable in our songwriting and performances.
FTR: Where does the album title come from?
The name came from a tarot reading Pat had where the ‘Four of Arrows’ was drawn and revealed itself to him. The art on the card is of a man face down on the ground, the titular arrows surround him, sticking straight up from the ground but never making contact; a large butterfly hovers above him. The card symbolizes rest – a call to recharge and recovery. Pat felt that the symbolism aptly embodied where we were in our lives at the time.
FTR: You’re working with some great labels with this coming out on Double Double Whammy and Big Scary Monsters. How did you decide what labels to work with? Would you ever consider self-releasing?
After we recorded our first album, Plastic Cough, we spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which label would be the right fit to release it on. From the beginning, we were really excited to work with Double Double Whammy. Mike Caridi has created a really supportive and artist-friendly label, and we feel lucky to be included among our super talented label-mates. We had always planned to release our second album on DDW, and it was a nice surprise to learn that Big Scary Monsters and Dew Process were interested in putting Four of Arrows out as well. Both labels have been incredibly supportive and kind since our very first talks with them and we are really excited to be a part of their families as well. We have considered self-releasing, but have always enjoyed being a part of a label community. There are so many pieces that go into releasing an album, and our labels have done a way better job of manging them than we could ever do on our own!
FTR: What track on the record are you most proud of?
I suspect that every band member would have a different answer to this question because all of the songs mean a lot to us. Personally, I have a special love for Dark Green Water. In my eyes, that song really sets the stage for the rest of the record with its emotional transparency and enormous presence.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
Our only real goal was to make an album that was honest and to share it with as many people as possible. We are so proud of Four of Arrows and so excited to set it free into the world. Making a living from music is extremely difficult, especially when you have five members, so we all have outside passions and jobs beyond Great Grandpa.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote Four of Arrows?
We all come from different musical backgrounds and have unique influences but we share a love of thoughtful, emotionally resonant music like (Sandy) Alex G, Sufjan Stevens, Big Thief, etc. We also have a special love for catchy 90s pop-rock- a band favorite is Third Eye Blind self-titled album.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I think music is a unique art form because it connects deep, abstract self expression with more direct verbal communication. As a musician you get two distinct channels to convey meaning that exist simultaneously, which creates so much flexibility and freedom in self-expression.
FTR: What can people expect from the Great Grandpa live show?
We generally play a combination of new and old songs and are currently working on arranging Four of Arrows songs for a live setting. Often we incorporate acoustic, intimate songs in addition to full-band rock bangers.
FTR: What’s next for Great Grandpa?
We will be touring around the U.S. (and will hopefully make it across the pond for our first European tour!) and continuing to write new songs.
Four of Arrows is out October 25th via Big Scary Monsters (UK) & Double Double Whammy (US). Click HERE for more information on Great Grandpa.