I met the band Grandaddy first during the CMJ festival in late 2000. They played a show at Irving Plaza. They were one of the hot bands of the time. They were in the midst of a tour with Elliot Smith. We met at a sushi restaurant near Union Square. The show at Irving Plaza was spectacular and brought out fans such as David Bowie who has claimed to be a fan. It was a time when there were a lot of down to earth bands like Grandaddy and Badly Drawn Boy, and others.
The band lives Modesto, California, and the general area. They have beards. The band is down to earth. Grandaddy is Jason Lytle (vocals/guitars/keyboards), and Jim Fairchild (guitar). Other members are. Kevin Garcia (bass), Aaron Burtch (drums), and Tim Dryden (keyboards). They have a few albums out. Most popular is The Sophtware Slump (2000). After a lot of touring they came back with Sumday (2003). I saw them play in Los Angeles that year with Super Furry Animals and Earlimart.
Some time has passed. I was wondering what Jason Lytle and company were up to. I heard that they were working on a new album. I heard Jason had shaved off his beard and decided to move to Los Angeles. They decided to release an EP called Excerpts from the diary of Todd Zilla (2005). It is more a solo project than a group album. The songs are cool. A real Grandaddy album is coming out early next year. It was cool to revisit a band that I had championed in the early days.
AL: What is going on with Grandaddy? Is the band still together?
Jason: Um. Gosh, I haven't really prepared myself for answering any questions. It's all really hitting me. I don't know what is going on with Grandaddy. We are all still friends. There is a lot of uncertainty. People are trying to figure out what they are going to do with their lives. Is it really worth it to continue at the rate we are going? We have two releases coming out in the next six months. I really don't know.
AL: When you come back out and play is it going to be the same five guys?
Jason: If we do tour it will be the same five guys. It was set up in a way that I didn't want to do it any other way. Being in a band is not very appealing to me. But doing it with people that I was close to ensured that I would have a pretty good time. The reason why we have been doing this for so many years was that we are super-comfortable with each other. I wouldn't want to concoct a random band of hot players.
AL: You guys have been doing this for ten years now. Do you all have families now that weren't there in the beginning?
Jason: There are a few wives in the mix. There is one family. There are a lot of concerns having a family. As dull as it sounds, it's just reality for some of the guys in the band. Some of the guys in the band are really old.
AL: You guys are not that old. But there are a lot of new bands that are hungry coming up.
Jason: I see some of those older bands and it doesn't seem so appealing to me. I would be happier just turning into a studio dork. It would free up some time to ride my bike and go camping. There is this whole fantasy of touring in the rock and roll style. It's all about keeping the party going. The older you get the less flair it has. You just become a drunk.
AL: Touring is for young guys in their 20s.
Jason: Yeah. I am all for out with the old, in with the new. It becomes selfish after a while. It's good to play to your strengths and know when to give up.
AL: How much touring did you do after the last album, Sumday?
Jason: We did a lot. It always starts off the same way. There is not a clear picture. You never know what interest the album is going to generate. No one gives you an idea of what the plan is. Before you know it, you are swept up by it all again. We ended up being on the road for two years, even though some people might have told you there was going to be more control. It was much worse with the Sophtware Slump. That was all about endless, exhaustive touring.
AL: You spent a lot of time in Europe?
Jason: Yeah. When we weren't over here, we were over there. That life obliterates the possibility of having a life and anything else. It's all about touring.
AL: So you have had a year off. In that time you had the think about writing new songs and recording. Did you look forward to that?
Jason: You want to subject yourself to do something good but there is a burden that comes with it. I went into making this record with the attitude ÒI don't give a flying shit what the results are. I am just going to make the best possible record I can make.Ó If that means not touring again and walking away from it all. It's just better saying ÒI did the best recordÓ without any repercussions affecting you.
AL: Who did you tour with recently besides The Polyphonic Spree?
Jason: We just played some shows with them. We got stuck on some stinky touring situations. I don't know who has been leading our tours in the past three years.
AL: You are due for a massive concept album by now, don't you think?
Jason: (laughs) I don't know. Are we? I would like to do something all encompassing. I would like to wrap up what has been done so far. I would like to include the original idea for the band and newer technologies. The new album has the sense of that. It is what it is. The album is fifteen songs. It's a lot for me. I am not talking about the EP. It's very listener oriented. It's good. It's not a platform for whining about the career that I have fallen into.
AL: It's a culmination of your musical development?
Jason: It's all getting back to the idea of a musical journey. There was some moping on Sumday. This new album coming out is a pretty good mix. It's like a guilty pleasures.
AL: Did you bring in any musicians or children's choir?
Jason: There is a little help on vocal stuff. I did manage to scrounge up this opera singer to do some parts. If I had my way I would have a childrens choir on every other song. I am not good with little kids.
AL: You recorded in the same studio the same way?
Jason: Yes. It's the same studio and same configuration. It is slightly upgraded. It's a home situation like all the albums have been.
AL: The Todd Zilla EP was mostly a solo record?
Jason: It was mostly me. Aaron played on a bunch of the songs. The EP sounds a lot different because the house is set with two different studios. Studio B is a different format with less fidelity. That is were we did the EP.
AL: Was the Todd Zilla EP composed of songs that didn't make the album, some demos, or some B-sides for the album?
Jason: I am always faced with having too many songs, and not knowing where the songs fit in. After we did Sophtware Slump we did the Signal To Ratio EP. It's like a polite phone call before someone shows up at your house. It's like reintroducing us to those who care that we have music coming out soon. I am three-quarters done with the new album. It will come out early next year.
AL: Are you going to play some shows?
Jason: I have no idea.
AL: Do you play shows in the Bay Area still?
Jason: Me and Aaron and Kevin played as a three-piece. We played at some downtown festival in Modesto. It was a big sun burnt, beer guzzling, and polish hotdog thing. It was kind of stupid and fun. We called it Grandaddy Time Machine. We only played songs from before 1994. It was just an excuse to play. I am not exactly sure that it was a good idea or not.
AL: What do you think of Scott Peterson and Modesto? He brought a lot of attention to this quiet town.
Jason: I don't know. It's really fucking disturbing. I don't understand people like that. I was trying to make some connections with being from here and doing what he did. But I suppose that you can be from anywhere. It's fucked. He is like a privileged white kid who thought he could get away with anything.
AL: Is Todd Zilla your alter ego?
Jason: No. It's just a name that I thought was really funny. It's exemplifies where I am from: big, loud, dumb, awkward, clunky, and ignorant. All those things wrapped up in one name.
AL: When I first saw Grandaddy, you seemed really unique. It's five years later, now there all these un-ironic bands, who have beards, skateboard, and are very Grandaddy-like.
Jason: Gosh. Freaky.
AL: I think that actor Jason Lee grew a beard and is starting a band now. What's up with that?
Jason: Oh yeah. We are actually friends with him. We had a party in Modesto and he came over. When people come visit us they end up getting really drunk. I am abnormally drunk. I guess that we set the bar really high. Maybe we are in our own playing field. I feel bad about that.
AL: There is not much going on in Modesto?
Jason: Yes, there is a lot of drinking in Modesto. There are a lot of rehab places all over the place. That is a good clue that there are drinking problems here. I had to quit cold turkey to finish this album. I had to get my shit together.
AL: Most of us in the rest of the world are wondering is you can still get some pure ephedrine in Modesto?
Jason: You can get some crystal meth down the block.
AL: Are there any bands that you are listening to?
Jason: (long pause) There is a band called Division of Laura Lee. They have an album called Das Not Compute. For some reason that struck a chord with me. It is energetic and punky and has a pop element. There is enough atmospherics and keyboards and it blends real well. I appreciate when people do that really well. It's like raw with a hangover clouding things up. I like Fu Manchu. And shit. I don't listen to much new music when I am recording.
AL: Do you ever go see other bands play?
Jason: Not really. I haven't really been traveling that much because I have been recording. Bands never come to Modesto. So that means I would have to go to San Francisco, which is a few hours away. I did go to an art show a few weeks ago. Deerhoof was playing. That was my one big night out in a while.
AL: Do you ever get out to Turlock?
Jason: (laughs) Matter of fact I do. That is where Aaron lives. There is a bunch of cool shit going on in Turlock. People eating chicken. There are a lot of Assyrian old people there who walk with their hands behind their backs. Aaron has a nice garden. We work on the websites sometimes. I go over to his house. He has the house that seems like a bustling family. It's a change of pace for me.
AL: What is your house like?
Jason: It's 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. It's a cookie cutter suburban neighborhood. It's all working class. It's 80% Mexican. Everyone drives big trucks and SUVs. I take care of the lawn but once you get inside it's all recording equipment and gear. I get embarrassed. Nobody can come in my house because I don't want anyone to know what I do. It's a weird other world once you get inside. It's a recording studio disguised by a regular house.
AL: Maybe you have to get more chairs on the porch?
Jason: I got enough of a facade going on.