A Q&A with The Griswolds before their first headlining show in Buffalo

The striking album artwork for High Times For Low Lives, released in November. The figure is based on the biblical martyr, Saint Sebastian.

The striking album artwork for ‘High Times For Low Lives’, released in November. The figure is based on the biblical martyr, Saint Sebastian.

Dan Almasi, Executive Editor

Australian indie-pop band The Griswolds will play their first headlining show in Buffalo tonight at the Waiting Room. They first got a taste of Buffalo in 2014 as a supporting act for Brooklyn indie-pop band Miniature Tigers at the same venue.

Their latest album, ‘High Times For Low Lives’, released in November of last year, is a reflection on the band’s first few years of mainstream success  and the grueling but rewarding tours, partying, drugs, stark realizations and ups and downs that come with it.

The Record gave a call to drummer Lachlan West just a few hours before the show to ask about the inspiration behind the new album, how partying has changed the band’s scope on life and how they eat their chicken wings:

What do you remember about your show with Miniature Tigers here in 2014?

I didn’t realize it was the same place until we walked in today at load in. I was like, ‘Oh shit, we’ve been here before.’ It was a good crowd. It was freezing cold; I think it was another winter day. Cool venue, cool crowd. And plus, we got some wings nearby.

Nice. Where’d you go for wings?

I can’t remember. I think we just Yelped a “famous wing spot” somewhere near the Waiting Room. It didn’t disappoint. It was, like, an old-style house-looking bar thing.

Sounds like Gabriel’s Gate. Was that it?

I think so, yeah! Nothing like chicken wings right here in Buffalo – the best.

That might have answered my next question, which is, ‘What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Buffalo, New York?’

Yeah, pretty much wings. It’s a good thing – wings have made many good memories for me.

How do you get them? Mild? Medium? Hot?

I’ll go hot. Chris, the singer, and I would probably go hot. Dan and Tim would probably go medium or mild.

You and Chris have it right.

I like the visually striking album artwork for ‘High Times and Low Lives’. What’s the story behind that?

Thank you very much. It’s some artwork I’ve been so happy with and proud of. It was an artist from Russia – we saw some of his artwork online – with the dripping black and gold colors. It looked so striking. We wanted to have a color scheme for the whole album, which is basically black, white and gold. Some of the single artwork was inspired by him.

A guy named John Perez did the album cover. He’s done a bunch of design for Kanye West and a bunch of bigger artists. We were super stoked that he said yes to working with us.

It looks like a Roman-inspired statue figure. Is it based on an actual historic person?

Yeah, I wasn’t aware until recently. His name is Sebastian. He’s a famous martyr. It was the first time we got artwork and didn’t have any revisions or anything. We got the artwork and were like, ‘Yes, that’s it.’”

What were you guys looking to accomplish with ‘High Times, Low Lives’?

We didn’t want to do anything half-assed. There are a lot of songs on there that sound like a Griswolds take on a funk track or a hip-hop track or a Prince song or something like that. We wore our influences pretty heavily on our sleeves. We’re lucky enough to work with a producer who is more than capable of getting that sound for us.

I understand the new album is inspired by your guys’ experiences in the past few years with partying and drugs and how it’s affected your outlook. Have you guys managed to maintain your sanity?

I mean, define sanity. We can be somewhat emotionally stable, but to put us next to Joan the accountant, I think you’d see that we’re slightly less sane than the average man. We spend so much time together that our personalities kind of melt together and create one big messed up Australian guy.

What’s your guys’ relationship with partying now? Do you believe there’s a balance that’s obtainable? If so, have you found it?

Well, we’re doing good at trying to find the balance. We’re doing better than we have in the past. Also, we’re a little bit older and have spent most of the last four years on the road. I feel like if you age a year on the calendar, you age like two years touring. We still have fun, to say the least.

In the album’s title song, ‘High Times For Low Lives,” a line in the chorus says, “Welcome to my living hell.” What’s your living hell?

That was Chris writing about the low points in our lives. You know, being on the road and missing family, relationships falling apart – basically all the things that come with touring. I didn’t write that lyric, but it’s a safe bet to say it’s about the hard times of touring. That’s not to say it’s not the greatest thing, we absolutely love doing this. Without touring, there is nothing for us. There are some shitty moments of course, but it’s all paid for by that one hour on stage every night. That’s why we keep doing it.

My personal favorite song of yours is ‘Live This Nightmare’. Awesome song. NGHTMRE did a remix of it, which is also very good. The remix actually has over two times as many listens as the original song. How do you feel about that?

We are all about it. That’s a great remix; it’s done really well for us. There’s a bunch of our fans that hear that and now know about NGHTMRE and love him, and there’s a bunch of his fans that hear that and think ‘Cool, I’m going to go listen to the Griswolds.’ That song wasn’t meant to be a single or anything. I’d be worried if that song had more streams than ‘Beware the Dog’ or one of those songs. But yeah, I’m all about it. The remix world is a fun place to be. I love it.

I saw an interview where you admitted you hadn’t seen any of the National Lampoon movies which are the inspiration for your band’s name – is that still true?

Yeah — still true. I’ve seen half of the Vegas one with Randy Quaid, but that’s about it. I really like Chevy Chase too, so it’s a miracle I’ve avoided them for so long.

I saw a music journalist call your new album, “Dark, soulful” and “In Justin Timberlake territory.” How do you feel about that?

Ooh. I’m stoked. I fucking love Justin Timberlake. I think we all do. That’s great. That’s what we all listen to. We love pop music and soul, so it’s good to be compared to some of that stuff.

A PopMatters writer called ‘Birthday’ off the new album a hybrid of a coked-out The Neighbourhood and Nick Jonas circa 2014. Thoughts on that?

Oh, shit. I’ve not read that before. I love that. That’s kind of what the song is about – partying it up on your birthday as one of the ups, then the interlude is called ‘Comedown’, so you can imagine how that ties together. We love [The Neighbourhood]. They’re super good, really gritty and powerful but still very catchy.

What kind of music do you guys listen to lately aside from your own?

I don’t think we’ve ever listened to our own music together. We do have a joke with a guy on tour right now who’s selling our merch – he’s from a great group called Magic Man. Every time we go to a bar, we race to the jukebox and put on a Magic Man song and he’ll try to put on a Griswolds song, because it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world to be in a room full of people and hear your own music.

The music we listen to is really eclectic. Right now in the venue we’re listening to the new Childish Gambino album. It could go from that to, like, Slayer. We’ve been listening to a lot of Don Henley in the van. We’ve been listening to the song New York Minute – it’s very fitting that we’re in upstate New York. That got played 12 plus times in the van yesterday. It’s a great song.

I saw you guys at Firefly two years ago. Great show. What’s the coolest festival you’ve ever played?

Firefly is one of our favorites – we’ve been there three years in a row. It’s too much fun. Firefly last year was the best. We did Corona Capital Festival in Mexico City last year as well. That was just amazing – playing in Mexico City and seeing all these kids sing the words back to you in a Mexican-Spanish accent. It was pretty fucking cool.

Last question. What should we expect at the show tonight?

You’ll see some hungover Australian guys [laughing]. Hopefully by that time we will have perked up a little. We try and inject some live energy into the songs people have heard on the albums. We try to make it similar to the album and just sort of punch it in the face a little.

The Griswolds will be performing tonight at The Waiting Room.  Doors open at 7 pm and tickets start at $15.

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Twitter: @Almasi_