CHSR’s The Crazy Train interviewed our singer Em and guitarist Tom on May 20. Listen to the interview on chsrfm.ca or read the transcript below.
Chris Waddell: Hello, Em and Tom! How’s it goin’, eh?
Tom: Good! Awesome.
Em: Good! How are you?
Great to have you guys back.
Em: Thanks for having us.
I think it’s been awhile. We had you for the last album, I think, was the last time you guys were here.
Em: Yeah, it would have been maybe two years ago.
Two years ago. Wow, time flies. Cool. So Toke Signals [is the] name of the album, and when was this released, exactly?
Em: *laughs* Umm… this year sometime. Maybe a couple months ago?
Was it a couple months already?
Em: I’m trying to think of the actual date that we put on the Bandcamp page. I think it might have been March 11 or something? I can’t remember.
Tom: Sounds about right.
That long ago? I thought it was newer than that.
Em: We had a — didn’t we have, like, a release show?
You guys did, too.
Em: I dunno. I’m terrible. I would say “the other day” and it could be five years ago, so I’m not the best person to ask.
Toke Signals — how did that name come up for this album?
Tom: PJ. He came up with that one.
Em: A long time ago.
Tom: Who knows why, but I dunno.
Em: Two, three years ago. He’s been like, ‘Next, we gotta have an album called Toke Signals!’
Tom: He’s just already had the name on his head, so.
Em: Yeah. It was a long time coming.
You guys recorded with R.A. Studios. And this was the first time working with those guys?
Em: No, not at all. We’ve been working with them since the beginning. Before Ian even had his studio, when we went to his basement in his house, which he used to call Dick’s Last Resort. We recorded our first demos there and we’ve done every album with them ever since.
When does your writing process begin for your songs? Is that pretty much after the last album came out that you guys have been pretty much into writing?
Tom: Oh, geez. PJ had a lot of these written. I’m the last guy to come in the band, so I kinda just let them do their thing at first. Kingdom of Serpents is my introduction kind of song to the whole collab for this one.
That’s one of my favourites.
Em: What usually happens is, we — that album and all of our albums are a mix of old songs that we’ve never gotten around to fully fleshing out and then new songs that people — like, [Tom] wrote one for this last album. Some of those songs have actually even been recorded before for demos and then scrapped. The same with our upcoming album — there’s old tabs that we’re finally going to record for the next album that have been around since even before me.
Em: And then there will be new songs — [Tom’s] working on, I think, three, and Shaun’s working on one, and then there will be other ones that PJ writes or Jordan writes.
OK, so I don’t think I knew this: so who was before you?
Em: There was a vocalist before me. He’s Gregg O’Donnell; he goes by Shawz. He was in Sister Fister and a few other local bands around here. He was the vocalist for the Green Lung Grinders before I was for a brief period of time.
So how did you come into that spot?
Em: I was working with Mandrill Attack, [Tom’s] old band. I was doing some guest vocals. I was just an unknown from YouTube, and PJ came to a show and saw me and he texted me right after the show like, “Hey, I’m trying to put a band together and I need a vocalist and I want you.” I was like, “OK.” He kinda just sniped me from that show.
What inspired you? Who has inspired you, Em, to pick up the voice?
Em: I’ve been listening to metal since high school. It was Kittie, Slipknot, Arch Enemy… you know. The women I always get compared to were the ones that I idolized and wanted to do what they did, and then I found out I could, and I was over the moon. I started just doing stuff on YouTube, throwing it up.
Tom: I think the first song was a cover from Arch Enemy that I saw you do. She’d post a lot of stuff on YouTube. You had your own catalogue of stuff.
Em: Yeah, I had eight or ten vocal covers on YouTube — which are still there!
Tom: I was just like, ‘Wow!’
Em: That’s how I got the Mandrill Attack gig. Leader of the Rats was the [Arch Enemy] song that I covered on YouTube. It’s still there. And then I did a — the old singer for the Agonist is now the singer for Arch Enemy, and I covered a couple of Agonist covers as well on YouTube. So yeah, I’ve done a bunch of that stuff.
You guys got asked to play a part in the Capital project. How did that come about?
Tom: How did that come about? Tim Rayne just…?
Em: Yeah, I think. I’m trying to remember exactly, but I think that was pretty much it. I think we just got a Facebook message from Tim Rayne being like, “Hey, you guys wanna do this?” and so, “Yeah.”
And how was that experience for you guys?
Tom: It was fun. That was new — a little different to play just, like, three songs, fifteen minutes, cameras up in your face and everything.
Em: Right up in your face.
Tom: But I was diggin’ it.
Em: I was a little terrified especially because I was ill. We had just done three gigs in like three days, I had a cold and it was affecting my voice, and I was like, “Well, I’m gonna give it my best.” So I think my voice was cracking, and I had cough syrup I’m chugging on stage and a cough drop in my mouth that flew out halfway through the — just, like, I went to do a note and it flew away.
That’s very metal.
Em: I don’t know if I’ll be pleased with the — when I hear it on the web, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that sounds terrible!’ But maybe; I dunno.
I thought you guys sounded great.
Em: Thank you. I did my best. *laughs*
You guys have been another one of the bands that have busted out of New Brunswick westward. How far have you guys gone? Have you guys gone into Ontario?
Em: We did once. We went to Toronto.
It seems like there’s this invisible wall that a lot of people kind of think that’s there [for] New Brunswick bands — a lot of them end up doing the circuit around the Maritimes, but — for getting into Ontario and Quebec. So how did that come about, that you guys set that up to be able to get out of this province and westward?
Em: That was actually a gig that was offered to us by a friend of ours that lived in Montreal at the time (I’m not sure if he’s still there — I think he is), Mike Lapointe, in Holy Cost, and he’s in many, many, many other bands as well. He had offered us that gig in Toronto because Holy Cost was going to play and he wanted to see if we wanted to come with because he and PJ are friends from way, way, way back. So he kind of invited us along on that gig. That’s how we got that one.
Any plans coming up to head out that way again? What are your plans for the summer as far as playing?
Em: Our plans at the moment are mostly just festivals around. We’re doing FreedomFest and we’re doing Metal Bukkake… 3? I believe it’s the third one.
Where’s that at?
Em: That’s in Cocagne, up northern New Brunswick, and then FreedomFest is in Harvey Station. But since two of our members don’t live in town, it’s a little difficult right now to schedule out-of-town gigs, with all of our work schedules and stuff, so if the opportunity comes our way, we’ll certainly try and set it up, but we’re just doing what we can right now in terms of traveling and gigging.
Back to the album: I noticed with the songs you guys played at the SPCA benefit, and then you guys did play a couple of new ones at the Capital project show, I believe — were they all new that night? Were they all the new ones?
So… I’ve been trying to think of how to word this the last couple of days ’cause I didn’t want it to come out sounding wrong. But the last albums have been raw, I wouldn’t say basic, but not really technical — like, you guys have a sound that’s very, very heavy, I mean, it’s freakin’ awesome — but this album seems to have longer songs, some kind of discordant — it just seems to have evolved more. And all the guys in the band that write are consummate musicians — like, I’ve always felt like they — not that you guys ‘could do better than this’; this is the sound that is Green Lung Grinders and I understand that — but it always kind of felt like maybe they were holding themselves back a bit. Is that changing now as you guys are beginning to write?
Tom: Yeah, we’re trying to branch out. I mean, like, I’m the newest guy, I’ve only been in here for like two years, and Shaun’s kind of fairly new, so we just have all these new tastes and there’s just so much we want to do with it. The next one’s gonna be so much more of a variety. It’s gonna be fun.
Em: It’s because we have gone through some lineup changes.
Tom: We just have so much on the plate. I mean, PJ had such a back catalogue of tunes. We had to keep a lot of that raw stuff; we know that sound is important for Grinders. But at the same time, different influences and different genres of metal within itself. Like a boiling pot.
Em: It’s from when — at the time when we were first starting out, that was what we were going for; we were going for that old kind of classic grindcore sound. But as we’ve added different people to the band, you know — Shaun comes from Monteith background, he has his ’80s rock and metal, and then Monteith themselves are more like, very progressive, long songs with different tempo changes, and Tom comes from more of like, thrash metal background and straight-up death metal and nu metal and stuff. So every time we get a new person in the band they bring, like, “Let’s write songs like this!” So we just incorporate it all into one big mishmash.
What do you do to warm up your voice before you play?
Tom: *laughs* Beer.
Em: Yeah, I usually like to have a few beers just to relax a little bit. I also, you know, the stereotypical… I try to, if I can, get some green tea with honey and whiskey in it. Sometimes I just settle for the whiskey shots!
And where can we find — where can cats buy Toke Signals?
Em: If you’re old school, you can come get it from any of us. We are on — I would recommend Bandcamp. Bandcamp’s the best. It’s greenlunggrinders.bandcamp.com. And we have ReverbNation, SoundCloud, all that stuff. All those links are on our website. We have a website, greenlunggrinders.com, so you can just go there as a starting point, or on our Facebook page.
Tom: Or come by the Grindhouse.
Em: Yep! Come by our crappy old house.
We were talking about this earlier, about how albums for bands at the level we’re at, it’s like an investment. How important do you think that radio still is to your cause?
Em: Especially local, it’s paramount, man. This is where people — especially in this day and age where more and more people don’t have money to get out to shows or they’re not comfortable among crowds or people; social anxiety is on the rise — people can sit and listen to this on the radio or on the podcast on their MP3 players, so yeah, it’s totally still super important.
So we played Pope Smear. What was Pope Smear about?
Em: Pope Smear is just a silly title that PJ thought up, but then I actually tried to go with the theme of it, and so I wrote it actually about — the song’s lyrics are about sex abuse in the Catholic church. I thought that was sort of related.
Em: It’s a smear of the Pope, I guess.
Do you write all the lyrics?
Em: Yes, I do.
Where do your ideas…? You guys have such, just amazing song titles and the songs, what they’re made up of lyrically. So what influences these crazy… Grizzly Beerz and Organ Donair, Opium Harlots, Yeast Beast? That actually sounds like a Cable Crusher song.
Em: Mostly just I write the lyrics about — the titles usually just come from silly ideas that we think up.
Tom: Yeah. Silly puns when we’re sittin’ around drinking.
Em: Yeah, like, “Ha! Funny song title: this!” Somebody blurts it out, and then I write lyrics, and sometimes they’re related to the title but most of the time they’re not, they don’t even use the title in the lyrics, but I try to, whenever possible. Most of the lyrics are usually just things I’m mad about, or they’re vaguely about my personal relationships, like my romantic relationships, or they’re just silly lyrics that I thought would be funny. Those are the three kind of branches that I pick from.
Alright, we’re gonna play Organ Donair, and just before you leave, dates that you guys have coming up?
Em: Oh my gosh. We’re playing the Caveau in Moncton on July 2, and then of course FreedomFest, which I can’t remember right off the top of my head…
Em: I think it’s the 16th to 18th? And then Metal Bukkake, and I don’t remember the dates for that either, but I think it might, it’s July 12th to 14th, I think, something like that? I wish I remembered! But these dates, again, they’re all on, it’s all on greenlunggrinders.com, on the sidebar, so that information’s all there.
Awesome! Em and Tom, thanks very much for stopping in, and we’re going to hear a great track, Organ Donair, on the way out. This was the Green Lung Grinders on the Crazy Train. Thanks again!
Em: Thank you!