Grandparents, Sincerely, Bagman (Digital, LP) // Strange Light Records, 10/23/15

The mark of any great band is the ability to evolve. Over the past five years, Portland’s Grandparents have shape-shifted in only the most engaging of ways, posturing blustery, expansive psych-pop into unexplored aural corners with each new recording. Their dedication has matured and bloomed with the arrival of the band’s debut album, Sincerely, Bagman.

“Kids in the Alley,” the album’s first single, is an impossibly catchy high-watermark for Grandparents, bouncing as it does in a foggy terrarium of dew-y guitars and bubblegum melodies. As heard on that declarative track, Grandparents deliver audacious, jangly pop music with an eye toward the hallucinatory, prompting visions of psychedelic royalty like the Seeds or early Kinks while decidedly forging their own sonic pathways.

With the successful production of several self-recorded lo-fi EPs to their credit, the space-y six-piece—keyboardist Marc Christiansen, guitarist/vocalist Dylan White, guitarist/vocalist Ben Johnson, bassist/vocalist Allison Faris, guitarist Will Fenton and drummer Stephen Bridges—toiled for two years in their warehouse rehearsal/recording space, experimenting with boredom-induced recording techniques and a surplus of songs.

“One of the fuzz guitar tracks we literally plugged into a broken reel-to-reel and then into the board,” says White. “It sounded crazy so we went with it.”

Adding to the singular recording atmosphere is the master tapes’ instances of shrouded ghostly jams, a byproduct of the band having recorded Sincerely, Bagman on tapes that contained bootleg live recordings of Phish. “Pill Spectre” achieves its heavy-lidded hue by way of intentionally slow drumming sped up later to match the additional instrumentation, providing further occurrences of kaleidoscopic indulgence. Other noises were accomplished by plugging several guitars into one fuzz pedal, as heard on the closing moments of opening track “YYOOUU,” among several other unique techniques.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the recording process for the band is often blurred into and folded up with the songwriting process.

“A lot of our writing happens through recording,” explains White. “Because of that, a lot of times the gear will manifest itself in the music too, because we’re interacting with it while we’re writing.”

Sincerely, Bagman opens with the squeaky opening of their rehearsal space door, segueing into a roiling feedback on “YYOOUU,” a trippy hallucinogen of a number first demoed several years earlier by Johnson. This song, as with many others on the album, benefits from the cosmic interplay and shared-writing regimen for Grandparents.

“It’s small, goofy musical government,” explains Johnson.

“We’ve all written all sorts of different parts across the whole album: drum parts, key parts, bass parts,” says Christiansen.

“We’re not strictly like ‘this is my instrument’,” adds White. “I wouldn’t just want to play guitar; that would be boring. There are so many different matchups of stylistic interchanges with our band.”

On the heels of a successful west coast tour that saw them perform at SXSW, Treefort, and Pickathon, Grandparents are looking forward to their upcoming U.S. tour beginning in September. With a more progressive approach to their art, the band appears poised to break out in 2015.

“We’re trying to take all these influences and make something more forward-looking,” says Fenton. “This is the future, you know? I’ve got a computer in my pocket. What should music sound like?”

Give Sincerely, Bagman a spin and find out for yourself.



IMAGES: To download, click above. Photo credit Todd Walberg.