A son of Seattle's underground music tradition, rapper Grieves is as independent as they come. He certainly has the independently produced albums and hard-won, growing national status to prove it. Grieves spoke with the Alibi from his new home in California (the move was "all for the sunshine," he admits) about speed-writing an album--88 Keys and Counting, out Nov. 12 and featuring Seattle producer Budo--touring across genres, touring and more touring.
You came through New Mexico on last year's Always Talk To Strangers tour with Mac Lethal. What have you been doing since?
I’ve basically been on tour nonstop since the last time I was in Albuquerque. I’ve really been trying to keep my nose to the grindstone and just keep going.
What changes in your career have you seen during that time?
The record sales are going up, the crowds are getting larger and the demand is becoming stronger. We’re starting to get a solid response, which is a great feeling after all the hard work.
If you’ve been on tour year-round, how did you manage to record 88 Keys and Counting?
It was very difficult. [My label] Black Clover wanted me to have a record out for November, and I just got off the Rotten American Pie tour. So I sat down and basically made the whole album in four weeks. Then I took it to the studio and recorded it all in one week.
You wrote the album in a month?
It was a process where Budo would send me tracks over e-mail and I would write to them immediately, then send them back. When we finally recorded in Colorado, we played everything live on the album except for one sample-filled song. We used a lot of vintage analog systems for recording as well as a lot of live instruments. It might not sound that way, but anyone who wants to rival it can kiss my ass.
How does the new album compare to your first, Irreversible?
It’s the most cohesive record I’ve done. It’s a lot more musical than Irreversible. There’s more structure, bridges, and a lot more singing and harmonies. I’m sick of the whole rap-rap-rap the entire album. I like my music with space in it.
“I’m sick of the whole rap-rap-rap the entire album. I like my music with space in it.”
You’re an independent artist who's toured nationally, but what about 88 Keys and Counting--will it be distributed nationally?
It’s kind of a sensitive subject. I wanted to do a lot of different things with it, but that’s not really happening (laughs). It might hit stores in January, but that’s not certain yet. We’re selling it online, though, with iTunes, MySpace and my online store.
You went on an East Coast tour with Albuquerque’s Brokencyde. How was that?
It was real cool, you know, considering the genre clash and all. People can say whatever they want about their music or whatever, but those kids are grinding harder than anybody. They were on tour for six months straight, and when we joined up with them on tour, I really saw the fruits of their labor at every packed show.
How did Brokencyde's crunk-
Nobody knew who we were, but it was great to get in front of kids that necessarily would never listen to Grieves or Mac Lethal. I didn’t do too well on merch because all the kids blew their wad on Brokencyde stuff, but I feel like I gained a lot of fans in places around the country that I don’t normally tour.
After the album's out and this tour wraps up, what’s next?
More touring. We’re already booking dates for the spring tour. I was also thinking about booking a mountain-town tour through winter. But I’d love to start touring with indie-rock bands and do more tours that cross genres. It seems to work out more for the new stuff that we’ve been doing as far as the music goes, so we want to embrace that.