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Saturday, April 9, 2011

A. Grimes ruminates on hipsters, hip-hop and pigs eating pigs


"M.I.L.F."

A. Grimes, the Husseins, Red Sea, Trench Party and the Clap play a benefit for Oiler the dog on Sunday, April 10 at WonderRoot. $5. 9 p.m. 982 Memorial Dr. 404-254-5955.

Chad Radford: Tell me your names and what you do in A. Grimes.

Gage Gilmore: I’m Gage and I play bass.

Britt Teusink: Britt. I sing and play guitar.

Who’s missing today?

BT: Mike Bailey plays drums and Kenneth Figueroa plays keyboard.

We spoke a while back, just before your former bassist, Cole Grant, was about to leave to become a white water rafting instructor…

BT: He went on a hippie mission.

GG: He’s a river guy and does it every summer.

You replaced him but you were in the band before, right?

GG: There’s been some confusion over that. I was with Britt when he came up with the concept for the band, but was too busy to be in the band. Cole was there form the beginning.

What’s the concept?

GG: Britt always describes it like he’s writing folk songs and we kind of dement them with the rhythms section.

BT: The songs are similar to hip-hop in how they’re structured.

GG: Harmonically there’s not a lot going on, but we’ll introduce new ideas through the bass and drums.

Some people tell me that they think your music is jazzy, but I would say “gypsy-esque.”

GG: There is a jazz feel to certain parts of it, and there are times when me and the drummer, Mike Bailey, play with a swing feel. The gypsy thing comes from the folkiness of the songs, there’s a lot of strummy, jangling guitar going on.

BT: I take regular open-position chords and put them together in an ugly way — go from pretty to a little bit of ugly, and then more ugly. I am kind of obsessed with gypsy scales, too. Even my hip-hop beats are done in Gypsy scales.

You make hip-hop beats?

BT: Yeah, I rap.

GG: We’ve recorded a ton of stuff. I’ve been playing bass and keyboard on all of the tracks, instead of working with samples.

Is it a tongue-in-cheek thing — like Beck’s style — or is it something you take seriously? I saw a lot of indie rock dudes making hip-hop in the ‘90s, but it was usually just ironic yuckster shit.

BT: I like Eminem’s old stuff. The new stuff is dumb. But he was killing it in freestyle battles back in the day. That’s how Dr. Dre noticed him. He was just good at battling. …Earl Sweatshirt is like the reincarnation of Eminem from 1998.

Earl Sweatshirt is way more awesome than Eminem ever was…

GG:: We’re not that extreme…

Do you make jokes while you’re writing beats and rhymes?

BT:: No, not at all.

How do you approach writing hip-hop lyrics?

BT:: I usually just sit and listen to a beat and random words come into my head and I’ll stay saying some shit.

Would you call it freestyle?

BT: Sort of, but I’ll write the words down and really think about what I’m saying.

GG: A lot of it is more like word play and not necessarily topics. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.

BT: I’m getting more to that now with my writing. At first I just started writing verses. Now I want to think about what I’m saying. I used to do the whole tongue-in-cheek thing when I was a freshman in college doing stuff under the name DJ Dirty. It was me Auto-Tuning my voice and singing all of these crazy harmonies, but I got sick of it and thought ‘why the fuck do I do this?’ I didn’t play any shows like that. I mostly just sat around and got high in my dorm room and recorded. My friend Dr. Conspiracy introduced me to good hip-hop and I just got into it from there.

What did he play for you?

BT: El-P, Aesop Rock. Def Jux stuff, and then Anticon, Jel and Dose One, and from there I got into Rhymesayers.

GG: I’m obsessed with Atmosphere right now...

BT: I got super into the Odd Future stuff when I first I heard it. It was so exciting to hear something like that coming out now. I’m backing off a bit because they’re always saying really fucked up shit and sometimes I’m just not in the mood for it.

Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt are the only ones from that crew who are really all that good. Some of those guys are just bad. That “Tina Perm Your Fucking Weave” song is just a bunch of kids yelling at a computer mic (laughs).

Do you pay attention to Atlanta’s underground hip-hop scene?

BT: Definitely. I kind of feel like we’re more closely related to Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. The scene with bands like Red Sea and Soft Powers is something that we’re coming into. Those guys are our friends and we’ve started playing shows with them, but Brannon Boyle of Speakeasy promotions does all of our booking now, and I think hip-hop people like us.

I like both scenes but they are two different worlds. I wish that they could be one-in-the-same. Like there’s a whole hip-hop scene and when there’s a show it will be packed as hell. The last Free Acid show brought out a record number of people. But it was none of the people that you would see at a Carnivores show the next night.

People in Atlanta have been talking about that division for the 12 years that I’ve been here writing about music. I think bands have their fans and their scenes, and the differences between who goes to punk shows and who goes to hip-hop shows cannot be simply chalked-up to racism, although I hear it said a lot. I think it’s just a matter of taste and social scenes.

BT: It can’t be racism because there’s always a bunch of white people at all of the hip-hop shows that I go to.

Tell me about the A. Grimes song that you posted on your Band Camp page recently, called “M.I.L.F.”

BT: When I was putting the songs together for Malt Liquor Fantastrophe I thought it would be funny to leave the song “Malt Liquor Fantastrophe” off of the EP. But in retrospect it would just confuse people and they wouldn’t know that we had put out anything new. So at first I called it “M.L.F.” But then I decided to call it “M.I.L.F.”

We do make a lot of jokes with the band, even the name is kind of a joke. It’s called A. Grimes, basically to make you think that it’s someone’s name, but it’s not.

Where does the name came from?

BT: There’s a band called Maylene and the Sons of Disaster that’s related to the band Under Oath. They have a song called “The Mind Of A Grimes.”

As in that awful Christian metal band?

BT: That’s the one. …And I’m just kind of a dirty person so I mean… ‘grimy.’ That’s why there are always words like dirt, shit and scum in our descriptions. I think of it the same way that I like making ugly chords.

Does “M.I.L.F.” stand for something in this case? You have it spelled out as an anagram.

BT: No. What did my friend Diego say the other day? “Malt I’d Like To Funnel.” How’s that? It doesn’t mean anything. It’s open to your interpretation.

Now that Gage is in the band you’re writing new songs?

BT: We knew that Cole was play more shows with us before he left. It wasn’t a bad thing when he left. He’s still a good friend, but we knew he was leaving and we couldn’t begin working on new songs with him. We were at a standstill for a while but things are going well now. We just need to get around to practicing.

Do you feel like you’re part of a larger community of Atlanta bands right now?

BT: Yeah, there’s Red Sea, Mood Rings and the Clap. There’s a gigantic group of friends that are part of that circle at the shows, but I don’t think the people at the shows are as dedicated as hip-hop fans. Hip-hop fans are like ‘Yo, I’m here for the music.’ Sometimes people are at our shows because it’s just the place where everyone is going to go, which is fine if you want to get drunk and maybe get pushed around.

Do you worry about being identified with some sort of ‘hipster’ scene?

BT: It happens, but I don’t really give a shit. I hear people saying ‘Britt’s band is some sort of hipster thing,’ and that only a bunch of hipsters go to our shows. I have a friend who’s a dirty hipster and she used to really like us. Now she talks shit on us all the time. She was down with us last month and now she doesn’t like us, but I love her to death.

What’s her gripe? You have only released one song since December and it’s an old one. I don’t think you’ve been around long enough to warrant that kind criticism, ‘ I use to like A. Grimes, but not any more…’

GG: I don’t care how people think about our music, or how they behave at our shows; that’s not up to us. But I hope that hipster perception doesn’t stigmatize us because we really care about the music a lot. It’s not about of the after party or where everyone is hanging out. I see people at shows that I never see in the show — the people who chill outside. I see that and it turns me off because I wish that going to shows was about the music. But I understand music's place as a social uniter.

BT: And that does kind of define us. We came up through house shows which were places where like 200 hipster shit fucks would crowd into a tiny little house.

What’s in the works?

BT: We put out “M.I.L.F.” because we didn’t want to do a hodge-podge of old and new stuff, but we are writing and we have one new song done called “Pigs Eating Pigs.” You know how there’s always cops hanging out at Daddy D’s? We were in there and like 30 cops came in! It was scary as shit. There were like undercover cops there too, so you know they’re tricksters — the kind of guys who would offer to sell you a dime sack and then arrest you after you bought it. There were cops hanging out in the parking lot, too. Just hanging out on lunch break. It was insane and I texted a girl that I know to tell her about it. She texted back “Pigs Eating Pigs.” I thought ‘that’s a new song title!’

It does embody everything that I think about when I see A. Grimes’ name — dark and kind of grotesque...

GG: I definitely take that as a compliment.

You’re working on a record?

BT: Yeah, our drummer is going to New Zealand for 6 weeks for a study abroad program because he’s smart as shit. So we’re trying to get it out before he leaves so we don’t stagnate.

We’re also releasing a tape with Pink House, called A. Grimes’ Sex Tape. “Pigs Eating Pigs” will be the first song. It’s a four song EP.

Oh shit, we’re also doing Nursery Grimes. I’m playing a 12-string acoustic and our drummer plays saxophone and flute. We’re recording out in Suwanee where Soft Powers does all of their shit, and they’re going to produce it. We’re recording it at the Baby Blue House. That will be out soon. It’s really Slowed down and swung? Chilled-out and loungey. Super creepy, it’s like the scariest shit when you slow it down.

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