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Interview: Grain

1 April 06 interview: Meg Rowell
photos: Dom Henry

"I met Richard six years ago fighting over the last jar of salsa in a supermarket, we had a ruck and then made burritos."

Grain are the kind of band that defy most genre descriptions, opting rather to be as outrageous, indefinable and elusive as possible. But their music is surprisingly accessible and their gigs are downright good old fashioned fun.  Comprising of Ben on guitar and vocals, Loz on percussion, Rich on guitar and Dan on bass, their blend of hillbilly funk, bluegrass and the occasional yodel make Grain one of Nottingham’s most unusual and successful bands.

Tell us a little bit about the Grain sound.
Ben: We play kung-fu hillbilly funk, with bluegrass and hiphop influences.
Rich: Take eight tins of tom-toms, one mouth-water-organ-melon, one cutlet of veal bass, sprinkle with zest of banjorine and serve riff-greasy.

How did you all meet and end up putting a band together?
Ben: I met Richard six years ago fighting over the last jar of salsa in a supermarket, we had a ruck and then made burritos. I waited outside the school gates for Dan and Loz just came in with the cats.
Dan: I think it was all quite accidental really, in the nicest possible way.

You have a very different sound to most popular bands. Is this a help or a hindrance?
Ben: Well I guess it singles us out, which is good. The audiences find it refreshing and the response has been overwhelming, I’m fucking skint though, that’s a bit of a hindrance.
Loz: The four of us celebrate the feast of Saint Giro once a fortnight and the rest of the time we cadge from Dan. We’ve had a wicked response from putting our stuff up on myspace and offered gigs around the country. Our music is definitely causing a buzz.
Dan: I would say that being different is certainly a bonus when getting people to try and remember who you are. Hopefully that’s what’ll make people keep coming back.

You’re playing at the next LeftLion Unplugged, how are you rehearsing for that and are you making any major changes to your set?
Rich: My guru tells me that silence is the key. Dan has joined the TA, Loz has been moon bathing whilst Ben has been listening to the Flying Pickets.
Ben: It’s a good challenge to break the songs down and play them in different styles. You can expect some new songs as well which we don’t play in our usual set but will work very well in an Unplugged gig.

If you could put together your ideal gig, where would it be and who would play?
Dan: I would love to open for Toto or some other classic 80s band. Maybe A Flock of Seagulls or Tears for Fears, and we would be playing in a big field at some ridiculous hour of the morning.
Loz: I like a lot of the older bands, I wish I could have been at Woodstock.
Rich: Woodstock would be great, I’d have been Jimi Hendrix’s monkey boy, changing strings and handing him the lighter fluid.
Ben: In my lounge with Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Bob Monkhouse.

What and who influences you all?
Rich: As a wee bairn, I’d rock around the house with a tennis racket to Guns and Roses (I was Slash, obviously). My musical influences come from all over the place like the rhythm of my washing machine. Ever harmonised with a hoover? Try it.
Ben: I have distaste for most ‘new’ music. It’s all really watered down sugar free cordial. The Pixies inspired me to start writing songs and Beck’s songwriting has been a big influence.
Dan: I spent a good part of my teenage years obsessing over old prog-rock bands like Rush and Camel. That’s probably rubbed off onto my bass playing in some way.
Loz: Weston, Bluegrass, Hendrix, Richard Prior, Noodles McDandy, Grand Funk Railroad. Old Basford are great to watch live.

What’s on the horizon for Grain?
Ben: A new drummer has just joined the band and he’s amazing so we’re looking forward to writing stuff with him, hopefully an album by the end of the year and a UK tour.
Dan: Lots more gigs out of Nottingham would be fantastic.
Loz: Playing at festivals, touring, sleeping in a van.

Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
Ben: Come to a gig you bunch of muthas.
Loz: Quit your job and join the freaky membership.
Rich: See us play live, if you don’t like it, come again. If that fails, buy a James Blunt CD.

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