On March 27th, the alt-pop band THE GRAHAMS released their third album, “Kids Like Us” via 3 Sirens Music Group/RED MUSIC/The Orchard.
When asked about the title track, the band explains to Culture Collide (who premiered the track), “While the sounds and imagery of [Bruce] Springsteen and [Neil] Young emphasized breaking away from the constrictions of family, economy, society on the fringes of a dead-end town (like Springsteen, in our case it was the Jersey suburbs), “Kids Like Us” explores growing up and living in towns that are simultaneously confronting climate crisis and environmental damage, opioid epidemics, underemployment, and an entire country on the brink of madness. Overall, we were experiencing a need to break free. Break free from politics, from the hatred, from adulthood, from the constant clamor and disappointment, from the Nashville scene, from preconceived notions of who we were, and from the artistic constraints we felt in the past.”
“Kids Like Us” finds The Grahams exploring balmy and graceful dream pop, 50’s mod-influenced garage-rock energy, 60’s and 70’s style groovy guitars, and an explosive Morricone-esque cinematic intrigue to great effect. “We started in Chicago with the blues and Motown,” Doug says, “and we ended in L.A., listening to the Beach Boys. All of it found its way into the record.” Along with the late and celebrated Richard Swift(former member of The Shins and The Arcs who worked with Damien Jurado, Nathaniel Rateliff, Guster and many more), the record is also co-produced by Dan Molad (Lucius, Elizabeth & the Catapult, The Wild Reeds) who enabled The Grahams to channel all of their chaotic stimulus into something big, lush, ambitious, and profoundly satisfying.
As with their 2013 debut Riverman’s Daughter and 2015’s Glory Bound, The Grahams lit out for parts unknown to gain inspiration for writing this ambitious new record – this time on a beguiling motorcycle ride along Route 66 at the height of the 2016 election season. “Everything about Route 66 – the neon signs, the motels, the cars, the souvenirs, even the menus – is stuck in a different time,” Alyssa says. “Of course the music that developed would have moments of fantasy, moments of horror, even some moments of the supernatural.”
Connect With The Grahams Online Here: WEBSITE
Check out some of their music videos here:
“Kids Like Us”: https://orcd.co/kidslikeussingle
“Heartbroken Town”: https://orcd.co/grahamshbt
“Painted Desert”: https://orcd.co/painteddesert
“Bite My Tongue”:https://red.lnk.to/TheGrahamsBMT
“Just What You Deserve”: https://red.lnk.to/GrahamsJWYDTw
Learn more about The Grahams in the following All Access interview:
Obviously the Corona Virus has affected musicians dramatically, how has it changed your plans and how are you coping with this situation?
It’s a great question and one everyone is dealing with in his or her own way. Look, there are so many people in the world being affected by this terrifying situation. We are aware and grateful that our situation, comparatively, is not so bad. However, we are of course sad that we can no longer tour our new record in the immediate future. We had to cancel a 6 week European tour and radio dates that was supposed to commence on release day, March 27, and who knows what else down the road. We worked on this record for 3 years and had a baby during the final mastering. We are more than psyched to hit the road with our band and share the new music. In our many years of touring we have never cancelled a show. Not for foreboding weather, illness, not even well into a dangerous pregnancy. We are so incredibly proud of this record and we will get back out there as soon as it’s safe for us, for our fans and for our touring family (including our one year old Georgette). However, as you said, musicians are being affected dramatically. We all make a living performing and bringing people together to share an artful experience. Right now many of our friends are struggling and having to cancel tours. All I can say is If you were planning to go hear us or another artist live now is a good time to go buy an album or some more merch and support them that way. In the meantime, and I think I speak for a lot of us musician folk, we’ll be here for ya continuing to act like idiots all over the socials.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, why is that?
It’s a very timely question and one that particularly applies to our new record, “Kids Like Us.” For so long, including for our first two records, we ran away from our roots. We claimed Nashville, TN as our home. It is true we live in Nashville now but we purposefully left out the fact that we both grew up, together, in New Jersey and that’s where we spent our formative years. Anyone from Jersey can tell you, you can take the kid out of Jersey but you can never take Jersey out of the kid. We are proud of where we grew up. We are Jersey suburb kids. We grew up listening to classic rock, skipping school, smoking a ton of weed, experimenting with psychedelics, going to Dead shows and generally fucking around on the suburban streets after dark. It was a different America than the one we live in now. Our new record is 100% influenced by our upbringing together in the Jersey suburbs. As a matter of fact much of the record was written with our dear childhood friend and co-writer Bryan McCann. It’s easy to hear some Springsteen influences on the title track. While Springsteen was rebelling against the constrictions of family, economy, and society on the fringes of a dead end town, our title track is about growing up in towns simultaneously confronting climate crisis, opioid epidemic and underemployment.
Let’s talk about your third album, Kids Like Us. How excited are you all to be releasing this? Did anything about the process of putting it together surprise any of you?
It’s strange timing of course to be releasing our third record, which we’ve been working on for 3 years. On the other hand it really couldn’t be a more appropriate time. We wrote this record during election season 2016 and the title track was originally called Trouble’s Coming. The entire album was written from the perspective of kids like us. Kids that grew up in a different America. In general America has been facing new challenges and the country has been more divided than ever. We were feeling trapped by the constraints on us as artists and we wanted to break free and break away. The irony of it all is that our record is now coming out during one of the most challenging and confining moments in American history. We need to all stay at home right now and keep each other safe. The good news is there is more art and music than ever available to people all day online. We couldn’t be more excited to finally get these songs out in the world. What surprised us most about making this album is that what started as an album about angst and escapism developed into an album about remembering love. Our message is clear in songs like Running Out Of Time and Mr. G. We want to get back to love. Yes, we are hippies and yes it may sound cliché but love is what we need right now to heal as a country, come together to fight this virus and look towards a brighter future. Our songs on Kids Like Us undoubtedly have political undertones but we didn’t want to feed the fire of anger and hate. We want these songs to lift people up and help them remember love.
What was it like going into the studio to record the songs on this album? Can you pick out a couple favorite memories during this process?
After we wrote the songs or most of the songs for this record we had a lofty dream. To go into the studio with the great Richard Swift and just create a world of sound in the experimental nature he is known for. Unlike our previous records we wanted this one to explode with studio magic and otherworldliness. We actually wanted to escape the philosophy of ‘three chords and the truth” and instead explore the magical side. Richard Swift was and will always be the embodiment of magic. We recorded three songs in the first week but when we started recording Painted Desert, Richard created a beautiful and mystical part on his Melotron and that was the moment, “God walked in the room.” This was the moment we heard or found the record for the first time and we then went back and re-recorded the first three tracks. As most people know Swift passed away during the making of this record but his spirit, mystery and enchantment are all over this music. We are so grateful for our time with him in and out of the studio.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind some of the songs on Kids Like Us?
Yes of course. I think sometimes it’s best for the listener not to know the specific inspiration because a song can transcend one viewpoint leaving fact and fiction as one. However, it’s also fun as a listener to get some insight into the creation of a song.
Painted Desert is one of our favorites. We wrote it while traveling across the Painted Desert via motorcycle. There are forces at work in the universe beyond the reach of our current understanding. Perception is simply a story we tell ourselves, and there is a world beyond that story. To see the sunrise in the Painted Desert is to catch a glimpse of that world.
Heartbroken Town has sort of a dual experience. We were riding our motorcycle across Route 66 during election season. To experience America on Route 66 (during the 2016 election season) is to experience heartbroken town/s. The song is about deep heartbreak, a kind of derangement. We have all experienced it. You can be self-aware enough to know that the destructive things you are doing are only making things worse, without being strong enough to stop. It is a harrowing experience.
Running Out Of Time stated as a sweet little song about our upbringing in Jersey. As I said, there wasn’t much to do so Doug and I would drive around the suburbs and “fool around” in the back seat. There is a line in the song that was the initial inspiration, “I remember driving in your car, no one ever knew we went that far.” Many times as an artist, when you write a song it takes on a life of its own and the original spark becomes something else. I think the lyrics of this song became more about the times we currently live in. There is so much hate and anger in our country we are “running out of time for love.” We wanted to recall some of the early 1960’s girl groups, keeping the message simple and universal. The Phil Spectorish production picks up cues in the lyrics, which obviously recall the Shangri-La’s (“Leader of the Pack”) and other mid 60’s vocal groups. I love the second verse as the lyrics here are a bit saucy and are meant to evoke a sense of forbidden lust like those moments in the back of our car parked on the Jersey suburban streets when we were kids.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
It’s funny we were just discussing this with another musician friend currently facing the same challenges of releasing an album during this Pandemic. Often the happiest time for an artist is in the studio. It’s the time when anything and everything is possible. The studio is a magical place where you can turn a simple song into a living experience. It’s also a window in time when all your hopes and dreams can come true. There are endless possibilities for the music. It’s kind of like living in a little bubble. However, the reality is when you leave that bubble and the record is released a lot of those dreams get crushed lol. This is why we are most happy on stage playing our songs for music lovers. We get to explore the songs and find new and unique personalities in each one. One of our favorite things about the live show is the imperfection of it all. There are musicians that are so perfect on stage that the experience doesn’t even seem real. We are not like that. We make mistakes, forget lyrics, play a wrong chord, say inappropriate things, sing a bad harmony or two, but it’s real and it’s live and those imperfections are what make it beautiful. As our hero Neil Young once said, “Live music is better, bumper stickers should be issues!”
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Music is subjective. People should find their own meaning in a song. One never knows why somebody will connect to one song and not another. If somebody finds personal truth in a song we wrote, that’s a song worth singing. For us, this particular batch of songs were written in a tumultuous time with an uncertain future. We wanted to find the light and remember the love. We start this album with the title track Kids Like Us that is clearly about breaking away and escaping the constrictions of a town/city/country consumed with angst. We end the album with Mr. G a song about getting back to simplicity and hope.