Rock At Night Interview: Idiot Grins Are Among The Keepers of The ‘Classic’ Flame

Interview

Idiot Grins

By Ljubinko Zivkovic, Rock At Night Amsterdam

Interview: Idiot Grins

Idiot Grins

When somebody uses the term ‘classic’ to define a music style defined in the decades past us they often refer to either rock, roots, soul, R&B, or another pop music form.

Yet there are those artists and bands working on the modern music scene that have all of the above (and more) contained in their music, making that term “classic” cover a much wider musical ground.

Among such bands we can certainly include Oakland’s quintet Idiot Grins, who have been covering all those ‘classic’ modern music forms through their five albums so far, starting with Quarry back in 2012, and currently at Hounds of Mess Around twelve years on.

From those initial days on, Evan Eustis – Bass, mandolin, backing and lead vocals, Michael Conner – keyboards, strings, clavinet and synths, John Hansen – lead vocals and backing vocals, Michael Melgoza – drums, and Randy Strauss guitars have been coming up with a series of sophisticated genre combinations, smoothly combining rock, roots, soul and R&B. With their 2017 album ‘State of Health’ recorded with The Byrd Sisters getting some serious reviews.

The same high-praise reviews were also given for their latest album ‘Hounds of Mess Around,’ so we caught up with the band for a brief interview.

Some reviewers have placed your music within a very broad category of ‘classic rock.’ Yet it seems that your music also covers a much wider ground going into other classic’ genres like soul, R&B, even country? Would you agree with such an assessment?  

We definitely are influenced by a wide range of music.  I hope we’re not just “classic rock” because we try to include soul, R&B, country, and whatever else catches our fancy.

Your ‘State of Health’ album received best reviews so far, how would you compare your sound on the new album to it?  

I think the new album, Hounds of Mess Around, is an extension of State of Health, but not a copy.  On State of Health, we were definitely trying (perhaps too hard) to emulate our R&B, soul and funk heroes.  And the Byrd Sisters were a pure delight to work with.  On the new album, we tried to be more of just ourselves, with the influences coming through, if that makes any sense.

Thoughts and Prayers seems to have been an interesting project as it covers a classic country/gospel album by The Louvin’ Brothers. What was the bands’ take on it?  

Depends who you ask!  I think the other guys were game to try it, but nobody thought it would be as difficult to pull off or take as long as it ended up taking.  Sometimes those three chord songs are the toughest!

Hounds of Mess Around delves deeper into the R&B and soul territory with some quite danceable rhythms, that can also fit quite nicely for any driving occasion. Was it a concept that just came up naturally? 

It truly did.  We just wrote what we felt, and weren’t trying to consciously copy anything.  The influences certainly come through, but hopefully in a more organic way.

Where does the band see its music going on from here, and are any future projects in the works?  

The week Hounds of Mess Around was released, we were back in the studio recording a new song!  Hopefully the next album won’t take 3 plus years to complete this time.  We’ve already written about half of it.

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Ljubinko Zivkovic

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