The Grails: I led thee overseas
By: Andrew Horan
May. 4, 2011
It's become a bit of a cliché – that which can't find acceptance in North America is embraced in Europe.
That was the case for Portland's Grails after they formed in 2000. During their early years, the instrumental post-rockers chose to mainly tour in Europe.
"It was largely because our European agent, Vincent (Royers) at Odyssey booking, is so great that the opportunities were more interesting," guitarist/drummer Emil Amos writes in an e-mail interview. "Overseas you generally make more money and are treated better so it was just too attractive to avoid back then."
That's changed in recent years with Grails focusing on touring along the East coast of North America. Amos writes that there are plans to head to California in the summer of 2011.
"The wager is that the east coast is the main artery for all press in the world so if we only have two weeks inside a year to play shows we generally just condense our efforts there," Amos writes.
Touring behind their new album Deep Politics has been keeping them busy, Grails have been consistent about releasing music since their inception so the over two year wait between albums, not counting Black Tar Prophecies Vol. IV, a vinyl-only EP, may have caught a few fans off guard.
Amos attributes this to the band simply not having time.
"We were doing a lot of traveling with other projects, recording sporadically and then cleaning up the mess over the course of about two years," he writes. "Sometimes we mix a single song for over a year, just re-visiting it in the few moments of free time we can find."
Amos has two side projects of his own, he plays drums for heavy experimental rock band Om and has a solo project called Holy Sons. But his best-known side project was a short stint playing drums for legendary outsider artist Jandek in 2006.
"The two Jandek shows were some of the most fun I've ever had playing live," he writes." Mostly because of a certain philosophical congruence that granted a type of freedom that I'd had trouble realizing in even my own music."
He adds that the other band members' projects have their own therapeutic advantages and have fed into the band for years. He further confesses that the line between Holy Sons and Grails has become "blurred".
Starting out as a five piece, violinist Timothy Horner literally disappeared in 2005, they streamlined down to a four-piece with a rotating cast of musicians helping them on the road. At one point, they even considered abandoning Grails in favour of other projects.
"We thought our momentum had died and we'd contemplate putting our energy into our other projects, a booking agent or label would appear and encourage us to keep going, " Amos writes. "Somehow that sustained us through the early years until we found more of an aesthetic footing around the time of the Black Tar Prophecies releases. I think that's when we really got excited about what we could do from that jumping off point."
The band recently brought in Seattle violinist Timba Harris to provide strings on the new album.
"He records with a clan of friends of ours in Seattle," he said. "He brought the skills we needed to really drive home a particular Hitchcock meets the Italian composers vibe."
There's a definite Argento vibe to the unsettling clip for "Daughters of Bilitis", which was intentional according to Amos.
"The videos are a way steal back the aesthetic face of the band and get a second chance to articulate the songs," he writes, adding, "It's also a good way to waste time."
Video: "Daughters of Bilitis" by the Grails