SXSW 2008 has ended
Friday, March 14 • 10:00pm - 10:30pm
Grand Archives

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Seattle, WA is famous for many things. Sunlight is not one of them. Yet illumination and warmth suffuse the self-titled debut from Emerald City quintet Grand Archives. Dark times do not necessarily call for dark music. And, while singer/guitarist Mat Brooke’s previous ensembles – Band of Horses, Carissa’s Wierd – often shied away from light, he has changed direction with this band. To be clear, The Grand Archives is not escapist bullshit. But like the timeless classics of The Mamas & the Papas or The Turtles, it responds to the turbulent times of its genesis with hope, high spirits, and a sense of camaraderie. Brooke started Grand Archives with a trio of friends in September, 2006. Drummer Curtis Hall (The Jeunes), bassist Jeff Montano (The New Mexicans), and guitarist/keyboard player Ron Lewis (Ghost Stories) shared his desire to make great pop, rather than curse the darkness; guitarist Thomas Wright signed on soon after. “We all knew each other already, and we had the same idea for the style of music.” The Beach Boys and Bee-Gees were referenced freely, sans shame or irony. Four- and five-part vocal harmonies were essential; in time, lyrics would be rewritten, sometimes repeatedly, to resonate better when sung. Finding their sound came naturally. Fine-tuning the songs? That took some work. The band recorded its debut at three different studios throughout summer 2007, with Ben Kersten producing. “We wanted to mess around with as many unorthodox instruments and sounds as we could,” says Mat. Across the album’s eleven tracks, you’ll hear trombone and Flugelhorn, violin and pedal steel guitar – and some timbres trickier to identify. Slide guitars were rubbed with violin bows, cellos plucked to create bass lines. “At one point, we put a mic on a ukulele and played it through every effects pedal in the place.” This willingness to improvise even gave birth to a new song in the studio, the rippling instrumental “Breezy No Breezy,” a curious amalgamation of rock, jazz, and dub reggae. “That one was written and recorded in about an hour,” Brooke remembers, smiling. “It was the last day of recording, and we had a little extra time left.” They took all their favorite oddball sounds featured throughout the making of The Grand Archives, and condensed their charms into a single track. The other ten selections are equally imaginative, yet anchored with sing-along melodies. Animated by judicious whistling, harmonica, and a flurry of brass, “Miniature Birds” swings along in a carefree fashion that belies its exquisite craftsmanship. From its opening sunburst of guitars and rolling drums, “Index Moon” relaxes into a pace that is measured, but not glacial; repeated listens may induce hypnosis. Pity the man or woman who cannot join in on the rousing choruses of “The Crime Window,” the sound of The Clash linking arms with the Bowery Boys on a football terrace, glam handclaps and kick drums leading the dance while civilization burns. At their first show, Grand Archives were bottom band on a mid-week bill. They played five songs. Next time they performed, it was supporting Modest Mouse at Seattle’s historic Paramount Theater. So much for baby steps. “We definitely dove in the deep end,” concedes Brooke. But their expectations are modest. Grand Archives want little more than to tour the world, occasionally crash in a motel with soft towels, and, most importantly, find receptive listeners for their music. A reasonable goal. And it will be met. Vitamin D supplements, tanning beds, and Caribbean vacations only provide temporary solutions; the radiance of The Grand Archives glows brightly year-round.

Friday March 14, 2008 10:00pm - 10:30pm
Bourbon Rocks 508 E 6th St

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