Slightly off-the-wall, completely kitsch yet totally natural and down-to-earth: these are the traits Patience Hodgson, John Patterson and Ritchie Daniel share with Brisbane. Since first jamming in the backyard of John’s garden shed, three-piece indie pop rock outfit The Grates have come a long way in their evolution. While it’s taken a baby, a couple of drummers, a stay in Brooklyn, a dive bar in Morningside, a gig on Rove Live, tours, festivals, awards, a few hit albums, DVDs, EPs and singles, The Grates have stayed true to their arthouse roots.
Their unique sound presents vocals cascading between throaty and aerial, overlaid by raw harmonies, layers of guitar and toms and accompanied by flamboyant costumes. It’s a Daliesque vibe inlaid by a wholesome purity that retains a vintage feel, but is fresh and completely unconventional. Their latest album Dream Team was recorded under their house across six days and produced by garage god, Owen Penglis. It embodies all The Grates stand for: no fuss. With their Team Work Makes The Dream Work Tour kicking off from The Triffid in August, their return to the stage starts this weekend with Splendour In The Grass. We sit down with Patience and chat the coming of The Dream Team, loving Splendour and fears of mid-stage milk melt downs.
How are plans for your upcoming tour coming along?
It’s exciting because we haven’t gone and toured for such a long time. I have no idea what to expect. We are touring with Straight Arrows and Pleasure Symbols. Owen from Straight Arrows recorded the album so it;s going to be really fun getting to see him. For him, it will be a crazy experience because he’s going to be playing bass in our band. Whenever we go on tour, it can be intimate and fun and a family-style experience. It’s going to be the dream team. I look forward to it.
What bought about The Dream Team?
I was watching a show one day and someone on the show said “team work makes the dream work” and it really stuck in my brain because I had been feeling like that a lot. We just happen to be at that stage in our life right now where we are surrounded by a bunch of really good people. We spent so many years being super isolated in the band – back when we first started doing our second album in Brisbane. It felt like all our friends had graduated to working at that stage and we were the only people that were doing the band and being serious musos—well as serious as unserious people can get. Then we moved to America and did our third album over there and it felt like we had a couple of years being isolated in creating and trying to do music. When we started working with Ritchie, it felt really right. It felt fun and it was easy. It just kept sticking in my brain – the whole idea of having the right people makes work really easy.
When you were recording, what ideas were you drawing on with this album?
We just didn’t want it to be any fuss. We wanted to go and have a really good experience recording the album – we wanted it to be quick and a good experience. We wanted it to be raw and we don’t want it to be over thought. We wanted it to be really native to us.
You’re on your fourth album so you have enough experience to know what you want to achieve, right?
I definitely feel that way. I wanted to work with Owen because he’s a really smart guy with great taste – that’s what really resonated as well. It was having someone who understands and who’s tastes you respect who can also push buttons and help you get the guitar sound that’s you really like. We did everything super dirty. We did super gnarly guitar sounds on the shittiest amps but we recorded them through microphones that cost ten thousand dollars – it was that sort of vibe. It’s like having a piece of shit car and then sticking sweet rims on it. It was a really good learning experience. We were also really into The Cars at the time, so it was like a really rough, raw version of The Cars.
Anymore plans to strike it out in the big world?
We’re just taking it as it comes at the moment. We’ll see how this tour goes and then we will just decide after that what we are going to do. I know John and Ritchie are desperate to get back to America – that’s the funnest place to tour. I’m the least committed person of all time. Mentally, I’m not there until I am on the plane. I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m just like I don’t ever want to be disappointed, never let myself believe anything is going to happen until I am in the moment and it’s happening. Then I can let myself believe. So we just want to see how this tour goes. I just hope I don’t have some sort of mid-stage milk melt down where I’m like squirting everywhere.
Speaking of the stage, it’s your return to the stage at Splendour in the Grass. What can we expect to hear from you and how excited are you about it?
I love Splendour. We have loved it for years. It’s so funny because I have been going to Splendour since before we were The Grates. We went to the first one – it’s the festival I have been going to for the longest and the most consistently. It blows my mind when I think about how many Splendours we went to before we started playing them. I just have this relationship with Splendour in the Grass —we are Splendour die hards. Now we have four albums to choose from. Writing a set list is always hard but you put on your best songs – the ones people are most likely to sing to. I’m getting out the glue gun and glue gun the f’ck out of an outfit so it looks really cool. Baby goes to bed at 8 o’clock at night and I’m glue gunning on a cape. So learn all of the lyrics please and sing really loud with me.