I love Alex Grigg. I call him Sydney’s Oldest Teenager – even in his early 30s, he’s living the twentysomething dream of kicking around in bands, working part-time at a cool shop and hanging out with mates all over the joint. We first met several years ago at a Living End show, at which the Riders opened. I was just excited to meet a real-life rock musician; but it wasn’t until a few years later that we got properly acquainted. This was the start of that friendship.
Although it was simply an interview to promote the new album and tour, we went off-track for a bit to talk about what a piece of shit Sam de Brito is. Hey, Sam, if you’re reading – you’re still a piece of shit. Anyway, these guys are sadly no more – you can catch Al and drummer Tom as one half of Palms; and guitarist Brad is off doing a bunch of stuff in the Shire where he’s from. I still keep in pretty regular contact with these guys, and it’s always a treat to catch up with them. For now, let’s cast our minds back to the tail-end of the 2000s and see what happens…
– DJY, April 2014
Sometimes, an artist can misrepresent themselves through their music. Take Red Riders’ Alex Grigg, for instance. In the latest single Ordinary from his band’s second album, Drown in Colour, he sings: “Nothing I do ever seems to go my way/Everything I do is ordinary.” Yet when asked about his day, Grigg casually talks about some extraordinary things.
“I had to go do a thing for Cleo magazine today,” he says on a late Friday afternoon with a chuckle. “It sounds a really bizarre thing to say it out loud, but I had to go and pretty much dress a girl, and tell them what to wear. There was a lifesaver, a comedian, a corporate guy, a rowing guy…it was just some funny thing to do. ” If that’s ordinary, who knows what’s different for him?
2009’s been a busy year for Grigg and his band. Drown in Colour, their first record since the departure of guitarist Adrian Deutsch, was released in July. It’s only now, however, that the band has been performing their own headline shows in support of the record in a variety of places up and down the east coast. According to Grigg, this delay was an initially intentional move to bring more singing mouths than scratched heads to shows.
“Our booking agent told us that you don’t want to tour straight after your album’s been released – it needs time so that people have heard it, so they know the songs when they come to the shows,” he explains. “The Little Birdy tour came along when we might have done an album tour, anyway; so that happened and now we’re out on our own tour.”
With them for most stops of the shows is Brisbane quartet The Boat People, who have just released the first single from their upcoming third album, entitled Echo Stick Guitars. “We met those guys at SXSW in February of this year,” Grigg says of the indie-pop collective. “We got to hanging out and got on really well, and our releases coincided to tour so it all worked out!”
Conversation moves to the creation of the record itself – and just how much of a challenge it was for Grigg to write on his own. The last RR album, 2007’s Replica Replica, was a 50/50 collaboration of music, lyrics and vocals between Alex and Adrian. This time around, however, it was entirely up to Grigg to get new material happening.
“While it was a little more stressful to create something and put my stamp on it,” he contemplates, “it also became a lot more personal. I think a lot of the time with me and Adrian, we were so worried about trying to keep it distinct that there were times where we had to kinda tone it down a bit.” So there’s no need to restrain anymore? “I think I don’t have to contain myself,” Grigg affirms. “I feel like I can let my personality out a lot more.”
In Deutsch’s place is Brad Heald, whom many will recognise as the bassist of The Vines. Don’t perceive him as a generic fill-in, though – as Alex explains, he is bringing something quite different to Red Riders.
“They’re such different guitarists,” he muses. “Whereas Adrian would always be filling in every last gap, Brad’s playing is kind of effect-heavy and reverb-laden, with a kind of washy sound. He even plays the old songs differently!”
Rather than lament on the departure of a member who contributed so much, Grigg chooses instead to remain optimistic about the band’s new line-up. Heald’s arrival into the fold, he believes, has injected a new dose of excitement into the band, with everything seeming new once again. With that said, is the mindset any different between the release of Replica Replica and the release of Drown in Colour?
“With the last album,” muses Grigg, “it was one where I was proud of a lot of it; but at the same time there’s a lot of it that I’m kind of undecided about.” And with this record? “I’m really proud of this one,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to make something that you really like, and getting closer and closer to creating something that even I would like even if I wasn’t in the band.”
Of course, going to see the Red Riders on tour in a small pub or club means a lot more in our current live music situation than it has in quite some time. Last month, Grigg angrily posted on Twitter against Sun Herald columnist Sam de Brito and his article commenting on the live music situation that the city of Sydney has found itself in.”
De Brito wrote: “If we are serious about saving live music in Sydney, promoters and venue owners need do only one thing” – please note: FasterLouder is NOT making this up – “get hotter chicks to gigs.” Reacting to this, Grigg slammed de Brito, calling him “a useless wanker” and “everything that sucks about Sydney” when replying to Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson.
“I think everyone I knew felt like punching him in the face,” he notes as we dissect the gaping flaws of the article. “I mean, the guy has just completely missed the point. He should just stick to what he understands, like doing coke in the Ivy or something. Leave us to our world and he can stay in his.”
Grigg also sees de Brito’s depiction of women in his column as despicable. “It was mainly offensive to women and girls that go to shows, y’know?” he says. “That it’s somehow bad to want to go to gigs. And that all the women in Sydney want to be like the ones off Sex and the City. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”
In response to news of events such as the closing of the Hopetoun and the Annandale Hotel being in trouble, Alex turns our discussion to what should really be done, instead of listening to de Brito’s oblivious and glaringly sexist advice. Getting hot chicks to gigs is not the answer – simply going to them is.
“If all the people that got really worked up that the Hopetoun was closing actually went to shows all the time, maybe it wouldn’t have closed,” he ponders. “Yes, it’s about the licensing laws and the council and all these things, but it’s also about actually going out and supporting these young bands. It’s the same with what happened with FBi – it’s as much about the people as it is about the laws and what have you.”
Lack of interest isn’t the only thing to blame – people new to the area, in Alex’s humble opinion, may well have something to do with it. “The thing that gets me,” he says, “is that the Annandale’s been there forever. It’s just people that are moving into the area after the venue’s already been there for so many years – why would you move into an area where there’s a live music venue nearby if you didn’t like noise and just wanted a quiet suburban life?”
Whatever the solution may be, Grigg and the Red Riders are more than willing to contribute and support as much as they can. With a strong album to support and a fresh new energetic live show to accompany it, it will be well worth your time and effort to catch the band in action on this tour.