It’s a rarity that a heretofore unknown band from the southern region of Connecticut can make an indelible impression with their debut album. But the Windsor, CT-based band, The Grimm Generation’s The Last Record Party is truly a songwriting fête that explores the not-so-shocking underbelly of suburban sexual ennui and apocalyptical romances. As with their previous three EP’s, these latest songs are a rollicking collection of odes to illicit pleasures and bad relationships, as well as a smattering of sexual tension and seduction that borders on exploitation. And thankfully, this duo in their 40’s still has the energy to pursue these diversions.
The aptly named ingénue, Carmen Champagne (vocals), and her foil, Jason P. Krug (guitar and vocals), have created a whopping 18-track song-cycle that’s part fictional memoir and part dirty secret. The two came together a few years ago after hooking up on the online dating service, Match.com. While that date didn’t particularly produce romantic sparks, it did set off a creative online collaboration between the two. Champagne and Krug authored Say Anything: Dispatches on Love, Lust and Longing from The Grimm Generation, a collection of journal entries or essays about amour. Much like a musical partnership of trading licks, the two swapped revelatory secrets that cemented their musical partnership.
The duo’s debut album is a bitches’ brew of swampy blues, finger-poppin’ hipster jive, and outsider freak-folk. They enlist a number of studio pros to beef up their arrangements, which are super bad-ass. The stellar horn and keyboard arrangements give this recording a punch that was missing in their earlier recordings.
Champagne and Krug have received favorable comparisons to the Velvet Underground, X and The Doors. While that’s all fine and dandy, here are a few more influences which can be posited: Marianne Faithful meets Everything But the Girl, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan as fronted by Deborah Harry. Champagne’s throaty vocals are in stark contrast to Krug’s smoother delivery. Nevertheless the interplay between the two on songs like “Keep It,” and “I Fall For Everyone” create sparks and a dynamism not seen since Sonny and Cher. No Mates of State here.
Examiner caught up with the duo during the midst of their record release blitz. The following interview might help make your mind up about seeing them this Saturday evening at the Cellar Bar in Easthampton, Mass. at 9 p.m. (plug, plug).
Examiner: How is that we became acquainted? I seem to recall seeking you guys out, but I could be wrong.
CC: Actually, we courted you! You posted on Rob Derosa’s (WESU DJ and Daffodil Fest music booker) Facebook wall that you had some questions about Daffodil Festival and that you were writing an article. We sent you a note offline letting you know that if you were interested in getting a perspective from a band who was participating at Daffodil, we would be happy to oblige. We’re whores.
Examiner: Pardon my lack of subtlety, but you guys aren’t spring chickens. How did this band coalesce? Where you involved in other bands or projects prior to this?
JK: Carmen and I met through an online dating service. The Grimm Generation was forged over conversations about love, relationships and starving in the suburbs. Our shared points of view started us on writing a book and we coined the term, “The Grimm Generation” (defined as, children of the 70’s at 40). I was a singer/songwriter and a 4-track bedroom recorder. Carmen was a writer/poet and spoken word artist. One night I brought a guitar over and Carmen and I harmonized … and The Grimm Generation was born.
Examiner: Some folk get together for spontaneous fun, others with a master plan: where do you fall in this spectrum? You seem to have a definitive plan.
CC: Our themes are based on sex, cigarettes and sin. Our plan has always been simple: create stories from our dark corner of the suburbs and share them with people to see if they feel them. For us, confession is our compulsion and self-absorption is our god.
Examiner: The Last Record Party is pretty apocalyptical, right? It seems to encompass the gamut of human relationships and beyond. In your words, describe this record.
JK: This record is a diary reflecting the birth of the group and any number of odd and ugly relationships that we were involved with during that time. In the course of the writing of the record, our own personal relationship fractured and healed any number of times.
Examiner: What’s the defining track to you off The Last Record Party?
CC: I think the title track, which is about coming to terms with the dumb and dangerous paths that love can lead you down, is the defining track on the album.
Examiner: Talk about the record. So many songs are evocative of something in every stage of one’s life. Each song has a story —pick a few that are close to the bone, and talk about them.
JK: “End of the World” is one of the tracks that we personally like a lot. Lyrically, it walks the line between teenage recklessness and the more refined recklessness of age. This started off as a poem Carmen wrote inspired by a relationship with an addict and was imagined as our version of a “girl group” song. It’s not a song about the apocalypse so much as a number of personal apocalypses.
CC: “The Definition of Love” is based upon a crash and burn relationship between two friends. Watching how they publicly and privately assaulted each other in the name of love forced me to confront what I believe love is.
JK: “Fire & Gasoline” is clearly an F.U. song. Though written as an attack against a past suitor, the song became more of an anthem when Carmen started singing it. Now the song reflects a steely and cold determination that best describes Grimm.
Examiner: Your debut is a full, flesh and blood record. Can you talk about the process behind it? How did you decide upon the arrangements?
JK: The songs were all based upon acoustic guitar and two voices. But the more material we wrote, the more we slipped out of the acoustic, folky arrangements that we’re known for into some true rock and roll verse/chorus songs. We turned to a couple of old friends, Dave Hogan and Dennis Jackson (of Gray Light Campfire) to work on an electric record. Our shared influences of British rock (Mott the Hoople), with X style vocal harmonies and touches of Black Sabbath thrown in for good measure created the core sound. New friends brought trumpet, keyboards and gang percussion. When everything came together it formed a genuine rock ‘n’ roll record.
Examiner: Carmen’s voice is like an ol’ timey instrument, full of grit and character. Can you remember a point where, you said, “Yeah, this is just gonna’ be fine?”
JK: Carmen’s voice was the instrument that pulled us toward a harder sound. To me, even early on, her voice seemed to be built for rockabilly and torch songs with an honesty that can’t be trained.
Examiner: Jason’s vocals are pretty crisp, which translates into “commercial” appeal. How did you both decide on who gets which tracks? Did you write each track with a particular vocal style in mind?
CC: We each write and we each sing, but the Grimm sound quickly became based on my vocals and Jason’s harmonies which we think suits the material. We’re both also competitive with each other and certain songs require a “vocal showdown.” Case in point, “Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick,” which I rocked, but Jason spit like a fire and brimstone message. Who’s got the advantage? Clearly it's Jason.
Examiner: What type of audience are you seeking? Who are your demographics?
CC: We are seeking people who are into self-analysis that you can dance to.
The Grimm Generation play the Cellar Bar, 95 Main Street, Easthampton, Mass., June 5th at 9 p.m.