INTERVIEW: The Golden Grass

The fact that I know anything about The Golden Grass happened by accident. Last month, I went to see Windhand with every intention of missing both opening bands. Unfortunately, my ability to time arrivals at shows–even when the venue announces set times in advance–is on par with Andy Reid’s clock management skills. So, not surprisingly, I showed up at Saint Vitus about five minutes into the first band’s set, only things ended up working out for the best as I walked in to hear a jammier version of the type of band you’d find on a Day After The Sabbath compilation. In other words, right up my alley. In fact, it was surprising to learn later that, as musically tight as The Golden Grass appeared to be, the show was actually the trio’s first ever. Needless to say, I’ll be checking them out again on Sunday when they open for Wolf People (okay, I was probably going to this anyway given how much I like Fain). But before I did so, I thought I’d ask drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney to tell the world more about The Golden Grass, which is set to release its debut 7″ on Electric Assault/Svart and play some East Coast shows very soon.

Can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re from, etc?

The band was formed in early 2013. I had the initial musical vision and contacted guitarist Michael Rafalowich to see if he was interested. Michael and I had been fans of each other’s bands over the years (mine being La Otracina, his being Whooping Crane/Strange Haze). And we had even attempted playing together about four years ago; however that group quickly fizzled. Last fall (of 2012) I was living in Mendocino on a pot farm and one night I made some pot-infused oatmeal and got stoned out of my mind and decided to check out some of these archived tapes I had of the group with Michael. When I heard our rehearsal jams, I freaked out and I decided that as soon as I returned to NYC I’d hit Michael up and propose we start a new group. Right around Christmas-time I called him up and we spoke about it over the phone, got together about two weeks later and immediately knew we were onto something. At the time, La Otracina was without a proper lineup and feeling aimless, and Michael’s group (which at that time was known as) Strange Haze was just about disbanding as well. So it was the perfect moment for the two of us to begin with some excited new energy. We found our bassist Joseph Noval through an online advertisement. He was a complete shot in the dark, and I almost mistakenly blew him off, but the first time the three of us jammed together it was a very hip scene, and we had our lineup solid, Michael and I have both been living in NYC a long time, Joe had only recently moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles. The timing and details of the formation of this group were incredibly auspicious.

Your debut 7″ is coming out this fall, but how much material have you written so far and what is that process generally like for you?
Oddly enough, we’ve never thrown any of our material away. All of the music we’ve written since day one is still part of our repertoire. Even though our music develops over time and we constantly revamp and improve our ideas. We usually generate very strong ideas. At this point we have about one-and-a-half albums written. Our first 7″ will contain two songs: “One More Time” and “Tornado”. It will be issued jointly between Electric Assault Records (in Brooklyn) and Svart Records (in Finland) in October. We’re ready to record the first LP right away, we just need to iron out the plan with the labels. And we’re sitting on an OCEAN of new ideas–we’ll probably have enough for three full lengths by the years’ end, haha! Our writing process is diverse. Some tunes take six months to write and some take three rehearsals! We all contribute equally to the music, which results in very diverse song writing, lyrical approaches and song structures. We’re literally DYING to write new material. We truly love our current set, which we’ve been writing/developing/practicing for eight months straight, but we can’t wait to write new music–it’s a very inspiring part of the process, very different from live performances. It’s a separate catharsis.

You recently played your first couple of shows–how would you say they went (there was quite a crowd at Saint Vitus)? Does your live show see you guys improvising or extending any material?
We were very happy with the responses and our performances at the first two concerts. Since the beginning of forming this group I wanted to take a long time to develop the material, and not to be concerned with live performances until months down the line. I think too many bands rush to play live before they have an identity or are even making good art, but I wanted to do this band right and debut with great energy and a fully realized sound. Yes, the Saint Vitus show was incredible, not bad to play our first gig in front of a packed house at a sold out show (which we can thank our friends in Ramming Speed and Windhand for)! I think our musical ideas completely translated to the audience, and everyone was in good spirits after we played, which is what we want most. About half of our music contains room for improvisation and “open” sections, and surely in the live setting is where it takes off the most! However, we’ll most likely change our set every show, change our song structures every few months, etc.–it’s an old idea that we borrow from The Grateful Dead.

The group is new but you each of has played in other bands, so what experiences have you taken with you going forward, whether with respect to the music, business or otherwise?
It is important for us to be good friends and hang out beyond playing music together, to be a real family, and we work hard to make this happen, especially in NYC which is great at tearing bands/friends/lovers apart! I think we just wanted to collectively make good art that feels good to play, and enjoy each others’ company, and with those things set in motion, good fortune will hopefully follow. We’re all hoping to grow from and avoid mistakes we’ve made in previous bands, and I think that has most to do with an agreement upon the goals of the group and the responsibilities of each member, and constantly communicating about any problems or issues. So far, we seem to be on the right path, and the maintenance and devotion is constant yet rewarding work.

What’s in store for The Golden Grass over the next six months or so?
Writing a new album, release of our “One More Time” 7″, embarking on US mini-tours in the Midwest in late October and New England in early November, recording our first LP in November (possibly?!) and eventual releasing it next Spring (we hope) along with an EU tour as well. We’re also trying to figure out how the hell to find a place for us to live outside NYC, we need more trees and mountains in our life, but we need to be somewhat close to the city, for the time being. We’re also working on a bunch of VERY cool merchandise.

What are some records you guys have been digging lately?
Adam: for older shit, The Move’s Shazam and Looking On, Truth & Janey’s No Rest for the Wicked, Stephen Stills/Manassas’ self-titled LP, Free’s BBC Sessions and Fire & Water, Marshall Tucker Band’s self-titled LP, The Pretty Things’ Freeway Madness, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Live at Winterland 1975, Mountain’s Climbing, John Mayall’s Blues from Laurel Canyon. For newesr stuff, the new Beastmilk material is very exciting, Skogen Brinner’s 1st, Metalleg’s Hit Of The Week, Anicon’s Demo MMXIII and Cheep Thrill’s demos. I saw Liquor Store recently and LOVED them.

Joe: The Move’s Looking On, Cactus’ One Way…Or Another, Night Sun’s Mournin’, May Blitz’s self-titled LP and Life’s Spring.

Michael: Chico Hamilton’s (w/ Archie Shepp and Larry Coryell) The Dealer, Bo Diddley’s Where It All Began, The Pretty Things’ More Electric Banana, Harvey Mandel’s The Snake and Freddie King’s Freddie King is a Blues Master.


Tour dates:

10/13 at Mercury Lounge/Manhattan/NY w/ WOLF PEOPLE + GOLDEN ANIMALS
10/24 at Kungfu Necktie/Philadelphia/PA w/ Mike Donovan (of SIC ALPS)
10/25 at Howler’s/Pittsburg/PA w/ CAROUSEL + LOST REALMS
10/26 at Cincy Psych Fest/Cincinnati/OH w/ PURLING HISS + PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SYNDICATE + more
10/27 at Beachland Ballroom/Cleveland/OH w/ ELECTRIC LUCIFER
11/8 at Geno’s/Portland/ME w/HESSIAN + IDIOT GENES