Grieves and Budo sit down with DisarrayMagazine.com to discuss Warped Tour, the pressure of releasing their first album under the Rhymesayer family umbrella, and fuckin’ mix tapes.
Disarray Mag: “Together/Apart,” the new album, released right before jumping onto the Warped Tour, right?
Grieves: Like three days before. Yeah, it’s been crazy.
DM: Everything on the album seems pretty personal. Do you rap to tell other people’s stories, your stories, or a little of both?
Grieves: Everything I talk about is personally related to my life, you know, like what I’ve experienced. I can’t really make shit up, but I touch on subjects that I’m familiar with. A lot of the stuff manifests itself in the record.
DM: The division of responsibilities? Is it just beats (Budo) and lyrics (Grieves)? We saw you on the guitar today, but I’ve seen you play a trumpet in the past, too.
Budo: Yeah, I usually play the trumpet, too. I bought a new skateboard in El Paso and two hours later it went on an excursion across a K Mart parking lot and I fucking fell on my face, busted my lip open, so I can’t play the trumpet right now.
Grieves: I make some of the music, too. I made a couple of the beats on “Together/Apart.” Same on “88 Keys [and counting],” and on “Irreversible” I did most of them.
Budo: Even on the beats that I make, or the ones we make together, it is a collaborative process. It is very much a process of writing songs together and there is no prescribed formula by which we go about. It’s not like I sit down and make a beat and send it to him and he writes a rap. It’s very much, especially on this last record, it was a very multi-faceted approach. We didn’t limit ourselves to one particular method of making music. So, some of the songs were ones that we would go in to the studio, sit down, and literally craft together from silence to a full song. Then, some of them were skeletons of beats that I sent over to him and he would write a little bit to ‘em, send ‘em back, and then we would go in to the studio and add parts together. Some of them, like “On The Rocks,” in particular, and some others like “Sunny Side of Hell,” and other tracks, that’s all him. It’s very much, whatever works. We kind of, I think, function very well by not limiting ourselves to one particular way of doing it, because that gets stale, I think.
|Photo credit: Wesley Bauman|
DM: So with that, are there songs you’ve been banking to get on an album eventually, or is it just start fresh with a clean slate on this record?
Grieves: Yeah, “Heartbreak Hotel” was made before “Irreversible.” Yeah, I just couldn’t ever do it. I couldn’t sing it. I had it produced. I had it written, but I just couldn’t execute it. So I waited until I could, because I love the song so much, and I waited until I could execute that song the way I wanted it, which was more recently after learning how to sing a little more.
Budo: Same with “Greedy Bitch” on “88 Keys.” That had been around for a little while. That was probably the same session that “Heartbreak Hotel” came from, right?
Grieves: Nah, I think that was one of the first songs I wrote after I got off the Atmosphere tour. Yeah, it was the first song I wrote when I got off that tour. That’s in that same batch when I wrote “Bloody Poetry.” So, yeah, there’s another older song as well.
DM: So these weren’t songs sitting around getting dusty, but it was something you shelved and then this time around you thought, “Let’s see if we can get these done right.”
Grieves: Yeah, we recreated these songs. Well, Heartbreak stayed the same, but “Bloody Poetry” was originally over a different beat. The beat ended up getting used by a different rapper so I canned the song. Then Budo took the a cappella off of it and made a completely different beat, a completely different feel, and then we fell in love with the song again. It is way better than it originally was. I love that song now.
DM: So what brought you from Colorado to Seattle?
Grieves: The need of change, man. I had to get the fuck out of there. I love that place, but I didn’t see myself going anywhere. I don’t mean career-wise, I mean life-wise. I needed to leave, I was too familiar with everything and everyone, and not in a good way. So I just had to get out.
DM: So how long before you moved down to California after that?
Grieves: In 2008 I moved down to San Diego. Then in ‘09-’10 I moved to New York, and now I’m back in Seattle.
DM: Does that city resonate with you, Seattle or New York, San Diego, or is that no matter what city you’re in you’ll still be you?
Grieves: Those rainy days might have something to do with it [the music].
Budo: What’s interesting, this record, if you really want to identify a region that it came from, it was a New York record. We were both in New York, I was there for about two years and he was there for a year and a half, and that was the period of time that the album took shape. He moved back to Seattle about a year ago, now.
|Photo credit: Wesley Bauman|
DM: Now with getting on Rhymesayers, is that seal of approval for you? A gold star, if you will?
Grieves: Oh, hell yeah. I don’t know, it’s a hell of an accomplishment, I’ll tell you that much. No one is doing it like those guys are. So, the fact that they want to put their logo on your record is a big fuckin’ deal to me, at least. I live it that world, I looked up to those guys, and I still do. Those guys on the label, those are my fuckin’ idols, man.
DM: So with signing with them was there a little added pressure with “Together/Apart” being you Rhymesayers debut album?
Grieves: Yeah, this is our debut album on Rhymesayer, we wanna do good. I don’t know, at the same time there wasn’t that much pressure because they wouldn’t have picked us up if what we were doing didn’t make any sense. So, it’s not like they are like, “look, you need to change your sound, and change everything about you, and make this record or you’re fucked.” Pretty much it was like, “keep doing what you’re doing. We really like it. We’re just gonna make it bigger.”
Budo: They took a very hands off approach. They gave us a lot of space to make this record and that was really valuable in terms of the creative process because I don’t think we felt like it was this iron fist breathing down waiting for the moment of perfection. Ya know, and when we turned the record in it was definitely received well. They’ve been so warm to us from accepting the record to just treating us like family. It has been incredible; they’re family. So there is a lack of pressure.
Grieves: Yeah, we got direction on some stuff, there were just some songs that didn’t make the cut...and we made a lot of songs.
DM: So will there be a “Together/Apart B-Sides” in the future for the fans?
Grieves: Maybe, but we would never call it a B-Side, because I feel like that is a shitty way to get more money out of fans.
Budo: Yeah, but I think there are certain songs that are part of the process in getting to write a song, and there is no reason to release those.
Grieves: There is the ‘clearing the pipes’ song. You know, you haven’t made a song in a while. Sometimes that song is phenomenal because everything just explodes.
Budo: Then the times where it sucks. It’s terrible, and I think to release that would be doing your fans a disservice. It would really be underselling your brand. You only have so many chances to get people’s attention, and if you waste those chances on mediocrity, then you’re fucked.
Grieves: There is no point in selling...crap. Just because we can and we just put our names on it.
Budo: There are people that do that. There is a definite desire for a constant stream of stuff. People want free mix tapes and free downloads every month and there is a certain section of the industry for which that is how you stay relevant with this constant stream. That is cool. That is definitely a lane that works for some people, but what we’re trying to do is to make albums and music that have a lasting impact on us and on our fans. The way you do that is by taking your time and being patient with the process.
Grieves: And you can look at it two ways, or just anyway you want, but it’s like you can make less and have really good songs accessible, or put every song you make out there and clog the market. People will know who you are, because your songs are everywhere, but maybe only four of them are good. I would rather have less music out and have all of them be really good songs instead of having a shitload of songs and people are sayin’, “he’s got a lot of shit out, but I like four or five of them.” I wouldn’t want to be that guy. I take pride in going to the studio and letting a song age. You sit with a song for a month or so, you hear it and want to change some things about, or rewrite verses or something like that. I’m all about letting a song age and grow up to become what it is before I show it to the public. We do on the fly songs, and it’s fun for a certain purpose, but I wouldn’t want to build my career off of that because I’m all about making good music. I want you to hear my songs and say, “Damn, that dude sat down and made a legitimate record,” instead of “Out of the eighty songs he released this year, I like this one.”
Budo: Because that’s the music we grew up on. It was put together, crafted. Albums, man. Albums. I love albums. I love albums that stand out as grand works of art. That’s the fuckin’ coolest thing about music to me is these big works. Not to say that we have approached that scale of grand works, but I think this album is something that has a life of it’s own. It’s this world of a lot of emotions and a lot of different textures and sounds and things that you can’t put together in a week.
Grieves: And that’s our shit. That our trademark. Because in a world of mix tapes and stuff like that, fuck a mix tape. If I hear one more dude rapping over “Black and Yellow” on a fuckin’ mix tape with him superimposed with a city in the background, I’m gonna fuckin’ slap myself. It drives me crazy. I just don’t get it. I never got the mix tape thing. I understand the concept I don’t get why it is popular. “You don’t have a mix tape? Why don’t you have a mix tape out?” Suck my fuckin’ dick. I have three fully crafted albums out of my own music.
DM: So, do you guys, and I hate to use a qualitative term like this, “best” album so far?
Grieves: Yeah, this is our most well-rounded and crafted album.
DM: Glad you said, because this is an incredible album.
Budo: Thank you. I think it is the pride we feel in this album surpasses everything we’ve felt before.
|Photo credit: Wesley Bauman|
DM: Do you guys feel at home here on the Warped Tour? I know you guys have a great bus, sharing it and touring with friends like MC Lars and Weerd Science and all them, but out there on stage or with other bands, do you feel comfortable or at home here?
Grieves: Ya know what, at the end of the day when we are all out here on our buses, grabbing shit from underneath the bays and we’re running in to each other at the catering line, we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all artists out here and we’re all trying to make a living, and we’re trying to expose our art to people. I don’t feel any different from the guys in Winds of Plague who I got to meet on this tour. They are some of the heaviest, hardcore, most metal-ass dudes, and they are the shit. They are are cool-ass dudes. I mean, I am working on a song with one of those guys. I feel like there are a lot of like-minded people on the tour and people will probably get confused because of what it looks like on stage versus what you are when you are sitting on this bus, ya know. Your music is a certain projection and then you as a person is a little different, especially when you’ve got a whole band of different people up there. It’s great. I’m lovin’ the people I’m meetin’ out here.
DM: You guys are running the whole length of the tour. What is coming up after the tour for you?
Grieves: Full national.
DM: Any ideas of who might be running on that with you.
Budo: Yes, but we can’t say.
DM: OK, I had to ask or my editor would kill me. With all the girls you write about, have you ever gotten the angry call or the vicious text after performing or releasing a song on an album?
Grieves: Fuck ‘em. Fuckin’ dumbass broad showed up to my record release party and was like, “you put on a really good show. I had to leave during some of the songs.” I was like, “fuckin’ stay away then.” Shouldn’t have been here anyways, asshole.
DM: So, I just did a piece on Atmosphere, Rhymesayers founders, and they are around 40 now, still touring and releasing incredible albums. Are you still gonna be out there at 40 jumping around and rapping?
Grieves: If my fans let me. If my fans follow me all the way to the end, I’ll fuckin’ take it there.
DM: So the goal here isn’t to kick back in ten years, own your own label, and just put down the mic?
Budo: Well, Sean [Slug of Atmosphere], they’re not on the road like they were on the road, but they’re still on the fuckin’ road, ya know. I think they are a great example of a band that is able to find a balance to transition in to being middle-aged dudes with families, wives, kids, dogs, homes, and all that stuff, but they’re still touring enough that they are in front of their fans a couple times a year. That’s a cool balance.
Grieves: And what Sean does supports Rhymesayers. All his hard work, all his effort, all that touring that he does is for Rhymesayers. He is opening that up. I’m sure he knows he can’t do it forever.
Budo: He probably doesn’t want to do it forever.
Grieves: Rhymesayers is another one of his kids, ya know? He is working his ass off for it right now, and he has been for the last 12 years. He’s been grinding his ass off. So, that’s why being a part of Rhymesayers is an honor, because I feel like he let me in the family. That is this thing he has been building for so long, and he let us be a part of that.
|Photo credit: Wesley Bauman|
DM: That is the thing for me, as a fan, is that they call it a “family.”
Grieves: It is. You know everybody there. Everyone is super close.
Budo: Yeah. You [Grieves] were sayin’ this the other day. Rhymesayers has built itself on this model of providing access where they are treating fans like family, and that is something you don’t find anywhere else in the music industry. It’s a lot, that’s a big fuckin’ family, ya know?
Grieves: Well, that’s why they’re still standing. A lot of people are fallin’ right now and Rhymesayers is only getting bigger. With all that said, with this record, that is why we wanted to hit it fuckin’ hard. Because I don’t want to slow roll. With everything that is happening with Rhymesayers, I wanted to smack that fucker right out of the park. I did it the best that I could and I only wanna do it better on the next one. That’s a sense of pressure on the next one. Not in a bad way. I grew up listening to these guys. They gave me an opportunity, so I’m not gonna sluff it off. It’s not like I made it because I’m on Rhymesayers. I’ve got so much more to do, and every swing I take is gonna be a fuckin’ hit; it has to be.
DM: With the crazy music industry, do you think people are ready in the Top 40 for a Grieves track? You guys charted Top 100, but is that a goal you set?
Grieves: It’s not a goal.
Budo: It happens “because.” I repeat what you’ve said time and time again [Grieves], but it is because it is comfort music. It is music that comforts us and provides comfort for other people. That means a lot of different things in a lot of different types of songs, but if the byproduct of that is that it gains widespread success, which I firmly believe it has the potential to do, that’s awesome.
Grieves: And why the hell not? Not to be gloating or anything. Forget me, let’s put it in the hands of Atmosphere. To see Atmosphere chart in the Top 40, puts faith in me that people are still buying good music. It doesn’t have to be so cosmetic like everything is in the Top 40 and you don’t have to have these fuckin’ major bosses behind you twisting and turning the machine to force other people to like you. The fact that there is that many people to make an independent act like Atmosphere be on the Top 40, or us, or Brother Ali, or anyone on that label, that’s fuckin’ amazing. That puts faith in me that not all of this has gone to shit. It’s a different age, a different time, charting on the Billboard now is a lot different than what it was. You chart with a lot lower numbers than what you used to because people have your record already. Most of the time even before it comes out, people got your fuckin’ record. So, it’s different, but if you can gain that exposure and if other people can see you doing that for yourself and they actually start listening to you, I think that is important.
Budo: The number one record for the last two weeks in the country has been Bon Iver’s newest record, which is on an independent label with major distribution, but that’s a left field, odd ball record to be in that spot.
DM: Yeah, like with Mumford & Sons sticking around the charts, right behind Gaga.
Grieves: And that is awesome. That has got to keep happening and maybe that will shift a little bit or even out. You get enough of that and it’s like the cool kid table at lunch, and you just start slidin’ them down the bench a little bit.
|Photo credit: Wesley Bauman|
DM: Now one last question, since we’ve touched on it. “Indie” vs. “mainstream.” Is that just a moot point now in todays’ digital music landscape?
Grieves: Independent and mainstream is not what the music is. I feel like a lot of “independent rap fans” think there is a particular sound.
DM: That’s how I feel, too. I have heard that phrase “independent sound” and it’s not a sound, just business.
Budo: Yeah, like what the fuck does that mean?
Grieves: Go on YouTube. It is nothing but people arguing about how L’il Wayne and Souja Boy are fuckin’ assholes and white rappers versus black rappers, and it’s fuckin’ insane, man.
Budo: It’s those cosmetic categorizations that really have nothing to do with the music.
Grieves: Underground versus “overground” or whatever the fuck it is.
Budo: People think that way. I understand that you need to understand things relationally. I mean, the world is fuckin’ huge. There is 8 million kinds of cereal, 300 kinds of bottled water, 70 kinds of sunscreen, and you need to be able to compartmentalize shit to be able to function, or if you start considering all the options your brain is gonna explode. So, you need those boxes, but there is a point where the boxes are useful so you can part through the static, but there is also a point where those boxes start to become like walls towards actually forming your own opinion about something. I think the reason people state that indie music is better than mainstream or that white rappers are better than black rappers, or whatever the fuck they’re saying, is because they need definition, or they’re not thinking, whether or not they want to.
Grieves: That shit is kinda frustrating. You see people argue over it and it’s like A: I don’t want the negativity surrounding what I do anyway. I don’t like to draw a line in any sand on anything. We had a video on MTV, and I see people go, “this is bullshit. We liked him until he had a video on MTV.” Well, here’s the thing, brother, MTV played my video and you don’t like me anymore? Would you like that song if it wasn’t on MTV? It’s like, if you like that music, why can’t somebody else like it, too? And why is it a bad thing that MTV is playing the music that you like? You hate MTV for playing the shit that you hate, but you would like them if you played the music you like, but when they play the music that you like, you hate that guy now.
Budo: That’s frustrating, because people have been doing that since the dawn of time and that’s just the way it is.
Grieves: I used to look at the underground thing like this: People, even with our record, it sounds really good, we spent fuckin’ $20,000 in the studio on this record and it sounds like it, and people are like, “sounds like he is giving up his underground roots.” You know what that shit is? My “underground roots” are when I didn’t have any fucking money and I was recording in my goddamned closet on a $20 microphone. That’s what you like!?
DM: (laughs) You like low production quality? Well, I guess that’s why you have a 100 mix tapes laying around.
Thanks so much to Grieves and Budo for giving us such a candid conversation on their tour bus. Check out the new album, people. Seriously, I am going to say it since I haven’t read it anywhere else: this might be the biggest Grammy snub if these two don’t get a nomination. Last year that title belonged to Dessa and her album, but these two have put out an album deserving of a Rhymesayers logo of approval. It was a great interview, and if you want to hear the music they are talking about on “Together/Apart” then check out Rhymesayers.com, or go to iTunes, or Youtube, or your local record store to buy it all legit-like. Either way, you’re going to want to follow @grievesmusic on Twitter and like him on Facebook along with the Rhymesayers label for all tour info and links to all the cool shit they put out by all those incredible artists. Catch Grieves and Budo on your local Warped Tour stop all summer as they will be ready and willing to rock your damned face right off your head and you’ll thank them for it at their merch tent, too. They will sign anything, ladies.
All photo by Wesley Bauman
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About the Author
Wesley Bauman, author of Doggy Paddling in the Deep End, is a writer/photojournalist originally from Oregon who makes his home in Ventura, CA. He's contributed to the VCReporter and maintains an active blog (http://projectpoppycock.com/) where he writes on political and social satire regularly. Follow Wesley on Twitter @myownfalseidol