I interviewed Brad and Shawn from Grade before the band played at the Che Café. It was a balmy, Southern California evening and while hardcore raged inside, we sat on the patio and talked about unity, life on the road and how many people will stop to watch movies playing on a TV screen in a van.
State your name and instrument so I can transcribe this later.
Brad: My name's Brad, I play guitar.
Shawn: I'm Shawn, I play guitar as well.
Yeah, I saw the Ibanez you were polishing. It looks nice.
So Grade started off in 1994 in Ontario. Why did you guys originally get together?
Brad: Well, I'm a non-original member.
Shawn: Well, we were in this band called Incision, a straight-edge band. Our bass player quit, some of us weren't straight-edge anymore, we got a new bass player and it wasn't really Incision anymore, so we changed the name to Grade. It was kind of a last minute thing. We were playing our first show with our new bass player and we didn't have a name, so we changed the name to Grade and went from there. Since then, we've had a few different drummers and Brad has been recently brought in on guitar.
So, since the topic of straight-edge has already come up and I know that Victory was predominantly a straight-edge label even though it's branched out in recent years, is Grade a straight-edge band?
Are members of Grade still straight-edge?
Shawn: Two of us are, yes.
Brad: That doesn't make us boozers. I would just prefer to stay away from scapegoating myself.
Shawn: I very, very rarely drink, but once in a while.
Brad: Yeah, instead of labeling yourself.
And then having to answer the questions about it.
Shawn: It's cool, I think we prefer to just do what we want to do.
Now the first album was "And Such Is Progress," right?
Shawn: Well, we did a split CD with Believe which was before that first full-length.
It sounds like you've made a distinct progression from the early songs to now. On "And Such Is Progress," I could hear the beginnings of "Under The Radar" - pretty melodies with heavy guitars and screaming vocals. As you went on, it seems like that contrast started blending more. The changes aren't as abrupt. Was that conscious?
Shawn: No, with "And Such Is Progress" and the earlier songwriting, it was like we had this riff and this riff and this riff. We'd hook them together and they were a song. That's why they were a bit more choppy. I guess we just kind of evolved as songwriters and lyricists. Things that we may have done in the past on "And Such Is Progress," now we know that it wouldn't fit, that it's not a good progression to the next part of the song. We're just more picky.
Brad: I think it's starting to rock more.
Shawn: Yeah, I think we're rocking out more and the new members have brought in different aspects to the band as well.
How many of the original members are left?
Shawn: Three. Me, Matt and Kyle.
So there are really only two new members.
Shawn: Yeah. We've gone through a few drummers, about four or five I think, but Brad is the only other guitar player we've had other than Greg, the original guitar player.
So what do you think the new members have brought into the band? New influences, new styles, new ways of playing?
Shawn: Definitely. We all listen to a lot of the same music but we all like a lot of different music as well. Brad is a little more rock. Danner's a little more of a simple rock drummer too, whereas our old drummer was real technical. Chris just brought more straight-ahead rock.
Brad: The live show has gotten a lot more straight-ahead too, I think. The fear of doing something to upset a certain fan is gone. The band's gotten older, obviously, so nobody's really worried about keeping some sort of hardcore ideals, like keeping everybody happy. The band has to progress. We're just going to go where the band wants to go.
So you aren't trying to do things that someone in the audience may expect.
Brad: We've been writing some new material for the next album and there's no more saying, "We can't do that because you just don't do that in hardcore." Anything goes now and I'm sure you can expect to hear a completely different record again next time around.
Shawn: We're going to lose fans and we're going to gain fans, like with going to Victory. We lost fans and we gained fans.
Wait a minute, what do you mean, you lost fans going to Victory?
Shawn: A lot of people thought we were selling out and stuff like that and we did a video.
Brad: Stupid stuff, yeah.
How the fuck are you selling out by moving to another independent label?
Brad: Well, the thing is that unfortunately in the DIY/independent music scene, people seem to feel attachment to a band, like when you first discovered a band that no one else had, that was the thing. Victory obviously is such a mainstream label now, Victory is humongous. We know this for a fact just from doing daily business with them but I think a lot of people just read into things and make assumptions for themselves. Victory is an independent label - totally, completely independent and that's what should stick to it but people associate Victory with major rock.
Shawn: They don't think we're cool anymore because you can buy our record in Tower Records now and the Virgin Superstore.
Brad: Making something more accessible to people does not necessarily mean you're selling out. We've been talking about this a lot on this tour especially because our merchandising table is large. We've been on the road now since I've been in the band, since the start of the year with off and on breaks and we don't have jobs. So I think that when kids say a band's selling out, I think there's a real difference between selling out and maintaining being able to do this like we've been doing it. Shawn's 26, I'm 25. A lot of bands are breaking up. I'm sure you've seen your favorite hardcore band break up.
In My Eyes.
Brad: There you go. Unless you're progressing as musicians and as a band, getting more popular, then bands do break up. Grade's lasted for six years because of constant progression and changes, they're not scared of progression. A day may come when Grade jumps to a major. I don't think there's any selling out about it, it's just a major progression.
Shawn: I've spent five years losing money on this band, going on tour and spending our own money on tour, and now, just in the last year, since we can finally make a bit of money on it, we're sellouts.
Brad: Now we come home from tour and we've got a good chunk of money and all of a sudden, we're sellouts. Some of the comments we get from people. We sell a t-shirt for $10 which is still dirt cheap.
Shawn: The most reasonable price for a t-shirt. Every once in a while, you'll still have some kid come up and complain.
Brad: And we're all in our mid-20s, Kyle will be 28 this year.
I'm turning 28 this year and I don't begrudge a band that's able to make money off what they do.
Shawn: There you go.
Brad: I don't put an age limit on the scene at all but I don't think that there should be a limit on where the scene can go.
Or how it evolves.
Brad: Or how it evolves. After this tour, we jump right on with the Groovie Ghoulies and The Mad Caddies. We start that tour in California, but that's a progression.
Yeah, because the Groovie Ghoulies are 3-chord Ramones-styled graveyard punk.
Brad: Yeah, but why scapegoat yourself into the same scene year after year? Hardcore music and punk get smaller and bigger but generally what happens is the older kids leave and get replaced by younger kids. Hardcore and punk rock seem to always stay at a constant level. The way we look at it is why it continues to stay in the same genre. Let's do a tour all year. We were on tour with Snapcase this year.
Shawn: We just did some Snow Jam dates.
Brad: Yeah, Snow Jam dates with major punk bands like Down By Law, Big Wig, H2O. If we can go and play to a crowd like that and have somebody who's somewhere else think that the songs are great and buy the record, then why not? There's nothing that's selling out about that. As far as the video is concerned, that is a move that kids can't relate to in a hardcore scene because there are no videos. I think Grade is a groundbreaking band for a number of reasons. I haven't been in the band for very long but being a fan of the band over the years and finally being able to join them, the music writing has always been groundbreaking and making a video was a groundbreaking move as well. I don't think there's any selling out. I mean, I hope Grade is paving the way for other bands in the genre to make a living out of doing this and it's all about making a living. None of us are ever looking at this as wanting the limos or the mansions.
It's not about getting rich, it's about paying rent.
Brad: We've been on this tour now for three months. We're getting paid to play our guitars and if that's not the coolest thing then I don't know what is. I think that we should take opportunities like making a video.
Shawn: We're still making less money than we made at the jobs that we had to quit to go on tour.
So you can maintain your credibility because you're still poor.
Shawn: Yeah, we're still way more poor than when we had jobs.
Brad: But see, there you go, that's credibility for you. I'm hoping that we can continue doing this and keep moving up the ladder. Why not? I honestly think that, as far as punk rock and hardcore go, there are bands that have maybe strayed a little bit from their original roots.
Like Bad Religion. They sound really different to me now.
Brad: Yeah, obviously, musical styles are going to progress and people are going to go to different spots but there are bands that started out in the DIY/punk/hardcore scene that have made it really big that have changed the ethics and the original basis of punk rock. I'm not going to name names, but I was reading a really good article on the Warped tour - and I think the Warped tour is a great thing - but I was reading an article on Blink-182 about how maybe has indirectly brought more of a frat house attitude to punk and hardcore.
I don't think there's anything indirect about it. I'm with D4 on this one - "First you had a DIY chip on your shoulder/ Now you've got an ego fifty fanzines wide."
Shawn: There you go.
Brad: I don't know. I don't know how I feel, but I'd like to think that if Grade was ever able to be in the position that those bands are in, we'd like to maintain what we've always been. The guys in Grade are genuine guys. You aren't going to find any differences as the years have gone on - it's the same guys the whole time so I think you can progress and still stay the same, if that makes any sense.
Why do you keep alternating between they and we? You keep saying "the guys in Grade," but you're in Grade.
Brad: I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't like to step on people's toes for maybe making comments that would have been their decision in the past before I was involved.
So it's a gesture of respect.
Brad: Yeah, definitely. Obviously, decisions that were made about Victory and things like that were before my time.
So what's it like for you, having been a fan of the band in the past, to play in Grade?
Brad: I'm excited. I was pretty stoked when I got the opportunity to begin with and everything's been working out really good. I was working a job three or four months ago and now I'm in California.
It sounds like Grade has opened up a lot of doors for both of you - musically, personally, traveling. It sounds like the band has been a positive force in your lives.
Shawn: Definitely. It's been nothing but positive for me. The only thing negative for me is that my girlfriend dumped me because we're on tour all the time. I've been to Europe. We're going again in a couple of months. I've seen all the states except for four or six, or something like that. I finally got to see Canada. I had seen the United States a million times before I had even seen my own country, so it was nice to tour across Canada last year. We're doing it again this year. It's been nothing but positive for me. Meeting people and coming back to those towns a year later and having friends that you met last year.
Brad: Yeah, I got to meet people all over the country.
Shawn: You get to travel around in a van with your friends. We hate each other once in a while, but we're all friends and what's better than getting to hang out with your friends and travel around the world and play guitar or bass or drums every night or whatever you love to do?
The first thing that really grabbed me about the band was the music. I heard things that grabbed me and said what I needed to hear, so I'm curious what your songwriting process is like.
Brad: I guess it could go in a million different directions. It could start with a riff or a song idea. I mean, we've been on the road since the beginning of the year but we're consciously trying to write a new record for next year. We want to take our time with it.
Shawn: Usually, someone will come in with a riff, say Brad comes in with a riff and Matt will throw down a bass line and I'll throw down a guitar part on top of it. Then me or Matt will say, "What about that riff we had three months ago that we never did anything with? Will it fit in here?" Or we'll just jam the song and something will come of it. Even Matt will come in - he's the bass player but he has a guitar at home - with a complete guitar riff.
Is there any bass player who doesn't have a guitar?
Shawn: I don't think so. Somehow it all just comes together. It's pretty weird, actually.
Brad: I think the cool thing with Grade, like what Shawn was saying earlier, that's probably changed from the earlier days is that we played the songs that we're demoing for the next record on the Snapcase tour, but that song is not going to wind up anywhere near what it is on the road when it ends up on the record.
Well, you have the chance to see how you feel about it.
Brad: How we feel about it is definitely the major part. I think Grade at this point in time, there's no more lulls anymore, nowhere that you are ever going to get bored. We want listening to that record to be intense, like no brakes, just every song. I know how disappointing it is to listen to various records and just not get it.
Right, people asking why that part is there.
Brad: Well, sometimes those parts work, but we were writing a song which we've stopped playing on this tour just because it's obviously going to end up being a song on the new Grade album but it's not going to end up being the same just because there are parts that we just don't feel right about. I think that's what's great about road testing a song because you're not in a studio or in a practice space where everybody is sitting on a chair. You're on stage and performing it, you get to find where that song doesn't work in a performance setting.
Plus, you also get to figure out what sounds better live.
Brad: Anything you can do to make the song better.
Shawn: One thing we were lucky with too with "Under The Radar," we were able to demo the songs first and then sat down with them for a month or so and we all took a CD home and just listened to it. We changed a lot. If I go home and listen to that demo, half the songs are totally changed. That's one thing that helped us was being on Victory. We had the advantage of a little more time to spend recording it. With this album, we're going to do the same thing. We're going to demo the songs first, listen to them, chop them to pieces.
Brad: We're planning on making the next album the Grade record. Obviously, our budget from Victory is a lot higher than the last album so we kind of want to embellish the recording process.
So are you talking about multi-tracking or bringing in different instruments or what?
Brad: Whatever is needed.
Shawn: Last year, we didn't even spend our whole budget on the album. We had to buy a trailer and stuff like that too. This year, we're spending the whole amount on recording, nothing but recording. We're thinking of hiring a producer. We want to make the essential Grade recording.
So if you guys broke up after the record, you'd have a final album that people could look at and say, "At least they didn't start sucking."
Shawn: Yeah, exactly.
Brad: Yeah, at least they got that album out.
Shawn: That's what I'm trying to do.
Brad: Hopefully that all takes place in the studio where it's not so rushed. I want to use different amps, different guitars, look into some technology effects.
Shawn: Yeah, we're going to start experimenting with some effects and stuff, maybe a wah here and there.
Brad: If there's a way we can put these effects in and not have it ruin a song or rely on it.
Shawn: It's still just going to be straight-ahead rock.
Well, you can only play a Les Paul through a distortion pedal for so long. Sooner or later, you have to do something different.
Brad: I think there's a time. I think there's definitely a time. Even on "Under The Radar," these guys experimented with different guitar sounds.
I was even picking up ska riffs.
Brad: That was Greg.
Shawn: That would have been Greg.
Brad: He's in a band called Jersey now, they're on Fueled By Ramen. They're a lot more punk rock.
Shawn: Yeah, those are his things coming through.
Brad: You can really hear the Greg influence on "Under The Radar" and even when you talk to Greg, he'll admit that it was hard for him to write songs that didn't sound like that because that's the frame of mind he was in at that time. He really wanted to do his Jersey thing and I think "Under The Radar" really shows it.
Shawn: Oh yeah. There were riffs he'd come in with and we'd be like, "No, that's a Jersey riff."
Brad: But I think that's Greg for you in a nutshell and that's where Greg is. You can hear Shawn's songs on all the Grade records and you can tell where Greg's style is.
Shawn: You can tell who's written what.
Grade's lyrics seem kind of opaque - "Something Goes To Your Head" and "Seamless" are pretty easy to understand but others, like "The Inefficiency Of Emotions," are kind of hard to figure out. The overall feeling I got from the album is that it's about looking back at the past and learning from it, then moving on.
Brad: Obviously, Kyle is the lyricist, but as a bystander to the actual album, I think it was something that one review of "Under The Radar" said, this album brings you down while lifting you up. There are depressing parts in it but we aren't dragging you down a lot. There are bands that write emo stuff that drag you down; these songs kind of bring you up. I think that's definitely it.
Brad: Yeah. I think that a lot of songs on "Under The Radar" are more honest than what a lot of the hardcore emo bands are doing these days, but why not? A lot of the songs you can relate to and I think a lot of people can relate to them because they know it's true. There are no politics involved in it. It's just honest.
Quite frankly, I could give a fuck about scene politics. When I got this album, I was getting over a pretty nasty breakup so "Something Goes To Your Head" took me about 15 seconds to understand on a gut level. What the fuck does it mean to write a song about so-and-so drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette and getting their scene membership card revoked? You write about universal topics.
Brad: Quite simply, in really blunt, layman's terms, I'm glad that the hardcore music scene is starting to slowly evolve out of a finger-pointing scapegoating situation. I understand how people can believe in a certain cause, but I think that - and Grade proves it - you can believe in a cause, and that's your choice, but not ostracize other people and their opinions of music. I think that's where hardcore's headed now and I think that's awesome.
So you're talking about unity.
Brad: I think it is. I think it's an unspoken kind of unity, especially with a lot of the bands that Grade tours with.
Shawn: Even within our band. We have vegans, vegetarians, meat eaters, straight-edge, not straight-edge, you know? We don't give a fuck. I don't give a shit if Kyle's straight-edge or vegan, he doesn't care if I eat meat.
Brad: I think everybody has a common ground and a common goal within their scene. You know that hardcore punk rock, we all have the same ideals and sometimes you will be out and you will see someone that's really fucked up and everyone will agree that that's just not cool. That is just not good. I think we can all agree on that. Regardless of what you do, whether you're vegan or whatever, you can have a common ground and a common belief that these things suck about our scene.
Like Nazi skinheads breaking up shows.
Brad: There you go. That's something that everybody can agree on. I mean, I have a drink every now and again, but I still look at some people who drink and feel really bad for that person because they have to use alcohol as a crutch. I feel sorry for those people and try to help them out and straight-edge guys feel the same way. We just don't call ourselves certain labels.
Right, you have a unity of empathy.
Brad: Definitely. If everybody felt that way, this scene would be an unstoppable force. I know that some people unfairly judge people because of what they've heard; I know that there is a club mentality, especially for a lot of kids coming into the scene.
It's all about the backpacks and slogans.
Brad: Sure, man, definitely. But that's cool too because if a kid, I know what it was like being in high school, and if a kid feels good about himself for putting a straight-edge patch on his backpack, that's fucking awesome. I just hope that he can also respect other people that don't have the same thing on their backpacks. If he feels like he's part of a club, that's what life's about. If he feels good about himself, like he finally fits in and finally found his place in life and can do that, go do it. Don't fuck other people.
Right, don't ostracize them because they choose something different.
Brad: There are a lot of bands out there that do that. I mean, when we're on the road, we read articles all the time about Grade. We're fucking assholes, we're arrogant pricks. The quickest, easiest answer to sum that up, and it goes along with what we're talking about here, is that you see a band for an hour or 45 minutes out of a day in their entire lives. If they're having a bad 45 minutes at that time, that's how you perceive that person. We've all gone to shows when something really bad is happening in our lives, and for that 45 minutes at that show, that kid meets us or talks to us and comes away with an instant opinion of us. 45 minutes. Out of our entire lives, he judges us on 45 minutes.
Sometimes it doesn't even take that long, like if you're drinking a beer or whatever.
Brad: There you go, or just said something and it comes back without really just trying to get to know people. When we go on tour with bands, we always know - before we meet these bands - some kind of story.
Shawn: They do this or don't do that.
Brad: How can you believe that? We've all heard about some guy that's a dick, you're going to interview some guy that's apparently a dick and you come out of that interview thinking that guy was the nicest guy you ever talked to in your life. It's the same thing with straight-edge and any movement. You unfairly judge somebody for that one minute that you meet them or something that you've heard.
It's really a shame because in situations like that, people don't have time to go back and reevaluate that opinion later.
Brad: Definitely, but hopefully that's something that's going to change. And I see it changing, I really do. We go on tour with great bands that are straight-edge bands and so forth and everything's great. Nobody's worried about anything. I think that's hopefully where things go and I'm really happy to see that the punk rock scene is blending in as well.
You mentioned causes, and I hate to use that word because it's so loaded, but what kind of causes does Grade get behind? What does Grade stand for?
Shawn: I don't even know.
Brad: A cause that I think I stand for is humanism.
Brad: It's just a fact that people treat each other like humans.
Shawn: And respect.
Brad: That's the cause.
Brad: That's our number one cause, just letting people have their space. Rarely is there a time in life when somebody's actions affect you directly.
A punch to the face is one thing.
Brad: Yeah, there's a time when you have to stick up for yourself, but that guy sitting over there smoking a cigarette does not bother me in the slightest. I think it's just respect. As far as the cause I'm in, it's humanity itself. I'm a real humanist. I believe that people should, without sounding cheesy .
Shawn: I know what you're going to say and that's one thing we can all agree on in the band. I know that.
I can make a guess about that because of your Down By Law punk rock academy t-shirt. I've got the hoodie at home and it's the name of my Web site.
Shawn: Oh really?
Brad: [laughs] There you go man. When we did the Snow Jam tour with them, they were really cool guys.
Shawn: Totally cool.
Anyway, I can guess that much about you from the t-shirt.
Brad: Yeah, there you go.
Oh shit! I just made a snap judgment!
Brad: [laughs] I don't see how anybody can say something about somebody for wearing a t-shirt when it's all the same thing. A Down By Law t-shirt is the same to me as an In My Eyes t-shirt or Earth Crisis t-shirt. It's a DIY band. It's all the same.
It's somebody at a show that you can walk up to and talk to and say, "I saw your t-shirt, and if nothing, we at least have this in common."
Brad: We have a common music that we like, a music that's not abused by the radio or by the media. I think that's a good way of looking at it too, abused by the radio and media. As I said before, I find nothing wrong with our songs being played on radio or MTV. There are times when it's being abused by the media, but I don't see that ever coming in hardcore or punk rock. I don't think it'll ever become always out there. I don't think it ever will and I'm not concerned about it. As far as I'm concerned, play the songs all day on the radio and hopefully a million kids buy the record and it changes someone else's thoughts.
I'm sure everybody has an album that changed their life. First of all, what were those albums for you?
Brad: Well, it's going to be tough for you guys down here, but there's a really small band in Hamilton right by where I'm from called the Forgotten Rebels, a very early punk rock band.
Oh yeah, they covered "Science Fiction Double Feature"!
Brad: That's right man! Good for you!
Yeah, most of their stuff just got reissued down here.
Brad: Right on! Hey, if anybody gets something out of this interview, pick up Forgotten Rebels records. I must have been about 12 when I started listening to those records. That's when I first started listening to punk rock. I can remember, that was the starting point of me getting involved in the punk rock scene. As far as I'm concerned, there is no other record. There were Misfits records that followed soon after that and I got into a lot of oi after that as well, but as far as the record, I got a tape. Someone had taped it for me on a cassette. I didn't know what the band looked like and I was just like, "This is it. This is what I aspire to do."
How about you, Shawn?
Shawn: I can't pick any one band or album, but off the top of my head, because it's fairly recent, was the last Jimmy Eat World album, "Clarity," and "Forever And Counting" by Hot Water Music. That had a really big effect on me.
Brad: Hot Water Music, definitely.
Shawn: There are probably a few other albums, but those are the two that come to mind right now.
Somebody asked me about Hot Water Music in a record store the other day and I grabbed "Forever And Counting" and told them it would sell them on anything else the band ever did.
Shawn: Yup. Totally.
So how do you two work together? Do you work on melodies? Does one person play lead or do you alternate?
Shawn: It alternates, really. It depends on who comes in with a riff. If Brad comes in with a riff, he'll lay it down and that will be more of the rhythm track and whatever I do over the top of it is going to end up being more of a lead, usually, but that's not always the case.
Brad: The general consensus is to try and layer it. If someone's going to bring a riff in, the next person is going to layer it with something other than what it is. In a lot of cases it is the same, but I think the song dictates that. Is it a driving part?
Shawn: Should both guitars do the same thing?
Brad: Is this going to be a major part of it or should this be totally split? We've obviously just been experimenting with writing songs with each other so far, but I think that we want to write songs that are just going to blow you away so I think that does mean layering guitars and trying to always do something fresh with the riff.
Brad: That's how I look at it as the guitar team.
Brad: We should be bouncing off each other.
Shawn: I notice sometimes when we play live, sometimes Brad will be playing what we call the lead and sometimes it will be me.
It seemed like on "And Such Is Progress" that the guitar sound was more diverse. On "Under The Radar," it sounded like you used a wider variety of effects but didn't experiment as much with diverse styles.
Shawn: Yeah. With styles, it was more of a straight-ahead rock record. As far as sounds go, we used a few different amps and we used a couple of effects and different guitars. It was the first album we really had the time to experiment with stuff like that.
Brad: As a fan, I think that the song "Weave" off "And Such Is Progress," who didn't think that was amazing? But should Grade continue to make "Weave" album after album?
Brad: I think it's just a natural progression.
I was actually thinking about "Weave" when I asked that question.
Brad: That was the very first Grade song I ever heard. That was something you hadn't really heard in music at that point.
The only thing I could think of that was even close was the first two Sense Field EPs. They were the only people who seemed to be doing anything vaguely hardcore with complicated guitar melody lines. That was the only frame of reference I had.
Brad: You can tell "Under The Radar" was their rock record.
Shawn: We just wanted to make a bigger sounding record, not necessarily more produced, but we just wanted to experiment with new things. With the new album that we're doing .
Brad: Don't expect another "Under The Radar." That's a page gone from the Grade history.
Shawn: Yeah, we're going to try different things.
Any ideas about what you're going to try, any directions you're thinking about going in?
Brad: We've been influenced by a lot of different bands as of late that I think are really going to play a role in it. I think so, anyway.
Shawn: Yeah. I don't really know how to describe the new songs. I mean, the one we played on tour is pretty much a Grade tune. The other one .
Brad: I think it's more like "And Such Is Progress."
Shawn: Yeah. The other new song is more hardcore.
Brad: A hardcore Iron Maiden.
Shawn: Pretty much.
And here I was thinking you were going to be using 12-string Ricks or switch to Les Pauls.
Shawn: No, I'll use my Ibanez, my Les Paul I guess.
Brad: It's going to rock.
Shawn: Hopefully we'll have more time in the studio. I'll bust out some pedals I haven't used in five years. We'll see what happens, play around and experiment a little bit. I think it's going to be a little more of a riffy record, a little more driving. I don't know if driving is the right word.
Brad: It's going to have a lot of hooks. I can't describe it because it's only one song off the whole record.
Shawn: Yeah, that's true. We've only written two songs so it's hard to say and all the songs are different. You listen to two songs on "Under The Radar" and they don't really sound that different.
Brad: I want to make a record that I like, that I'll go home and listen to.
Shawn: Yeah, that's what we all want.
Brad: That's what we base our songs on. Would you listen to this? Does this kick your ass? Does this make you think? Does this make you feel good that you got to experience that? If you can answer yes, then you've got a song. That's how you write a song. Why make a song that you think sucks?
Right. Does it make you stop hurting? Does it make the shit disappear for a while? Does it make your life better?
Brad: Yeah. That's what we try to do, in essence. I hope that people get off on it. I think that maybe, in a half hour, kids forget about what's going on at home. I know I do; for the half hour, 45 minutes I'm on stage, that's where I am and I hope it does the same thing for everybody else. I hope that our performance does that. I know what it was like when I was going to see live bands and just watching them rock. That was it. Nothing else mattered then. I think that's how I'd like to write a song.
Shawn: Yeah. At practice, we'll come up with a song, we'll play it and it has to be the song that makes all of us say, "Fuck, that song rules!" You just want to play it. You want to play it live, you can't wait to play it live.
Brad: It has to be a song that progresses even more from where it is then. The two songs we've written for the next album are like that.
Shawn: Yeah, I can't wait into the live show. They're songs that we play at practice and everyone is just hot.
Brad: It's great. I'm looking forward to that just as much as I'm looking forward to being on the road. I mean, we're going to be on the road until October this year.
Shawn: We're out for five and a half weeks on this part.
Brad: We go to Europe when we're done, but I'm looking forward to writing when I get home. I'm looking forward to spending a bit of time at home and having our rehearsals and working. I think that's a live aspect as well. Touring is when you can actually work on music; that makes your job as a guitar player complete. On tour, all we're worried about is whether our guitars sound good and in tune. The studio is where you can really be creative and bring out the best you've got.
Yeah, because you've got everything, you don't have to have to take your Les Paul out.
Brad: You've got it. Our road rigs are pretty complicated.
So what's the best part of being in Grade for you?
Brad: That's what does it for me, playing the guitar and doing it every day.
Shawn: For me, it's just the experiences of meeting everyone and getting to play my guitar every night. That's the fun for me. That and getting to be with my friends. What more can you ask for?
Brad: We bust our asses on the drives .
Shawn: Like the 25-hour drive? I haven't slept since . what time did I get up? What day was it when we got up?
Brad: See, we lose track.
Shawn: Monday morning. Monday morning at 9 o'clock. That's how long I've been up.
Brad: You couldn't get me to do that at home, but this doesn't feel like a job. We do bust our asses though. This isn't easy.
Well, you have long drives, you show up early, you load in, you do your sound check if you have one and then what?
Brad: Yeah, the minutes are just passing by. We always look forward to the next event just to break up our days. We're always trying to keep things a little fresh. I don't think any day is quite like another day when you're on tour. We're always trying to come up with something. Doing interviews breaks up the day nicely too.
Shawn: Yeah, and venomous reptiles in the desert.
Brad: Yeah! We were looking at scorpions today!
Shawn: I think Nick said it best. What did he say on the inside of the Bane album, "Such hard work, but better than working." Something like that.
So when you aren't hunting for scorpions, what else do you do to break up the monotony?
Brad: One thing about being in Grade is that Grade is a self-sufficient unit. Nobody relies on anything to pass time, you rely on Grade. You rely on everyone else to do something. Just as an example, we've got a TV/VCR in our van. So we were in Austin, Texas .
Brad: And this'll probably shock a lot of people, but we had a four-hour porno videotape in the van. So what me and Shawn were doing to kill time in Austin, and I don't know if you ever been to Austin but it's crazy, so we set this thing up in our van so that you could see the screen .
Shawn: As you walk by the van .
Brad: Plugged the porno in, turned it on, turned up the volume and locked all the doors. We were standing way above the van and just watching all the people walk by the van .
Shawn: [laughing] Double take!
Brad: And listen to the comments and we were on the floor for about an hour!
Shawn: [laughing] That's what we do, just stupid shit like that. Oh, it was funny.
Brad: That's what I'm saying. I think it's more fun to create something that we think is funny. That joke didn't rely on fucking with somebody else in any serious way.
It's not like duct taping somebody to the roof of the van.
Brad: A lot of bands on tour do shit like that and that's cool too, but we've been on tour with bands that try to pull those practical jokes off, but Grade's not a band that really, we're just not like that. We'll laugh .
You just don't want to hurt people.
Shawn: Yeah, exactly.
Brad: We don't really want to fuck with their shit and a lot of bands fuck with your shit. I don't know how else to explain it.
You don't mind playing a joke as long as it doesn't hurt someone.
Brad: Yeah, but that's what I'm saying. That joke relied on the members of Grade and the members of Grade thinking that's funny. That's just us. We amused ourselves for an hour. We're not going to a bar and getting pissed, tanked, and then waking up. We're always trying to create something that's fun to us.
Shawn: We like good, clean fun.
Brad: Another thing about Grade that's just going to shock people is that we're rural. You get us up in the morning, get us a shower and take us to a mall. We'll kill three hours there.
Shawn: I love the mall.
Brad: People say, "That's so un-punk! That is so un-hardcore!" That's just something that keeps us amused and I'm not ashamed to say that it's something we do on tour. We're clean-cut kids. I don't know how else to explain it. People think you have to be in a band and you have to be dirty and that's a touring hardcore band.
Wait a minute, that's a rule.
Brad: There you go!
Shawn: We thought that was a rule until a couple of years ago and then we were like, "Wait, we don't to live like a dirtbag when you're on tour if you don't want to."
Brad: You don't have to do anything. We love staying with kids and the people we've stayed with on this tour have been so cool to us. We get to sit and look through their CD collections and talk about music all night, but there are some nights when we don't want to stay with kids and we get a hotel. That's where we break rules too.
Well, some nights you actually want to have a shower.
Shawn: You don't want to feel like you're imposing.
Brad: You don't always want to be imposing on somebody. Like Snapcase, for example, never stay at kids' houses. Ever. It's hotel rooms for them. They're making the money to warrant that, but their thoughts behind hotel rooms are the same as ours a lot of the times. They're done with imposing on people. They're done with basing their hours the next day around what those kids are doing. Kids that put up bands are awesome but you do have to adhere to their schedule, like they have to work at 8. We don't ever worry about, but sometimes we want to sleep in until 11, all have showers, go to the mall, record stores. I guess we do a lot of things that are pretty atypical for a hardcore band, a typical punk band.
But you're going back to rules there.
Brad: Exactly. That's so true. A lot of bands that we're really good friends with like Hot Water Music and As Friends Rust, their idea of touring is 100% different than ours, a full 360. It's all do it yourself. I just want my touring experience to be not unlike my home experience except that I'm in a different place seeing different things. The scary thing about it is that I'm a Canadian and when I went to Buffalo or was visiting for a day, I knew I was somewhere else. I don't feel like I'm somewhere else now. The States are my home.
Shawn: The van is our home.
Brad: The van is my home. Talking to you right now, I feel like I'm next door to my house. We were in the States before we were in Canada. We're happy to get home but none of us are like, "I want to go home."
Shawn: It just becomes part of my life. We've only been out for 11 or 12 days now and if I think back to the night that we left, it seems like it was fucking months ago. I don't even remember. It screws with me.
You lose track of what day it is even.
Shawn: Oh yeah.
Brad: You were on the road, you know how confusing it can be after a show when you don't know what you're going to do next.
Yeah. Do we stay at somebody's place, do we get a hotel, are we driving?
Brad: Yeah. Our confusion as far as that is concerned is gone now. No one gets really wigged out about not knowing what's going on. I think that's something that we've just relaxed about. When we get home, we're happy to be home.
So what else do you do to kill time on the road?
Shawn: We actually don't have that much time, especially on this tour. The West Coast is a lot of long drives. We just did a 24-hour drive from Austin.
Brad: Our van broke down too, and when you're on tour, it's not like you get up at a certain point to do these extra little activities. You have to make sure you can make the whole five and a half weeks, taking advantage of your sleep.
Shawn: Yeah. There are times when you're like, "Fuck, I have to get to a hardware store, I have to fix my rack," or whatever. Or we have to fax our passports, we have to find somewhere to check our email.
Brad: We didn't accomplish any of those things today.
Shawn: It's harder now when we stay in hotels more often too. When we stayed in houses, we could check it. Tomorrow we have to do laundry. That's our spare time tomorrow. There's a laundromat beside the place we play tomorrow.
Brad: We've got some good time doing some cool stuff this next week. We've got three days off in California. We jump tours in the middle of this tour. I want to go to the beach and record stores.
Shawn: Kyle and Brad go shopping for shoes too when we have spare time. Kyle has little spots that he's taking Brad to now.
Brad: I jump around.
Shawn: These guys have a collection.
Any final words? Anything you'd like to add?
Shawn: Not really. I'm pretty much brain dead because I've been up for 36 hours straight so I'm barely hanging on right now. Basically just come and watch us play. Don't think we're dicks, just come and talk to us. We're really nice guys.
Brad: Yeah, don't believe the hype. Don't make assumptions. That's how we're all going to get along.
Don't make up your mind on hearsay.
Brad: That's the worst thing you're going to ever do and I know everyone's guilty of it in some small shape or form, a small to large scale. You always have something in the back of your head, you always believe something but it's important to really check things out. I've made a lot of good friends by delving into people. I've made a lot of friends on the road, people that at first seemed shaky and who are now really great guys. Like Reach The Sky. Ian from that band ended up being one of my favorite dudes that I've ever met and the first three or four days of touring, we just ignored each other. I finally just decided one day to really get to know him.
And on a larger scale than what you just mentioned, it seems like at a lot of shows, there are a lot of cliques and factions. People who listen to different types of music don't seem to take the time to even smile at each other, much less say hello.
Brad: I think it's great that people create subcultures. I think the guy that's oi and crusty punks and hardcore kids, I think it's great they each have their own individual identity, but they should talk.
Well, there should be unity amongst factions.
Brad: Everybody's going to listen to music. If it's not about the music, then you're totally doing the wrong thing. If everybody's in it for the music, let's hang out. It all goes back to .
Brad: Yeah, the respect. Just live your life and do what you do. Be activists in your own way but also respect other people's views and ideas.
Send mail to Grade at: PO Box 61010, 511 Maplegrove Dr., Oakville, ON L6J 6X0
Find them on the Web at: http://www.grade.net