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New Music Friday: Grace

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Kettering quartet Grace have been making a name for themselves away from the spotlight these past two years, and now with the latest single ‘Lately’ it is time for New Boots to have a word in their ear and discover what they’re all about.

How did you get together?
Back in 2014 our singer Jamie got tired of playing guitar in the mirror and decided to recruit three other guys to form a band. This new band consisted of James Virtue on bass, Nathan Robinson on drums and Josh Menon on second guitar (along with Jamie on vocals and lead guitar). Although we had aspirations to do bigger things we basically just got together every week on a Tuesday lunch in school and played ‘Voodoo Child’ until we’d pissed off enough people within 100 yards! From then on things pretty much stayed the same until we realised we couldn’t move forwards playing stale Presley songs and half assing a few Chilli numbers, so Jamie wrote a few songs and we put our heads to something new. Ever since 2016 we’ve been writing, playing and, when we have the funds, recording our own material. In short, we got together because we all thought, and still think, that we have something to offer musically that is worth listening to. We wanted to recreate that feeling you get when you first hear a new band that sparks something you forgot you could feel.

How would you describe your sound?
Our sound largely derives from a combination of minimalism, typically in the verses, and then more complex, powerful passages. Sort of like if you took Kurt Cobain’s approach to writing a pop song, then added the rhythm of the Chilli Peppers! Often we’ll write our songs with sections to highlight the drums, paired nicely with a bass line that complements them, giving the music a driving energy. This energy is something we’ve really worked at these last few months in our live performances, as this was the best thing about the gigs we went to – and separated the memorable bands from the alright ones. We found that the best way to tap into this energy was a blend of tight playing and wild moments that were unique to each performance.

We think a lot about texture when it comes to our sound, making sure that a song has the right mixture of loud and soft, full and empty passages. It was through this that we started to include drastic changes in texture to encourage a reaction from the listener/crowd, for example including sudden stops and switches from everybody in to just the vocals or even the drums. We’re expecting our sound to change and develop in the coming months, as our guitarist Josh has decided to leave and do his own thing in London, which will mean a different approach to our songs and maybe more stripped-back arrangements.

What are your main influences?
In terms of our sound we take a lot of inspiration from ’90s bands like Nirvana and Radiohead, and Britpop, along with the noughties indie bands we grew up on, like the Arctics, Kooks and Strokes. We reckon if you were to take Nirvana’s erratic sound and apply it to carefully written songs and a more Radiohead-like focus on guitar effects, then you’d be pretty spot on with the sort of songs we’re producing at the moment. In the grander scheme of things, we listen to A LOT of music. Other big influences are artists like The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan (1964-66), Jeff Buckley, The Smiths and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Tell us about the single, ‘Lately’ b/w ‘I’ve Been Thinking’
These two songs came about last autumn, soon after our second EP, Make Your Assumptions (‘Lately’ was actually written by Jamie on the evening of recording sessions). The two songs both show a progression from our older songs and, at least to our ears, show us finding more of our sound. Both songs came from a simple acoustic version, written by Jamie, and were developed by the band in rehearsals (‘I’ve Been Thinking’ sped up considerably and made the transition from a lonely ballad into a tortured rock song). The two songs both deal with the subject of a girl, although neither is about a relationship. ‘Lately’ is set post-breakup and describes the guilt in not giving a person enough attention, and instead “[lying there] alone and think[ing] about all the times [he] should have called [her]”. ‘I’ve Been Thinking’, on the other hand, paints a picture of obsession and directly addresses the subject of this obsession. It is a song that is meant to capture the experience of trying to get someone out your head, but all that happens is you remember snatches of things they’ve said or images of “lifts in [her] car”.

Both songs were chiselled away at in gigs from winter to summer and recorded and mixed in two days, at Parlour Studios on the outskirts of Kettering, with help from our great producer and engineer Neil. The songs were our last project with our guitarist Josh, and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to part ways! We hope you enjoy the tracks as much as we do.

What are your live shows like?
For the past year we have been gigging more and more, making the transition from playing rarely at home functions, to now playing at least two gigs a month. Taking inspiration from other bands we have seen on YouTube and live in person (e.g. the Chillis, Nirvana, Father John Misty, Catfish And The Bottlemen, and Dead Pretties), we have worked at our live performance, focusing on connection to the crowd and the energy generated from this. In the past year our favourite gig, and one that would be an example of us live, was one that we set up ourselves with two local bands (Street Asylum – Uppingham band and Naked Molerats – Kettering band). We invited 200 or so friends and in the end over 270 showed up, bought a ticket, and danced themselves crazy. We never drink before playing as we think it slows us down and stops us from accessing the moment, and we’ve found we don’t need to as, when a gig is going well, the adrenaline and electricity in the air pushes you to do and try things that you can’t conceive in a rehearsal, and it’s this spontaneity that drives our performance.

Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire, playing with like-minded bands? Any favourite bands/venues to play with?
Recently we’ve really enjoyed playing with local bands from all over the county, in Kettering, Corby, Rushden, Northampton and the surrounding villages, with bands like The Scruff, Citrus, Oddity Island, Street Asylum and Sarpa Salpa. These bands have helped us get a feel for the local scene and we have really appreciated the leg up and advice they’ve given us. We’ve played in some cracking venues, our favourites being Kino Lounge [Kettering] and The Charles Bradlaugh [Northampton].

What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
It has to be from the gig we organised ourselves at the Barton Seagrave Village Hall, with Street Asylum and Naked Molerats. The week leading up to the event, our drummer broke his thumb playing football and, after being casted up, realised that he couldn’t even hold a drum stick in his right hand, let alone play the kit. After considering all our options and mentally preparing ourselves for a last-minute cancellation, Nathan decided to play one handed. We were pretty shocked, and our first reaction was to laugh, but, on hearing his playing at the rehearsal the day before the gig, we realised he was still capable of carrying the set and, more to the point, still playing incredibly. So, although he was shattered by the end, and needed a hand setting up, Nathan played the 80 minute set with complete confidence and maintained the power needed to drive our sound.

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
An album we’ve all recently been listening to is Silver Revolver, by [Australian folkie] Angus Stone, under his alias Lady Of The Sunshine. It’s a great mixture of well-crafted ballads and raw ’70s-inspired blues rock.

You’re all relocating to Brighton, is that correct?
Basically Jamie, James and Nathan are moving to Brighton as of this week, and all studying different courses at the British and Irish Institute of Modern Music. Josh has decided to relocate to London instead and focus on his solo career, which we’re really hoping goes well. We’ll miss him a lot! The plan in Brighton is exactly what you’d think: play as often as possible, keep writing and recording new music, and hopefully build a fanbase and see where it goes.

What is your burning desire for the band to do in the future?
As a group we’re very ambitious. We will continue to set challenges for us to meet until we’re selling out gigs not only across the UK but hopefully the US. Bear with us on that one! If we had to pick one thing that as our ‘burning desire’, it would be to write and record a debut album that turns heads and joins the ranks of such great first albums as Oasis ‘Definitely Maybe’, the Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say About I Am… and Jeff Buckley Grace (yes the name was definitely partially inspired by this!). If it means waiting a couple of years until we’re ready to drop it, the ‘perfect debut album’ is something that is definitely on our minds.

‘Lately’/’I’ve Been Thinking’ is available now via the usual steaming/download platforms

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