Flagpole recently caught up with Brandon, DJ and Tom from local grindcore band Gripe to discuss the circumstances surrounding the group's upcoming record, which the group says will be its last. Also: robots, alcohol, dystopia. Read on:
Flagpole: What's this record gonna be called?
Brandon: It's gonna be called In His Image.
FP: How long have you guys been recording it?
Brandon: The actual writing process for it has taken almost a year, but it's not any one person's fault—Jordan moved to North Carolina for a little bit, DJ moved to West Virginia for a little bit. Me and Tom had already had these songs written, but [Jordan and DJ] came back and it's been coming together really good. We started writing it, then Jordan quit the band. And then Jordan came back and rejoined the band. DJ heard the songs and was like, “Hey, I wanna rejoin the band.” Then they both rejoined the band. Then DJ bought land in West Virginia. Then DJ moved to West Virginia. And now here we finally are. Then kinda the interest died down, but then we got two labels who wanted to put it to vinyl: Witch Bukkake out of France, and Hygiene Records out of North Carolina.
FP: How did DJ get back down here from his land in West Virginia?
Brandon: He hitchhiked. He hitchhiked all the way from West Virginia just to be a part of this record, and we wanted him to be on it. I said since this is gonna be our last record, there is no way I would do it without a co-founding member. I wanted it be a sort of like, all-for-one kind of thing, that everybody who ever was in Gripe to be a part of it.
FP: What are you hoping to accomplish with this record?
Brandon: There's no goal, as far as like, monetary gain, or finances. We don't think in terms of that—that's not what drives this band… or people liking us, or credibility, or fame or anything like that. We like the songs that we were working on—we did this one for our Internet fans and all the kids in Asia and all the people who supported us—we felt like we owed them this, in a way.
FP: How long have you guys been a band?
Brandon: We started in October 2010, so a little over two years.
FP: Can you give me a brief band history as far as the lineup is concerned?
Brandon: It's just been me and Tom, mostly. We're the only stalwart members. Spencer joined about the same time as Jordan—on the eve of Pig Servant. He stayed in in the band until Jordan left, and this was after DJ had left. And then DJ and Jordan both came back at the same time. That's pretty much that. We've just played a lot of house shows. We had plans to tour—had tours booked, but DJ quit on the eve of our first tour, and Jordan quit on the even of our second tour. Also, both tours were booked and planned out. We brought a lot of cool bands here to town from places as far-reached as Australia, Milkwaukee—a lot of bands from Milwaukee—a lot of regional bands from Macon and North Carolina, all interconnected, we met all those guys through the Internet. They found our music, they liked us, they wanted to come play shows with us—they were misguided into thinking that they would make money.
FP: Where did you guys plan to tour?
Brandon: We had tours planned twice now to Philly and back. We had tours planned twice, and twice they failed either because someone quit the band or the finances fell through. We've never actually toured. We've only played two shows outside of Athens, and those were in Chattanooga, TN, and Atlanta. We're pretty much an Athens, GA-based Internet grindcore band.
FP: Is there a message behind Gripe?
DJ: There's a lot.
Brandon: Yeah, actually, there's a lot.
DJ: We hate cops, first and foremost.
Brandon: In the past, everything we've ever said about cops and how much we hate cops has never made it inside the Flagpole.
DJ: We're also scared of robots taking over.
Brandon: Well, we think we're living in a bit of a dystopian society—the future that was promised in all science fiction, and everything we grew up with as kids really came to pass. And I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, me and Tom and DJ—DJ's technologically obsessed—and so growing up as kids from the '80s, it was just marketed as this commercial commodity. We're growing up in a time period that seems so advanced—there wasn't shit, you know, and then you're two decades, three decades later, you're in the aughts, and you're in the thick of it, you're in everything that was promised to you. It's actually not convenience at all, you're just useless—you go to the bar, and it's just a row of people on their phones constantly… It's just a little embryo cord that's just them and their phones constantly. And that's just the beginning. That is merely the beginning. As far as Gripe is concerned, we just alienate people in general.
"We're really the best band in the world."
FP: Do you think of loud, aggressive music as sort of a way to block out bullshit?
Brandon: I think aggressive, loud music, is just, I mean—there's an infinite number of things I could say about why people listen to aggressive, loud music. Maybe it's just a by-product of just the drudgery of life, and your shitty job, or just something to do with—you just need a release, it's cathartic! And the reason that people enjoy it I think is the same reason people enjoy horror movies—you want something loud and in-your-face.
FP: What are y'all's influences? Themes, music, et cetera?
DJ: We're really the best band in the world, so I don't know. Alcohol.
Brandon: Alcohol's a big thing. Alcohol… mental breakdowns, suicide attempts, depravity. Assuck, Anal Cunt, Black Sabbath, Crossed Out, Insect Warfare.
FP: What does In His Image refer to, if anything?
DJ: The incoming robo-apocalypse… We're gonna create robots in our image and then they're gonna uprise and kill us all.
Brandon: There's that, yeah. It's also a little about—sprinkle in a little Manifest Destiny in there.
DJ: It's just whatever you want, yeah.
Brandon: It sounds ominous. It's creepy, it's from the Bible. Obviously we don't like the Bible.
FP: Do ya'll compose most of your stuff, or jam to get ideas?
Brandon: Me and Tom just feed off each other. I don't even write riffs. I'll just go into the band practice space with Tom and we'll just go from there.
FP: So ya'll just kind of spazz out with each other?
Brandon: We essentially just spazz out with each other.
Tom: It's like jazz.
Brandon: Good chemistry between me and Tom. And Spencer brings really awesome octave shit with the bass, and DJ and Jordan are vocal pattern beasts. It's a group effort. That's basically it.
FP: What's Gripe's favorite sport?
Tom: Basketball, baby!
Brandon: We actually played basketball with a touring band from Minnesota. We beat them. We made them our bitches.
Gripe plays the Caledonia Lounge on Thursday, June 20 with Burns Like Fire, Triangle Fire and Small Beige Girl.