Interview with Chris Whitehall of The Griswolds
The Griswolds have been growing a dedicated fanbase all over the world since their first release in 2012 and now, with their recent sophomore album High Times For Low Lives having been released, they’re coming back to Australia for a tour on their home soil.
In this interview with Cath Connell, Chris Whitehall discusses the inspiration behind High Times For Low Lives, the story behind the album artwork and life on the road.
Your new album, High Times For Low Lives, has quite a different style to everything else you’ve done before – you’ve even got a Rihanna cover on the album. How did that all come about?
I guess, we went into making the album and really wanted to try something a little bit different and I don’t think we realized how different it would end up but we kind of walked in and, you start your second album and you’re in front of a lot of instruments and you’re, like, “cool, what are we gonna do?” (laughs). And actually, me and Dan [Duke-Perez] just look at each other and go “let’s not make the same album we just did, let’s try and make something a little more outrageous and a little more daring, something that fans wouldn’t expect from The Griswolds. Something that doesn’t sound like every other band playing indie pop music so I think that’s kind of how it all came about.
How it ended up sounding like it did, I think both Dan and myself were just hugely obsessed with hip-hop music, I think that’s just what we were listening to at the time (laughs). I think we had Kendrick Lamar on repeat and The Weeknd on repeat and I guess those influences were being drilled into our heads and made it pretty hard to write an album that didn’t have a hip-hop influence or an R&B influence.
The album artwork is so sick and seems to be a good reflection of the album as a whole – how did that come together?
That one is actually a really good story because the guy that did that is a guy named Joe Perez and he’s an amazing artist, he’s done album covers for many, many years and many great artists. I think he did some work for Kanye West, which is cool. He’s well out of our price range but we approached him anyway and he was like “look, I don’t really have any time but send me the album and I’ll listen to it”. Anyway, we sent him the album and, like, a week later he came back to us and was like “I love this album, I would love to work on this art for you” and so he ended up doing it. The art was basically his, kind of, interpretation of what he considered the lyrics and everything to mean so that was pretty special. The statue is a statue of Saint Sebastian who was a martyr, he basically sacrificed himself to the things that he believed in, which really lines up to the album
Are there any songs that you’re particularly excited to perform of the album?
Yeah! There’s a lot of them, I love performing Rufio, it’s a really different sounding song and it gets pretty deep into the lyrics and it had a really powerfull, passionate chorus that I just love singing so that one, performance-wise, it’s quite emotional when you get up on stage and singing really honest, real and raw lyrics about your life so that one in particular is a really, really fun one to get into
You’ve spent heaps of time on the road over the past couple of years, and a lot of that time has been spent in America – does it get exhausting spending so much time away from home?
It definitely is, yeah, it can really drive you insane a little bit. I guess the hardest part a lot of the time is just loneliness on the road, it’s so hard to be that far away from your family or your loved ones. I know the guys have girlfriends and wives that are all in Australia, so when they come here and spend 6 months here, it’s really hard on their relationships. It’s really hard work and I think that can be really stressful. But we somehow manage to get through and I think we try and fly the girlfriends out as often as possible and we try to get home as often as possible
So your Australian leg of the tour is coming up soon, are you looking forward to it?
Absolutely, I can’t wait to be back on Australian soil and I’m hoping that there’s still going to be some sunny days where I can hit the beaches out there. I’m very much excited to be catching up with my family and I can’t wait to play those Australian shows, it’s been a long time since we’ve done an Australian tour for our fans out there so I am really, really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in the Australian crowd
How are you feeling about playing shows without Tim?
These shows will be Tim’s final shows with us in Australia, so he will be joining us for those shows but after that it’s definitely going to be a different thing. There are four vital organs to this band an Tim is one of them and it’s gonna be different not having him by our side playing these shows, it’s definitely an emotional thing but, you know, the show goes on and Tim will always remain with us somehow and yeah, we love the shit out of him and we’ll miss him. The band will push forward.
I saw you guys at Newtown Festival just two days after the release of High Time For Low Lives and quite a few people already knew the lyrics to the new songs. Does that ever surprise you?
Yeah (laughs) it’s always a big surprise every time, I think, it’s just amazing that we’ve got fans that are that dedicated that they’ll buy your album on release day. I think that’s always a nice feeling for anyone releasing music or releasing art in general – that people would actually be dedicated and loyal to your band that they will buy that and listen to it that many times to learn the lyrics so that they can see you play two days after it’s released and will know all the words, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
You’ve done some huge tours with Walk The Moon over the past couple years, do you think you’ll ever collaborate or go on tour together again?
I would love to go on tour with them again actually, that would be amazing! I hear rumours that they might be working on another album at the moment so, actually I live here in LA and 3 of the 4 boys live out here now so I hang out with them all the time. I would love to collaborate with them and be writing songs with them and just working with them at any capacity, they’re just the best dudes.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a musician?
That’s a great question (laughs). I would like to say acting, I would be an actor
Do you have any plans for the next album?
Yeah! I’d say once we wrap up all the touring – it’s pretty hard to write on the road, I try to but it doesn’t really work very well but I would say, once the tours have kind of wound up, I would say we will start writing the next album whenever we can squeeze in some time, however that’s gonna work. I’m kind of writing all the time, like, as soon as we have time off I just write and write and write. It never becomes an official date where we’re like “cool, we better make this decision and get started” and, you know, both myself and Dan have a little pool of songs that we can join together and start working on.