Chris Whitehall of The Griswold’s talks High Times For Low Lives
Image Courtesy of Benjo Arwas
The Griswolds released their sophomore album High Times for Low Lives (2016) on November 11th. We were unable to match our schedules for a phone call between what I assume to be their hectic and glamorous rock star lifestyle and my boring yet busy student one. So we agreed to exchange questions over email. Chris Whitehall, the lead singer and guitarist of the four piece indie band took the time to answer my rambling questions. His answers are very thought provoking and provide insight into their dark and reflective second album. Read below to see what he had to say.
Chris Whitehall: It wasn't something we really set out to do I don't think. The songs are mementos of very honest and real scenarios that we've been experiencing since touring the Be Impressive album. Sometimes it's everything you've ever dreamed, but a lot of the time it's a long and hard time on the road missing loved ones, and having crazy things available to you that you don't normally. Its very easy to get caught up in the negative feelings and make decisions you may not be proud of.
We just wrote about those experiences because that was so prominently on our heart at the time we wrote the album. You could almost say writing the album was therapy to get through that stage in our lives.
CO: Were you aware of the stark contrast between the two albums when making High Times for Low Lives? I think it’s rather interesting how even the album names are almost in direct conflict. How did you go from Be Impressive to Low Lives? Was it an intentional shift? Where were you drawing inspiration from?
CW: Well Be Impressive is actually more in line with High Times than you think. Our debut album was more about the pressure the music industry (or any industry) puts on you to stand out and be impressive and the effect that pressure has on you. I guess High Times, is kind of about crumbling under that pressure for a minute.
CO: The titular track appears to be based in self-reflection and the negative feelings that can accompany that. I admire this track and find it relatable. The pared down nature of the song is beautiful. Is it difficult to put such personal feelings out in the public? Does it feel invasive to share it with the world? How it been received?
CW: It actually made me very uncomfortable at one point. People listening to these songs are going to learn a lot of things about a point in my life that I'm not ridiculously proud of. I felt very vulnerable, but now I'm really proud of the album and the lyrics. They're real and not watered down. I feel like there is a real honest connection between a listener and this album, something that will hopefully touch people more than just a candy pop song that doesn't mean anything. The beauty of the album is that it isn't celebrating the poor choices we made, in fact it’s celebrating that we learnt from them.
CO: I have to ask about the “James Joint” cover. How did this come about? Why did you choose that song off ANTI (2016)? Were you guys big Rihanna fans before ANTI? Who else would you be interested in covering?
CW: I was actually kinda a complacent fan, like I knew her hits and I liked those tracks. I was just at my girlfriends house and ANTI started playing from back to front and my ear tweaked when I heard it. I was blown away, like this is one of the best songs I've fucken heard this year! I said "I have to cover it. it has to be on this album. It’s so perfect". The next day we went into the studio and and tracked the whole thing in a matter of hours. I’d love to cover some Tame Impala in the very near future.
CO: Something I always like to ask bands is what they think of the evolving indie music scene? Right now it appears as though we are seeing a shift in which R&B is almost overtaking the space in the indie scene that has been typically reserved for pop/rock. I noticed on this album you incorporated some of these elements such as on "YDLM" where you featured Lizzo. Do you think these shifts are needed to stay relevant in the current music scene? Was it a conscious effort on your part?
CW: I think music in general is constantly evolving and you're either an artist that is constantly chasing where it goes or you can take a risk and be an act that leads the charge in a new sound. There's just so many bands out there, you got some guitars, drums and a collection of rock songs, it's very restrictive. We wanted to break free of the whole band mentality and create a record that sounds the way we want it to. Whether its moments inspired by Michael Jackson or Kendrick Lamar. We went the no rules approach because we didn't want restrictions in our sound and we wanted to do something that your standard rock band can't do.
CO: I know you are originally from Sydney, Australia but have been touring quite extensively as of late, including a show here in Toronto. You also have another coming up on March 2nd. Is there anything you're hoping to check out when you're back in the spring?
CW: Well my favourite part of touring is food, and we're all huge poutine fans so I gotta say, the first thing I'm doing when we land back in Toronto is grabbing myself some of that cheesy gold.
CO: Has the extensive touring been hard? I don't know if you've heard of the band PUP but they actually had a hit song this summer called "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will You." Do you guys step on each other’s toes when touring? Do you have any fun stories from the road?
CW: The extensive touring brings you pretty close to each other. I mean you're literally on top of one another, like being married to a bunch of dudes. I think we're very lucky in the way we are all friends. Of course there are instances where someone really pisses someone off, but we get over it really quick and we all have each others backs. It's actually a really tight knit crew of people we share the road with, wouldn't trade it for anything, they're family.
Minor grammatical changes have been made for clarity.
Check out their titular track below.