ALEATORY #12: Grails

It's been a busy year for Grails, and it's not over yet. Back in May, the Portland four piece dropped their fifth full-length in as many years, Take Refuge in Clean Living, pushing their grungy instrumental psych into new and groovy places. In October, their sixth album, Doomsdayer's Holiday, comes out on Temporary Residence. And their 2005 EP, Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs from Around the World, was just pressed re-released and pressed vinyl. They also toured with Nadja in June, are hitting up Athens, GA and NY in November, and in the meantime are probably working triple shifts at their day jobs, just because they can. Three of the Grails guys—guitarist Alex Hall, drummer Emil Amos, and keys-man William Slater—took a breather from their hectic schedule and were kind enough to be our twelfth Aleatory.


12. Favorite band when you were in high school?
AH: Split decision between Metallica and (old) Van Halen.
EA: Dinosaur.
WS: Drive Like Jehu, Public Enemy.

13. Favorite Shakespearean play?

AH: Porky's 3.
EA: Zardoz.
WS: Henry IV.

15. Favorite exhibit or subject at the museum?
WS: Very old books and forgotten manuscripts. Sea monsters of the late cretaceous.

16. Favorite campfire story?

AH: Hamlet.
EA: "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" - Ray Nelson.

17. Favorite plant?
AH: Robert.
EA: Francis.
WS: Treebeard.

19. Favorite foreign film?
AH: Irreversible.
EA: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
WS: The Lady Vanishes, Throne of Blood.

28. What instrument would you most like to learn to play?
WS: Flute, maybe cello.
AH: It'd be nice to actually learn guitar at some point.
EA: Either a ham-radio or some Harry Partch shit maybe.

60. What's the worst show you've ever played? What would you have done different?
AH: Eureka, California, 2004, I think. It was in some Italian restaurant. An hour before the show, our violinist ate a handful of mixed scrip drugs he had scored off some dude on the sidewalk. By the time we started to play he was still in the van, writhing in the backseat and clawing at the air. He kept losing consciousness during the set with his violin shrieking a wall of feedback. After the show he passed out in the car and we couldn't wake him up. Eventually he came to at 4 AM, and was furious because it was freezing outside, he didn't know where he was and he filled my voicemail with about 20 hateful, threatening messages.

EA: The time I remember feeling the worst was in around 2001 when someone put the loop for a song called "Canyon Hymn" on a cassette. Since all tape player motors play at slightly different speeds the sound man hit play and we slogged thru 8 minutes completely out of tune with it. I remember experiencing an intense/unparalleled degree of shame while I was putting my cymbals away.

WS: The aforementioned two were the first two that came to mind… Honorable mentions to the show where the very heavy Rhodes organ collapsed on top of me mid-song, trapping me beneath, and the show where i played despite having a 102 degree fever, during which our violinist flipped me off repeatedly from the other side of the stage because he didn't like the set list I'd written. I remember that one as somewhat of a Robitussin-induced waking nightmare.

63. Band/artist you're secretly envious of?
EA: I'll speak for Alex on this one and say it's a tie between Rita Coolidge and Clay Aiken.

71. How well do you feel your music lends itself to remixing or being covered?
AH: I hope that someone might actually cover a Grails tune one day, since it might confirm that we'd succeeded in making an actual song. Most instrumental music these days is either just riffs or drones, rarely ever real songs....

81. If you could sync an album of yours to a movie (like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz), what movie would it be?
EA: Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
WS: Dirty Dancing

93. Longest show you ever played? What was different?
AH: We've played probably a dozen shows in Europe where the promoter hadn't bothered to add any support bands, leaving us as the sole 'entertainers' for the evening. So we were obligated to go total GBV and play really long sets....which is fun for us but bad for the Italian people who are waiting for the techno DJ that's going on after the rock show.

95. Do you ever read your own reviews?
AH: Yeah, always. I've never understood the idea that a lot of people have about separating oneself from one's criticism. It's just part of the process.

EA: With the amount of dispassionate publicity you generally receive, we mostly just end up reading our own press releases that've been copied and pasted 4000 times. Between that, deleting spam and shredding junk mail modern life has become a refreshing break from reading Kafka. When there's not much tangible community left in the underground it makes us sentimental to watch old videos of the crowd spitting upon the faces of the members of Fear.

98. Would you say that there's somewhat of a political undertone to your music? If so, what motivates it?
AH: You mean in a topical sense? No, we don't have any 'Bush is bad' songs. Music like ours is more about focusing inward than outward. It's head music that benefits from a generous amount of dissociation.

100. Even with the gradual decay of the B-side, most artists still have vaults of unreleased songs. What's in yours?
AH: A lot of stuff that will stay unreleased for good reason. But the rest is being compiled into a DVD project that should be out some time next year.