Interview: A Q&A with The Grizzled Mighty
I caught the Seattle, WA-based duo, The Grizzled Mighty a few years ago at a New Music Seminar NY Festival showcase at Piano’s, and it was one of the highlights of that particular showcase and of the entire festival as they played an absolutely unhinged set of bluesy, Southern fried, boogie woogie-based power chord rock that also included a smashed drum kit. Naturally, at the time the duo’s sound reminded me quite a bit of a The Black Keys, The White Stripes and White Mystery but perhaps more whiskey and beer fueled. Interestingly, as The Grizzled Mighty’s Ryan Granger told me in this edition of the Q&A, he still has a scar from that very show. Yes, it was that insane!
In between the New Music Seminar Festival set at Piano’s and now, the band released two albums and went through a lineup change – all while the act had steadily developed a reputation for their live sets. And with the release of their third and latest effort, Closed Knuckle Jaw last month, the duo of Ryan Granger and Lupe Flores have been gaining the attention of the blogosphere and in turn, have seemed a greater national profile. In some way, Closed Knuckle Jaw may arguably be their national coming out party – but it also reveals a refinement of their sound as the album also includes the bluesy acoustic ballad “Need You Tonight” as well as the power chord-based boogie-woogie blues of blogosphere hit “Chantael,” “Marble Mouth” and others. As Granger told me, the songs on the album are deeply inspired by personal experience – and they have a raw, earnest and lived-in feel that belies the material’s sleazy feel.
I recently spoke to the duo of Granger and Flores about Closed Knuckle Jaw, their influences, their songwriting process and the duo’s amazing background, which no doubt also helps inform and inspire their sound and aesthetic. Check it out below.
Photo Credit: Lindbloom Photography
Photo credit: Joe Linton
Cover art by Kyler Martz
WRH: Tell us a little about yourselves —your name, age, serial number, what have you. Or anything else that’s cool.
Ryan [Granger] grew upin Spokane WA and left for Seattle after spending some time working in a mine
in Northern Idaho. Once in Seattle, [he] spent a few years as an orchid importer.
Lupe [Flores] grew up
in Bellingham WA, and spent some time living in a wigwam she built. She didn’t
wear shoes for 3 years.
WRH: How did you get into music and when
did you know it was your calling?
I got into music at an early age. My grandma was a music teacher and put me on
the piano around 5. After that I played the sax[o]phone, and finally got around
to the guitar around 16. I knew it was my calling when I had to quit my job at
Boeing to go on tour, because they wouldn’t give me the time off.
[I] [g]ot into playing the drums in my time at the wigwam camp. I started off
with hand drums and transitioned into a full kit. I can’t imagine not playing
the drums. It’s the only thing I want to do.
WRH: How would you describe your
RG AND LF:
WRH: How did you come up with the band
RG: After playing around with other band names, I just woke one day and it
was in my head. Couldn’t get it out of my head. It had to be.
WRH: The Grizzled Mighty’s work sounds as
though it owes a big debt to the blues and 70s Southern rock. I immediately
think of 38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allmans and the like. And on at least
two songs I can hear the faint echoes of The Rolling Stones and Soundgarden.
How much have those influenced you? And who are your
RG: They have
influenced me a lot. [I] [g]rew up listening to classic rock
and southern rock, and discovered the blues at an early age. It’s
what made me want to play guitar in the first place. ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin,
Black Sabbath, Captain Beefheart, The Stooges, Roky Erickson, AC/DC,
Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Mountain, Billy
Squier, Skynard, Allmans. Loved listening to country music as a kid too, like
Hank Williams, Marty Rob[b]ins, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash. I like combining
that with the dirtiness of grunge like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and the Pixies.
Who are you listening to right now?
WRH: I quickly became familiar with The
Grizzled Mighty when I caught the band play at Piano’s for a New Music Seminar
Festival New York showcase several years ago and what there are a couple of
things I still remember from that set — that it was the most impressive set I
saw during the entire festival. You guys had kicked major ass and at one point,
I remember a wrecked drum set. It was nuts. Since then there has been a lineup
change. Sometimes lineup changes can also change a band’s songwriting approach.
Has there been a change in your songwriting approach at all?
RG: I still
have a scar from that show.
I think the
songwriting approach will change for some songs. I’m always going to write
songs late at night locked in my basement, but Lupe and I plan to go take some
psychedelics, go up to a cabin and write some songs together. Looking forward
WRH: What I love about your sound is that
it feels both carefully written and simultaneously improvised and raw.
Was that intentional? How do you know when you have a finished song?
intentional, just how it comes out. I spend a lot of time with each song, but
when we play, together we feed off each other and it adds all the energy to it
and often times goes in to a completely different space from where it
I know a song
is done when it feels comfortable to play. If I get bored playing it, then it’s
too long. If I feel there’s not enough there I add or change apart. Got to find
that Goldielocks zone.
WRH: You have a sound that many would
likely compare to the likes of The Black Keys, White Mystery and a host of
other contemporary power chord-based duos. How does it feel to be compared to
such an impressive line of talented bands? And how do you set yourself apart
RG: Feels good
to be compared to other great bands that we like. We set ourselves apart by
being ourselves, and not striving to be somebody different.
WRH: How did you come up with Closed
Knuckle Jaw for the name of your latest album? Did any other names
RG: No other
names came up. It’s a line from the song “For The Sake of It All”.
Closed knuckle- means tight or clenched. So clenched jaw is something you
have when you’re angry or anxious. It felt like it fit the album.
WRH: Songs like “Chanteal”
and “Need You Tonight” are directly towards a lover, while a song like
“Well Not Dry” is a prototypical blues song full of braggadocio and
sexual innuendo. How much of the material is based on personal
RG: Almost all
of it is based off of personal experiences.
WRH: What advice do you have for artists
trying to make a name for themselves?
RG: Always be
hustling. If you’re not hustling you’re dying. Don’t ever be satisfied, always
strive for more. There’s no such thing as too much practice. Get a thick skin.
Haters gunna hate.