Ben Grimes Interview
An Interview with Ben Grimes.
Ben Grimes is the lead singer for Kansas City-based pop-rock band The Golden Republic. Their latest release is the EP “People,” out now on Astralwerks. The Golden Republic’s debut album will be released in January of 2005. Ben recently called in to talk about getting signed, touring and barbeque.
How are you enjoying opening for Sondre Lerche?
Ben Grimes: It’s going really well. He’s very easy to work with and a very charming young man. We’ve just had a great time being out with him.
How are the fans reacting to you?
Ben Grimes: [The fans have reacted] really, really well. It’s been unbelievably positive. As far as fan reaction, and just the general response, this is definitely the most successful tour we’ve ever done. The response to the EP has been really good too.
How would you describe your band’s sound?
Ben Grimes: It’s rooted in old British Invasion stuff. That’s kind of the common ground that we all grew up on. There’s a lot of elements that we all bring to it. I grew up on a lot of punk and hip-hop; the other guys in the band are into a lot of experimental stuff, indie rock stuff, a lot of real interesting stuff. We all actually like Broadway stuff too. There’s a lot of little elements that we like to bring into it, but for the most part, it’s rooted in ‘70s British rock.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Ben Grimes: Personally, David Bowie and T. Rex are big influences. I really love Brian Wilson a lot; he’s been a very big contributor to my life. Your basic The Beatles, the Stones, the kind of stuff we all love. Velvet Underground, Television, bands like that. The hipper, more underground type of bands. That’s a horrible way to describe it.
You were talking earlier about the response to the EP. Do you have a favorite track off of “People”?
Ben Grimes: That’s a good question. Probably the second track, “Great Communication.” I wrote that song when we were at the recording studio last year while I was away from my wife for two months. I was experiencing a lot of sexual anxiety and all that. It’s probably the first overtly sexual song that I’ve ever written, and it’s dance-y and fun. It’s fun to perform.
Live you seem to have more of a dance rock sound…
Ben Grimes: I don’t think the recordings are necessarily as dance-y as the live show is, which is, kind of, on purpose. As songwriters, we don’t really tend towards dance music that much. When you see a band, there’s just something that needs to be there that makes you want to move. That is so much of what makes a live experience amazing, and so we try and bring that (dance-rock) out more.
Do you have a favorite venue to play?
Ben Grimes: My favorite venue that we’ve ever played is the Bowery Ballroom in New York. It’s a great room, amazing sound system. We’ve played there a few times, and the staff is always really, really great. That’s one of our favorites. We also love playing The Brick and The Hurricane there in Kansas City.
If you could tour with any artist, who would it be?
Ben Grimes: Oh, God. Dreaming big, probably David Bowie or U2. I would hate being the opening band on a show that big because it always seems kind of awkward for the opener, but just getting to be around that talent and charisma for an extended period of time. It couldn’t help but rub off.
Do you have a favorite barbeque restaurant?
Ben Grimes: Absolutely, I’m a huge Arthur Bryant’s fan. I could eat Arthur Bryant’s every day.
It’s an important question.
Ben Grimes: Every time we have bands in from out of town or our label people or management, we always take them to Arthur Bryant’s.
You need to make a good impression.
Ben Grimes: Absolutely
Do you have any advice for musicians who are just starting out?
Ben Grimes: Focus on what you really want to be and find what your identity is going to be, hone that. Make as many friends as you can because that’s what it really comes down to. They say, ‘It’s not about what you know, but who you know.’ That’s about 80 percent true, you really need to make the right friends that can help you out and support you. And lead you to your next step.
How did you end up getting signed to Astralwerks?
Ben Grimes: We had the opportunity to open for The Creature Comforts; some of the Ultimate Fakebook guys saw that show and had us on to play some shows with them. From talking to Ultimate Fakebook they ended up getting us in contact with their manager at the time. We talked to him, just talked business some. We had gotten a little bit of interest from some people, but noting that went anywhere. He ended up managing us. It was all completely due to Ultimate Fakebook just wanting to hook us up. He knew some people at the label and talked to them. He played them are demos; they just ate it up and became extremely enthusiastic about us. They flew out almost immediately and saw us play, and we started negotiating. The actual contract negotiation took over a year, but once it was finally done we finally got able to get out and do what we wanted to do.
Has creating music always been a hobby for you?
Ben Grimes: I started singing when I was three. At nursing homes, my mom would drag me out and I would sing “You Are My Sunshine.” I did that my whole life. When I was eight, I was trying to play air band with my friends, concerts lip-syncing along with CDs. My two loves my whole life have been film and music. I was Actually two weeks away from starting film school when I got a call from my cousin Ryan, who’s our drummer, ‘Hey, we should start a band.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ So, I just dropped my classes and went and started a band.
What are some of your favorite films?
Ben Grimes: I’m a really big Stanley Kubrick fan. I love “Dr. Strangelove” and “Clockwork Orange.” “2001: A Space Odyssey” is my favorite movie ever. I really like Peter Sellers. I like old stuff. I like Hitchcock a lot. I like old black and white [films]. There’s just such an amazing esthetic quality to those kind of films that, I think I’ve been totally lost in the last thirty years.
Your album is coming out early next year; do you feel that your sound on the album is different from that on the EP?
Ben Grimes: The EP was actually recorded six months after we recorded the full length. The EP is actually more of a progression from the full length than the full length is from it. I think that the full length, even though it’s now a year old, is a real important statement for all of us. Musically, I think that it is an evolution from the EP. The EP was done in a much more raw way. We recorded it in a barn, down in Republic, Missouri. The full length is a little more focused as far as the approach. Lyrically, it’s much more cohesive. The whole album is pretty much about the same kind of stuff: Love, manhood, trying to discover one’s self in this topsy-turvy world.
Do you have a certain method to your lyrics?
Ben Grimes: Not really, I constantly write. I’m constantly filling up notebooks with stuff. Whenever there’s something that bothers me I’ll get out a book and just write on it; not even trying to write lyrics. Lately, I’ve been starting to write stuff that is a lot more political than I’ve ever done. Personally, I don’t like political music at all; so I’m trying to figure out what’s even my point with that. We’ll see what happens when we make our second full length.
Do you ever write on the road while you are touring?
Ben Grimes: I write in the van a lot. It’s a good place to do it because it is quiet. The experience of being on tour is a very unique one. It takes you into strange places; you’re always meeting new people and new types of people. You tend to redefine yourself when you’re away from familiar environments for so long.
Do you have a topic that you like writing about more than other subjects?
Ben Grimes: When I write, I find myself writing about religion, spirituality, and the big questions of life. I feel like a very confused person. When I start thinking and wondering about things, it’s always like, ‘what is this world? What’s it all about? I don’t understand’ that sort of soul-searching kind of nonsense.
What’s your most personal song?
Ben Grimes: Probably, a song that’s going to be on the full length called “Things We Do.” It’s basically just about the way that people get themselves into situations that they regret, and they know they’re going to regret. It asks that ultimate question: “Why do we do the things that we know we don’t really want to do? Why do we try to make ourselves happy with things that we know won’t make us happy?’