by Sage Shemroske
Ahead of prairie rock trio Double Grave’s new album – Goodbye, Nowhere! – we hopped on a video call to talk about self recording, rural spaces, and hard work.
Goodbye, Nowhere! is a sprawling field of an album – using layered guitars and ringing drum sounds to capture a clear-eyed existentialism. Double Grave grapples with isolation and agency over crunchy feedback and textured breakdowns, finally stepping into their loudest album yet. With precision, the band has welded together just nine songs into something deeply resonant. Double Grave doesn’t know where exactly “somewhere” is, but they’re running down the wide backroads towards it, leaving behind the hopelessness that previously fenced them in.
SM: I wanna talk about the very DIY process of the album. You did everything but master the tracks on your own. What was that like?
Jeremy: We had kind of gone back and forth working in studios with other engineers and doing stuff in house ourselves, and I think through the back and forth of that we reached a skill level and an understanding to do it all ourselves and have that time to really go slowly on things. So what we did was track it all in the basement of the house that Bree [Meyer] and I live in, which is where I’m sitting right now actually-
Where the magic happens.
Jeremy: Yeah, right? And we basically set it up so we would live track everything together. We tracked Seth [Tracy] first and then sort of constructed everything on top of that.
Seth: We just played together.
Jeremy: We got everything tracked by June I think? So January to June of 2019 was when we tracked. And then we spent all summer mixing it. And Seth handles most of the heavy lifting as far as recording and mixing goes so it’s mostly his work. But agreeing on final sound we’re all in there being happy about it.
You talk about it being a slower process, do you think that has to do with how the rhythm section is more drawn out and you don’t have a lot of lyrical moments on the album?
Jeremy: Yeah, maybe.
Seth: Partially. I think a big part of it was just guitar tracking. Because there’s a lot of guitar overdubs on the whole album. Like the outro to The Farm has something like 20 separate guitar tracks all busing along at once. Jeremy and I would record guitars in a track and be pretty much done and then we’d just sit on it for a couple weeks. And then Jeremy would come back and be like oh I have this idea. That’s a big benefit of doing it all in house, that we could really take our time we weren’t bleeding money on a studio.
Jeremy: I think we knew when we started working on this that we were gonna take a long time to make it because I think in listening back to everything else that we’ve done, with time I always end up feeling like things were kind of rushed or we didn’t get them exactly where we want them, we kind of settled across the board. So this time that was like the real luxury. The biggest part of the experience is what Seth was saying. We were able to redo a lot of stuff, really take our time figuring out the textures and the tones of everything and make sure our performances were great across the board and what we were really happy with.
Seth: And we had been performing a lot of them live already, we’ve had them worked out
Jeremy: But focus on rhythm and lack of lyrics in a lot of the songs is that just has to do with my own songwriting habits. I think on this album I was really trying to focus on the instruments, and that’s just more of where my focus was.
It feels like there’s kind of an unresolved nature to a lot of the tracks. Is there an acceptance to lack of closure on the album?
Jeremy: I think so. Lyrics for me are the least fun part of music making. I know some song writers, the lyrics are what’s most important and they sort of determine what the song is about and the feelings of the song. And I kind of work backwards from that. I don’t usually write lyrics to Double Grave songs until the music is all finished and we’re playing it together. I’d say 80% of the time that’s how it works, we’ll get all of the music done and then the vocal melodies will come, and then once I know what the melodies are I force words into place.
Seth: You’ll even do placeholder lyrics.
Jeremy: Yeah, I’ll do placeholder lyrics a lot and often not know exactly what the words are until the last moment. So I’ll just practice with that until the appropriate words come to mind. But I think a result of this is that I often will have lyrics that I feel like are kind of vague and are more so about reflecting the feeling of the music to me more so than telling a story or making a clear point. A lot of them feel sort of autobiographical in that if I am using specific imagery or talking about specific events I’ll often pull from my own life. But I try really hard to keep the general meaning or what the song is about pretty open ended because I really like lyrics like that. I think there’s a lot of power to speaking specifically about specific situations but I think there’s also something great about lyrics that can be interpreted a lot of different ways.
So you want to leave room for people to project what they’re feeling onto it. Is that what I’m getting?
Jeremy: Totally. I think a lot of it comes from that I’m a pretty simple person with maybe not a lot of big things to say or big experiences to speak from so a lot of times my lyrics will be about really common things like feeling isolated. A simple problem that I think everybody goes through so I’ll write in a really vague way about these things and sort of let the sound of the instruments push the feelings into the words.
And there is that kind of tug-o-war between isolation and agency? Like Actor, which has this very I wish/could’ve/should’ve narrative but then other songs really want to take control of feeling better.
Jeremy: If I were to underline what a cohesive theme of what the album is or what the lyrics are I tried to sonically and lyrically think about when I was younger and feeling really stuck both in a specific place like in the town I grew up in but also in a mental space of hopelessness and depression. And I wanted to make an album that sort of touches on all those feelings of wishing things were different and wishing you could change. But then some of the other songs like Long Drive Home or NNN are more about actually changing like actually getting better and making the changes you need to. And that’s the idea behind the album, you’re stuck in a bad place but you don’t have to be, you can get out of it. But you kind of need to realize where you are first. So Actor is more so focusing on wishing things were different and feeling like you’ve done things wrong and you can’t get out of it.
On Whatever, you have what almost sounds like it’s gonna be this pop punk break down but then it’s super distorted. What’s the line of thinking behind making something more distorted and fuzzier?
Seth: We just got louder and fuzzier as a live band over time. Like exponentially so. After we were done with Empty Hands, we started getting heavier and fuzzier, and we always had some of that, but I think we all liked doing that live more so it’s a natural evolution.
Jeremy: We’ve always thought of ourselves as a loud band and maybe that wasn’t totally true until recently and this album is us getting to how we’ve always felt we sounded. We’ve always played live and felt like there was a lot of noise happening but now when we play older songs together or when I listen to older recordings everything sounds really clean and kind of more mellow than it feels when we’re actually together and working on new stuff now. Maybe the amount of distortion seems out of left field, but to us that’s just what we sound like now and what we’ve always wanted to sound like.
How much does playing live and being together play a role in the recording and process of making the album?
Jeremy: A lot. The songs come to life. Usually I’ll make demos of the songs like mostly structured. It’s mostly I’ve figured out my guitar part for several minutes and now we’ll figure out the other parts. Being able to play through things together and workshop what feels right, what literally feels good together and what feels kind of stale. And hammering out all the nuance of the songs. Playing together is a pretty big part of that. And we all have our roles outside of literally playing our instruments. We all have the insights and roles we play to actually make the record a final thing. It’s a lot of… what’s the word? Symmet- not symmetry?..
Jeremy: Synergy! Synergy In how things work.
Seth: Office Space language. Synergy!
Bree: Alternative title to the album.
When you talk about roles, what are they?
Jeremy: Well like I write the songs, generally, like I write the foundation of the songs and direct what makes the cut and how the album is gonna sound. And I manage the band. And Seth handles most of the actual recording process like catching the sounds and mixing, and playing producer at large. And Bree handles all the artwork, she did all the art for the album. I also generally think of Bree as the final stamp of approval on things that happen. If we have any disagreement on stuff she’s usually the one to finally say if something is good or not. She’s like quality control.
Bree: Yeah, I’m hard to please. So that is not always a good thing. I’m hard to live with.
Seth: Bree also does all the merch.
Jeremy: Bree does all the visual elements of the band.
I mean the three of you then, you’re all a little hard to please. The high standard is there, right?
Jeremy: I think so. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we have a lot of personal expectations in each of our fields that we’re working in. So yeah, I think we’ve set a really high bar for ourselves.
Seth: I say it a lot, this isn’t completely relevant, that bad music is better than mediocre music. There’s a lot of really boring art in general that’s not really taking any risks or is just really middle of the road, and I don’t think we wanna half ass what we’re doing. That goes back into taking time with the album.
Bree: I feel like we’ve done this long enough as a band that that’s kind of where we’re each at in our lives. That we want to take it seriously and not that we’re proving anything to anyone but holding ourselves up to higher standards and wanting to keep growing and not stagnate. As a team.
Jeremy: We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to continue to do better all the time. Like all elements of being a band. I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself to justify all the sacrifice that goes into the band. Maybe it’s a vicious circle sometimes, but if we’re putting so much of ourselves, so much time and heart and resources into this, we want it to be the best we can make it all the time. Maybe it sounds mean, or cocky, or egotistical or something, but I don’t mean for it to be like that. It’s more about proving things to ourselves.
I don’t think it sounds that way at all. Is it a way of holding each other accountable because you all have those high standards?
Seth: I don’t feel like we necessarily push each other as much as we just are pushing ourselves.
Jeremy: We all think in a similar way and are working together. It’s more of a mutual effort and understanding than we’re actually putting pressure on each other. Because the work relationship is usually pretty lowkey actually.
To be honest, you’re not making it sound that way.
Jeremy: Well we’re not critiquing each other all the time or anything. It’s more like each of us is working hard and we see each other working hard and so we keep working harder ourselves. We’re all here together.
Seth: It’s more of a symbiotic relationship.
Jeremy: [laughs] and synergy.
Y’all are using your SAT words I see.
Seth: We’re all just trying to do our part as best as we can. Just do what you can, expect the most of yourself, and don’t put so much pressure on everyone else. Because that’s not necessarily gonna help. Everyone is their own worst critic and I think we’re somewhat aware of that. At least in this context.
Jeremy: I think some of this also comes from our very early time as a band. I think we worked very quickly and hastily in the beginning, and it was super fun. But then, pretty quickly, I think we looked back on recordings we had made or things we had done and been like “maybe that wasn’t so great”. Now that we’re at the point we’re at we know to be more critical in the moment so that we don’t have regrets later.
It is a really cohesive album – the first two songs are very seamless. Is that part of the theme or more just how you record?
Jeremy: That was intentional. This album more than past albums we actually listened to albums and thought about flow, thought about cohesion of production and how to make a contained album rather than batch of songs. The way that things flow together throughout the whole thing is all really intentional and took a lot of thought. There are actually, when I was working on the songs for this album, I kinda wrote two albums worth of stuff and then picked the songs that I thought had the best self contained flow to them. It was very intentional.
Wow, you’re never not working. Are you all introverts?
Bree: I am! [laughs]
Jeremy: Seth is probably the least introverted and I still think of you as being pseudo introverted sometimes.
Seth: Yeah. I mean everyone’s a bit of both, right?
Jeremy: But still..
Everyone’s a bit of both but not everyone does almost every part of their album which has an existential element to it. It feels like less of a bit of both?
Seth: I think we’ve all lived inside our heads a bit.
Jeremy: I just like to work really hard on my music! [everyone laughs]
What albums were you listening to while making this album?
Jeremy: I remember Get Disowned by Hop Along was a reference point that I had before we even started. The weird production style and flow of that album is something that we all really love.
Seth: That’s an album that took them like a whole year to record.
Jeremy: The process and sound of that album is a big inspiration. Also A Place I’ll Always Go by Palehound stands out to me as a reference point because I really loved the way that they mix acoustic and electric guitar textures with these really big drum sounds. We really wanted to try and get that interesting texture on this album and it’s really prevalent on the whole thing, that meshing of acoustic and electric guitars. Also really big into My Bloody Valentine. I feel like that’s obvious to anyone who listens to me play guitar. And just their whole amount of texture that they get from a distorted guitar is always really cool to me and how their songs are big and kind of aggressive but underneath they’re still really pop-y like hook-y. That’s always something I’ve always held really dear to what a rock band can sound like.
You talk a lot about texture and that’s such a music word, ya know? Could you talk a little more about the way sound interests you.
Jeremy: Yeah, I dunno, as far as guitar sounds go and what I love about them is sometimes guitars make sounds.
Jeremy: [Mocking himself] “Sometimes guitars make sounds and it’s like really cool.” But the washy big distorted guitar sound that I make sometimes feels really similar to other big moments that you have. Like standing in a wide open prairie or watching water on the sunset or something. Sometimes a guitar sounds so big and messed up that it flips a switch in my brain in the same way that other big majestic moments do in life. I think that’s what I want to make happen to people when I’m playing guitar. I want to hit them in this way with the sound that other big things in the world hit me. Recording this album was a big lesson in how do you translate that, how do you record a guitar so it still sounds like? And that’s where texture comes in!
Seth: Pairing the acoustic guitars with the electric guitar can actually add a lot more weight and size than just an electric guitar by itself. And that’s nothing new, people have been doing that for decades, because it works!
Jeremy: We’re like a loud three piece rock band, but if we just record a live three piece album it’s not gonna get the feelings through. We needed to deconstruct things and have these specific textures and make things almost softer to get the full impact.
Bree: When working on the artwork and stuff I realise how much texture is behind things that you don’t always observe as a viewer or a listener. But in general, even if you don’t necessarily notice it, it adds a complexity when you look at or listen to something.
A little earlier you talked about capturing and bringing about the same emotions majestic moments have with guitar. Is that part of why you’re not focused on lyrics? Because you turn to the guitar to capture that kind of emotion?
Jeremy: That’s definitely what’s going on. Because I more so see the guitar as like my tool for translating the feelings more accurately than the words themselves a lot of the time. I think a lot of that comes from me getting a lot of influence from music in my guitar playing. Again, bands like My Bloody Valentine where the words aren’t even that important. Like they make a melody and sometimes you can hear what they’re saying but that kind of comes secondary to the sounds at large. I don’t mean to say the lyrics don’t matter at all because I do put a lot of thought into them in the end. It’s just that they come last and I don’t try to tell stories or be really clever. They do take a lot of thought and they mean a lot to me, they’re just not the most important thing.
Did any of you grow up in a rural area or do these themes just kind of-
Jeremy: We all did!
Seth: I grew up on an actual farm.
Jeremy: Bree lived in a rural area as a kid before moving to Green Bay. And I grew up in the town Mankato which is where Seth is from too, sort of. And behind my house was just fields. Like big open fields.
Seth: Prairie country.
Jeremy: Prairie country for sure. Growing up I just spent a lot of time in open spaces, there wasn’t a lot to do besides biking down country roads and stuff. Even in high school when Seth and I started to know each other, growing up in a place like that most of what you do is go out into the country. Go out into nature but nature is mostly open space. I spent a lot of time in big open spaces.
Do you think that time spent in open spaces is obvious in your music?
Jeremy: In this album for sure because I spent a lot of time thinking about that time and sort of tried to place myself in that space of like being in a small town or feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere. I hope it comes across. At least, especially in this record because it was on my mind.
I feel like we almost just had that moment where in a movie they say the title of the movie
Seth: I was talking about that just last night. I love when they do that in movies. Especially when the camera kind of like zooms in but just a little bit. As a quick aside I was watching The Condemned which is an.. ok wrestling movie. And they say “the condemned” three or four times in that movie and each time I was like “YEAH”. It’s like art making fun of itself a little bit. Or being self aware.
This album is definitely self aware. Do you worry that these themes of isolation and being in open spaces away from people are gonna come off as like Quarantine Vibes(™)?
Seth: Should we remake the album?
Jeremy: I’ve talked about this with some friends who have heard the album and I really hope that doesn’t happen because we made this so long ago. I hope that people aren’t thinking that we’re piggybacking off current events or something. But my hope is that, with everything that’s going on, people will hear this music and it’ll just resonate with them. I hope people will be able to find things that they’re looking for when they hear this, maybe experiencing a kind of new isolation. It’s weird for me because it’s sort of written for people with similar feelings and experiences to myself. People who have maybe lived in places they didn’t think they could escape or have been in mental traps they didn’t think they could escape. And now more people can relate to that feeling. I hope that speaking to those feelings will resonate with people. I just hope it won’t come off as gimmicky or something, that would be frustrating.
Jeremy, you especially have been pretty vocal about this. Do you have anything to say to other artists who are dealing with delays and basically everything being on fire?
Jeremy: I would say don’t rush anything. I feel like there’s this huge wave suddenly of people throwing their hands up and being like “well can’t do anything anymore, just gonna push this thing out”. And I’d just really hate to see that. Taking your time to really be happy with what you’ve made is the most important thing. Rushing to try and please other people or to show it off before it’s ready or whatever it is. Whatever pressure you feel to finish your creative project, just take your time and make sure you’re really happy with it before you put it out. The situation that we’re in doesn’t change that. It doesn’t change how you should feel about the thing you’ve made. That’s my advice [laughs].
Seth: Specifically with music, no one can tour right now so putting out an album and not being able to tour behind it is scary and a new way the music industry is being forced to evolve into. Which is scary, but things change.
Jeremy: With not being able to tour and play shows right now you can actually take more time on things. And you have to sort of rethink the process of how you put music out now. And I just wanna shout out our label, Forged Artifacts, it’s always a gamble to sink your money into a DIY band but they’re great and amidst all this craziness they’re being really supportive and I just feel really grateful to have them on our side. Thanks Matt! And that’s it!
Double Grave’s new album – Goodbye, Nowhere! – is out on 7th August through Forged Artefacts.
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