After The Grip Weeds reacquired the rights to the albums they made for Rainbow Quartz Records, the New Jersey-based garage/power-pop band felt the time was right to package some choice odds and ends as a unified collection.
The result is Inner Grooves (Rare and Under-Released Tracks) (Ground Up Records), which features remixes, B sides, outtakes and demos as well as The Grip Weeds’ contributions to compilations.
Drummer and singer Kurt Reil recently checked in to break down Inner Grooves and shed some light on his band’s in-progress sixth full-length studio album of original material.
Medleyville.us: Were any of the recordings on Inner Grooves touched up with re-recorded parts, or was remixing them the only discernible change?
Kurt Reil: “Of the songs that were previously released, only ‘Rainy Day #1 & 2’ was reworked, and most of that was done soon after the song was originally released on a compilation. We were recording an album at the time, and that was one of the songs we wanted to include on it. But after we played a show backing up The Beau Brummels, we recast the song in a more folk-rock context and left this first version in the can. We just dug it out and finished it off by adding a new bass track with our current bassist, Dave DeSantis, and now I like this version best.
“I also added a tambourine to ‘She Don’t Care About Time’ while remixing it, and we edited the solo back in at the end, because that’s how we play it live. We only had eight tracks to work with originally, and basically filled up all the tracks when we recorded it, so there wasn’t room for the tambourine at the time, even though we wanted it on there. I think the remix really saved that track — it’s so much better than the original that’s on a comp.
“One song was a real challenge to remix: ‘Over the Edge.’ That was my demo I did to two four-track machines in the early ’90s. I played all the instruments and did the whole thing in one long all-nighter. … For this remix, we went back and synced up the original basic multitracks to the overdubs, which allowed us to do a much better stereo remix than we could do if we stuck with the original submix and overdubs. But because the machines we had back then were not of great quality, it took some doing to get the two tapes to play in sync, but the result is a track that can hold its own alongside the more professionally recorded songs.”
Did you refer to similar collections by other bands as a template for what you wanted to achieve or present with Inner Grooves?
Reil: “Sure, especially when it came to the subtitle. You always see ‘Rare and Unreleased Tracks,’ so we came up with a play on that: ‘Rare and Under-Released.’ Aside from that, this collection came together because we had just gotten the rights back for our albums we made for Rainbow Quartz Records. Our first thought was to reissue them with bonus tracks as downloads on iTunes, but we found so much material that we’d forgotten about and thought it would be better to put them all in one place rather than annoy our fans by making them have to re-buy the albums to get the extra tracks.
“Once we put the songs in order, we found that the songs actually worked as a collection — that was unexpected. Then we gave it the context of ‘inner grooves’ — the secret messages found on vinyl records, because these tracks are the rarities of our catalog, the stuff real fans would have to really dig for, if they could find them at all.”
Talk about the song-selection process for Inner Grooves and the contributions made by all four members of the band.
Reil: “[Guitarist] Kristin [Pinell] and I did a brainstorming session on a long road trip where we made a list of all the available tracks that we could remember — this was after I’d looked through the tape library to see what was there. There’s much more stuff in there, by the way — mostly demos that either Rick or I have recorded, and some rehearsals, live shows, etc. We decided to limit the collection to the good stuff, the tracks that were finished and ‘releasable.’
“We discussed including the audio tracks from Live Vibes, our live-in-the-studio DVD, and there was one bonus track from it we could’ve included, but it was [my brother and guitarist] Rick who pointed out that the 11 songs had a really good feel to them. Dave’s main contribution was his bass work on ‘Rainy Day #1 & 2,’ and since he’s the new guy he didn’t have too much involvement, but he did provide some good feedback when we needed it.
“We collectively decided to sequence the tracks in a creative musical order, going by feel instead of a chronological order. That makes the record play much better — you start with a bang, then bring it down a bit and then back up. It makes for a more satisfying listen.”
The cover of the Gene Clark-penned Byrds tune “She Don’t Care About Time” dates back to 1999. What other Inner Grooves recordings, if any, go back that far?
Reil: “ ‘Over the Edge’ is my demo from the early ’90s. ‘In Waking Dreams’ and ‘We’re Not Getting Through’ are both from the same 1995 sessions that produced our first German single, ‘We’re Not Getting Through’/’I Can Hear the Grass Grow.’ We wound up re-recording both of these tracks for [our second album], The Sound Is In You, but these versions have something special about them. The other tracks are more current — at least from within the last decade.”
What’s the latest on the upcoming Grip Weeds studio album? Are you still in the songwriting stage, or is the band in the tracking stage? And would you say it’s going to be sonically similar to Strange Change Machine?
Reil: “We’re still writing some songs for it, or at least finishing them, but we have half the album recorded already and are gearing up to start recording a few more tracks by rehearsing them first.
“I’d say it’s a progression from Strange Change Machine, or at least it’s different. I think each of our albums has been a progression in some way from the previous one, and this one is no exception. Then again, it is The Grip Weeds playing music that sounds like us, and it’s also being recorded by us at The House of Vibes, where we always work. But it’s going to be different because it’s been a few years, and we’ve had more life experiences to draw from.
“We’ve also had a steady stream of outside projects at the studio that I have either recorded or produced, and working on other peoples’ music opens me up. It gives me a fresh perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise have if all I did was record with The Grip Weeds. I bring these experiences and new techniques to each session I do — it’s like my bag of tools, and it just keeps getting bigger.
“Also, this will be the first full album with Dave, and the relationships and chemistry within the band has changed because of him — for the better, actually. I don’t want to give away anything yet as it’s still in the working stages, but I can tell you it has a loose concept and just might be our most ambitious one yet. We’re hoping to get it done in time for a fall release — fingers crossed!”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
The Grip Weeds on tour (schedule subject to change):
* March 1: Open Arts Stage Theater — Bordentown, N.J. (with Robyn Hitchcock)
* April 12: Odd Fellows — Rockville Center, N.Y.