By now, ’90s slacker rock bands should be over, but there are a few bands who pull off the sound too well not to fall in love with it. Cue Seattle rock group Great Grandpa. They’ve been able to find their own sound within the genre, offering up a cozy, faded sound.
The modest five-piece—comprised of vocalist Alex Menne, guitarist Pat Goodwin, guitarist Dylan Hanwright, bassist Carrie Miller, and drummer Cam LaFlam—formed barely two years ago, but they’ve been honing their songs ever since then. They finished recording their debut full-length, this year’s excellent Plastic Cough, in summer of 2016, which means the band had been sitting on this record, waiting to release it into the world, for over a year. “We wanted to get everyone’s individual happiness across, and I think we did the best we could,” says Hanwright. “[The release date] seemed so far off, an intangible time, but then it all happened all at once. It was a rush.”
Since then, Great Grandpa have seen a frenzy of coverage from everyone, from The Fader to NPR, who fell in love with the sound. It’s easy to blame the band’s stacked vocals. Each member in the band sings on the record, creating a type of layered sound reminiscent of screaming lyrics with your friends in a basement or 10-hour road trip. “A lot of folks who had never heard us before caught a glimpse, and our music spread in a way that’s cool to see. We’re all so humbled,” says Hanwright. “It’s even validated this tour and our band to our parents,” he adds, laughing.
To dig deeper into the band’s backstory, we interviewed Hanwright for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. Turns out Great Grandpa is even more lively than the name suggests.
1) “Teen Challenge”
DIGBOSTON: What’s one stereotypically teenage problem/issue/challenge you encountered growing up and how did you handle it?
HANWRIGHT: Oh man. It’s typical and possibly problematic, but my experience with the opposite sex. However you want to say that. Let’s just say with emotions and love and feelings for other people in general; that was something I had a lot of trouble with [laughs]. I grew up with three older sisters, so I feel like they had a lot to do with my confidence as a preteen, getting out of childhood, and figuring out who I was. They were all very different from me, and then I did my own thing: the music thing, the skateboarding thing, just coming out of my shell and experiencing emotions I didn’t know how to deal with.
2) “Favorite Show”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the most underrated TV show that’s now off air?
HANWRIGHT: You know, I don’t know if it’s underrated, but I definitely don’t hear people talk about Scrubs as much. I love that show. It might be my favorite show of all time. I think it’s dated now, so maybe it’s underappreciated in that some of the jokes don’t land anymore. But if you put yourself in that time, the early 2000s, it fits. I think we have a Scrubs sense of humor as a band. I think Scrubs jokes are so wholesome at the heart, that type of comedy that doesn’t need to be shocking for humor. As funny as that can be, I love the humor you can get across that’s so basic or stupid that it becomes clever, and I think Scrubs accomplished that pretty well.
DIGBOSTON: What’s the hardest offer you’ve ever had to turn down?
HANWRIGHT: Hm. When I graduated from college in Boston, I got a job back in Washington where I grew up. I left Boston, went back to my parents’ house, and had this job for less than a month before the start-up fell through. Shortly after that, I got an offer to move to LA to work a similar start-up job. From my past experience, I panicked and said no, because I couldn’t uproot everything again. Later on, I found out that company is doing really well now, but I’m also stoked I said no, because I met everyone in Great Grandpa and we started this band.
DIGBOSTON: Name two things, people, places, or habits that, for whatever reason, faded from your life that you wish were still a part of it?
HANWRIGHT: I guess going along with that last question, Boston has faded from my life as a home. I go back as often as I can, and I’m psyched to go back on this tour. Our Boston show is already sold out, which is awesome. It’s definitely hard to move from where you made friends, played music, and had a huge friend group succeed, but you’ve been watching it from the other part of the country and aren’t a part of it anymore. You start a new life.
Associated with that, I used to play in a band there called I Kill Giants. I was in that band up until I was 21, so it was very adolescent feeling, but we got a good following in Boston and the East Coast right up to when I left. It feels like I’m a quarterback in high school looking back on the good times, like holding on to that but having to let go while understanding it’s run its course. No more reunion shows. We’ve all gone our separate ways. We had our last show filmed, back to front, so I’ll watch that sometimes to get nostalgic.
5) “All Things Must Behave / Eternal Friend”
DIGBOSTON: How long is your longest friendship?
HANWRIGHT: I’ve been pretty good friends with an old bandmate of mine who I met in seventh-grade math class. We were the two metal kids, right? His name is David. We met and realized we both played guitar, so we started our 400 bands together, sit and write songs together for the entire weekend, and went through high school together. Then we both went off to college, came back, and both live in Seattle. We hang out pretty consistently. It’s been 12 years.
6) “Expert Eraser”
DIGBOSTON: Which eraser would you endorse if you could only use one for the rest of your life: the tiny one on the end of a wooden #2 pencil, the tiny one on the end of a mechanical pencil, the pink rectangular ones, the cute animal- and food-shaped ones, or the amorphous gray putty one?
HANWRIGHT: You know, I have to go with the pink eraser at the end of a Ticonderoga. Specifically that one. Because I remember that one, like that eraser and the pencil, worked so well together. You could get rid of any trace of the pencil ever being there. All the other ones might smudge it or leave an outline. That Ticonderoga did the job, every time [laughs]. We strongly endorse Ticonderoga pencils.
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever been religious?
HANWRIGHT: No, I haven’t. I was raised secular. I was strongly atheist when I was in high school and stuff, but I’m not very active about it. Yeah, I had an experience when I was 5 where my next door neighbor, who was 7, made sure I knew that I was going to go to hell if I didn’t believe in God. From then on, I was terrified of religion. My parents didn’t practice anything either. You didn’t have to do whatever you didn’t want to do, and that always stuck with me. I feel really lucky that my parents let me choose. My sister went to youth group for a while, she got to choose her own path, and my parents didn’t object to that either.
8) “Pardon My Speech”
DIGBOSTON: What’s a phrase or word you use that isn’t from your native region?
HANWRIGHT: I grew up an hour south of Seattle. Going to school in Boston definitely added some weird words to my vernacular. The thing about Berklee [College of Music] is that it’s such a melting pot of people from around the world and US. I hung out with people from Texas a lot, so I took up “y’all” pretty heavily. It’s also becoming a more popular word since it’s gender neutral and rolls off the tongue better. I also started staying stuff like wicked as an adjective … wicked smart.
DIGBOSTON: How often were you grounded growing up?
HANWRIGHT: Well, I tried to go the opposite route of my sisters. They were into drinking and stuff, but I wanted no part of that. So my friends and I didn’t drink at all. We just played video games. We were nerds. But when I started to date and sneak out of the house to meet up with people, that was definitely when I started to get in trouble. I wasn’t grounded pretty much beyond age 13. If I was out too late, my parents would scold me, but it was nothing compared to some of the stuff my sisters did. One time, me and my buddies went to Seattle to go to a show, and we really wanted to stop at this burger chain after the show. This was before GPS so we were going based off instinct. We were out until probably 3 am looking for this burger spot. None of us told our parents. We definitely got into a lot of trouble for that. Pretty wholesome [laughs].
10) “28 J’s L8R”
DIGBOSTON: Where did the best weed you’ve ever smoked come from?
HANWRIGHT: It’s legal in Seattle. I smoke, but I’m not very particular about it—though I am the only member in the band who currently smokes, so I’m glad you came to me with this. Weed is weed, in my opinion, but Seattle has some of the coolest shops. So let’s just say, “Washington: best weed.”
ROZWELL KID, CHRIS FARREN, GREAT GRANDPA, LEANER. SAT 8.5. MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 6:30PM/ALL AGES/$13. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM