Often it seems that bands produce their most profound work in their seemingly darkest hour. This would seem to be the case with Brooklyn’s Grooms. They recently released their third LP, Infinity Caller, on Western Vinyl… an album that almost never happened. After the band’s first two [quite impressive] releases failed to help the band members to stay afloat on their art alone, they were preparing themselves to pull the plug. However, author Michael Azerrad invited the band to play alongside the likes of St. Vincent, Ted Leo, and the Dirty Projectors at his Our Band Could Be Your Life gig, which breathed new life into the outfit. I recently got a chance to chat with Travis Johnson, one-half of constant members (alongside Emily Abruso) about Grooms’ recent history: “The recent highlight for us has just been being able to put out this record. There were numerous times of being on the brink of not finishing or not starting it.” He tells me that the band recently had a major shift in their priorities: “The main thing was we survived as a band… and not in a Radiohead way. We were never eaten alive by the media, but we did get into the mindset of asking, ‘What are we doing?’ and just trying to not let apathy eat you alive.”
Grooms have, thus far, been known for noisy and aggressive guitar-driven avant-rock, along the lines of Thurston Moore at his most pissed off (Although they’ve tended to draw comparisons to nearly all of the 1990s prolific icons of alt rock and shoegaze.) Well, Infinity Caller doesn’t exactly dismiss that beautiful, I-still-can’t-believe-it-ever-happened, moment in the 1990s when brilliant sonic transgressors were actually penetrating the “popular,” it does seem to explore all that the band are capable of, pulling their previous sound to its limits in every direction. Johnson tells me, “It’s probably our prettiest album,” before going on to clarify that he recently had a friend tell him that the album sounds, “Both more experimental and more accessible and catchy.” Personally, he describes it as having their, “poppiest melodies and strangest sounds.” I ask Johnson about the album’s influences and he tells me that they were, seemingly, a bit disparate: “We were just devouring bands like Broadcast, or Tortoise, but also, kind of DJ Shadow. They play with sounds, but it’s still completely emotionally intact, but it still sounds like indie rock. I mean, we’re not a Hip-Hop DJ or a ‘60s psych band.”
Infinity Caller also marks the band recording in a new manner, on their own. Johnson explains, “It was just a completely different thing. We’d never recorded anything ourselves.” This allowed them to consider writing and recording at a much slower pace, with a lot more time to reflect on their output.
“We recorded for six or seven months and mixed for another two months. Sometimes I’d stay up until three or four recording overdubs. We recorded so much… There are some really bad recordings of some of these songs.”
Grooms currently have a short string of upcoming dates supporting Clinic (who Johnson claims are, “one of my favorite bands.”), including a September 17th stop at Johnny Brenda’s. I ask what can be expected of the band’s set and he tells me, “By the end of the show we’ll be drenched in sweat. It’ll sound a lot more gnarled and noisy, a lot more of a rock vibe.” But he also clarifies that the band, despite their passion, are feeling tighter than ever: “I think we’re getting really really good at playing these songs live. We feel like we really own these songs.”
However, despite the newfound life in Grooms, Johnson tells me they’re already planning new music that heads in an almost entirely new direction.
“I’m already itching to start making a new album. We already have at least 12 songs we could dive into. I’d love to have it finished by the beginning of 2014. Just the other day I was talking to Emily and she said, ‘I think the next record needs to be a completely different thing.’ I mean, we listen to so many different things. Since this record has been done, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jazz and Krautrock. I think our next album will have a lot more electronic stuff on it.”