Grade is a band to which assigning a label is difficult. While there's no real point to describing them as a specific sound, one thing that can be said pretty easily is that they are great and they are breaking new ground with their music. This interview took place with the help of my friend's (J.P. and Sally) speakerphone, so thanks goes out to them. Kyle, lead singer for the band, did the interview.
Nate: Let's take care of the preliminary stuff…what's your name, what do you do in the band, and where are you from?
Kyle: Kyle, vocals, and I'm from Toronto, Canada.
Nate: Your newest album has recently came out…was the writing and recording a smooth process? Are you happy with the way it came out?
Kyle: Yeah. The writing was actually really smooth. It came out of us really easy and we're really happy with the way it came out. We were impressed with the artwork, we were impressed with the recording, we were happy with everything actually.
Nate: On the Victory site, there's a mention that at one point you had been talking to major labels, but after some time decided to stay with Victory. I know that recently a band left Victory for a major label, claiming that they weren't happy with Victory. Why did you make the decision to stay?
Kyle: Every label has their ups and downs and Victory has been really cool to us. We have no complaints. Still to this day we have major labels after us, to try and do something. It's just the way things are. We stay because we're happy with what's going on.
Nate: Did you have any dealing with any other label before Victory?
Kyle: We've been with different labels throughout the years. We've been out with a Canadian label called Workshop, and then we moved to a small label called Capsule in Detroit. Then we moved to Second Nature after that in Kansas City.
Nate: When did the band begin? Was it a long hard road to where you are now, or was there a good response right from the beginning?
Kyle: We started in 94, and we kind of had pretty quick recognition of what we were doing. It's not like it was easy, but back then when there was 58 to a 100 kids at a show you were like crappin in your pants because you were so happy. It's definitely been a long haul and a hard road. I think that any band that has been around as long as us will say the exact same thing. Sometimes you have good shows, sometimes you have bad shows and it just persists forever and ever, and the harder you work at things generally the better things get. Things are slowly getting there for us.
Nate: Is the band something that is full time now or do the members have other jobs?
Kyle: Well the band is definitely is a full time thing for us. When we are home for an extended period of time, some of us have to get jobs because they have houses, wives and cars; stuff like that. They have to pay their daily bills. But for the most part, most of us don't work.
Nate: Where did the name Grade come from?
Kyle: It was kind of an accident. We were on the way to our first show and we didn't have a name for the band, because we were under another name and we switched bass players so we wanted to change it. Our old guitar player was obsessed with this band Lincoln, and they had a song called "Grade Curve." He said let's call it Grade and we were like "ok," and there was basically no thought put into it. To this day I still hate the name.
Nate: Grade's sound seemed to come out of nowhere…did you set out to do something different or did it just come about that way?
Kyle: It just evolved. It's kind of who we are. It was never a goal of ours to do something different, it just kind of happened like that. We've never been satisfied with doing what everyone else is doing, and I guess we always want to try and do something different, but it's never been a goal. It just always has been part of who we are. It's part of our emotional content and our song writing skills…it just happened that way.
Nate: Certain bands start playing a unique sound, whatever it might be in whatever genre, and soon afterwards, there are clone bands that spring up. This is true in the MTV music world as well as the underground music arena. What are your views on that?
Kyle: It's pretty standard. You have between two, three and four bands that are actually doing something to start something original and then you have a hundred bands trying to copy them. Some bands are good; most of them suck. It's really unfortunate; it kind of kills certain sounds. It's like when Grunge first came out and there was Soundgarden, Nirvana and there was Mud Honey and they were incredible bands. And then there was an onslaught of bands afterwards that destroyed it. So all these bands that were amazing got lumped into a crappy genre. It's really frustrating. Now you have the same thing. You have the Get Up Kids and a few amazing bands within that genre, and then you have a million crappy emo bands. It's like "can't you guys get a brain of your own?" That's all I think sometimes. The same thing happened with this whole new metal thing. You have your Korn, your Deftones, then all of a sudden there's your Limp Bizkit and your Disturbed and Linkin Park, and it's like give it up and just stop. Generally one or two bands get respect and the rest of them are just a bunch of followers. It makes me sick. Why can't someone just do something totally different? There's a handful of bands doing something different and personally I have far more respect for those people then anyone who's just cashing in for a buck.
Nate: What has been the hardest trial that Grade has had to deal with as a band?
Kyle. Everyday. Everyday life. It's the struggle of being on the road, the struggle of writing good records, it's the struggle of doing interviews and having people react to those interviews. It goes anywhere from getting attacked and beaten (literally, I'm not joking) to having people take every single word you say to heart and believe who ever is writing about you. Then all of a sudden you have this backlash about things you might have said, or things you could have said and people misunderstanding you, so then you have all these people and fans ripping on you because they misunderstood what you were saying. Or being on the road in a van for 8-10 hours everyday and then doing the same thing everyday for 250 days a year. Missing your girlfriends, missing your family. Getting Strep throat or breaking your ribs because you sing to hard. Breaking your fingers when you smash them on your drums or your bass players bass. It's always something. There's always something that's going to drive you nuts and make your band and your life impossible. That's what makes it interesting right?
Nate: So you guys were physically attacked?
Kyle: Yeah we have been. I think every band that I've ever known that's been a figurehead somewhere has been attacked.
Nate: What personal lesson has being in the band forced you to deal with?
Kyle: I think the main thing is maintaining the relationship within the band itself. Personally, it's been a struggle to be able to control myself, and what I say and do. I do so many interviews and I have to end up representing the band a lot of the times and I end up saying a lot of things that I think and not necessarily what other people in the band think. I have a tendency to get very aggressive about topics and people in the band are like "can't you just be nicer?" There was awhile where I would have to hold myself back and then I stopped because I thought that was being fake.
Nate: Being on the road a lot, in the history of the band, where was the worst place you had to spend the night?
Kyle: One time, I think we were in Vermont and we had played this show. We ended going back to this squatted house and I walked in there, I looked in and I left. You walked into the bathroom and they had a can of lice and genital wart cream. And there were bugs everywhere and dirt everywhere and drunk punks everywhere. I left. That's one of the places, we've also slept on parking lots. Even recently we've done that. We did it because we had to cross the border really early one day and we had no where else to go. So we slept in a parking lot behind a supermarket. We've done that many times over the years. Pretty much the worse places you can be, we've been.
Nate: Speaking of touring, you're set to head out again soon. Are the touring conditions better when you first started out? Are you going in style or roughing it? Are things Luxurious?
Kyle: Luxurious? Over the years so many people have opened their arms and their houses to us and we really appreciated it. Even if it was a really gross house, it was nice to have a place to sleep and brush your teeth. Things definitely have gotten better over the years. For the first time ever we started staying in hotel rooms, this year and the last couple tours. It's been a lifesaver. It's renewed your faith in touring a little bit. It helps you maintain a sense of mental stability, mental health, to always have a place to go.
Nate: There are some dates coming up overseas soon are you looking forward to that?
Kyle: Oh yeah. It'll be our first time in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia so we're really stoked about that. We're going back to Europe again in mid January that'll be great. It's a wonderful opportunity to travel around the world, be able to play your music to people and have people appreciate it. It's the greatest thing ever.
Nate: As a band, is there any kind of religious or political belief that influences what you write about?
Kyle: There are definitely no religious overtones to any of us. We're all kind of not into that. Politically I think we all have different opinion. But I can't say anything actually drives the mental state or the lyrical base of the band. I think it's more of a situational thing. Where something effects me and I'll write about it. It's not like a broad "I'm a vegan-straight edge so I'm going to sing about it." Not that I have a problem with that, but it's not our direction.
Nate: From what I read on the net, the cover art on the new album didn't go over to well with some stores. Was this a reaction that you anticipated?
Kyle: Yeah, the only thing I've heard so far has been Best Buy in the US. We kind of thought about it because in the original artwork, we had a lot of genitalia showing and we ended up covering it up. We didn't think people we're going to ban it. We thought that was kind of crazy, there are so many things that are worse. We always joke about if we were pushing up drugs or "pimpin." then stores would carry it.
Nate: Being from Canada and spending a lot of time touring in the US, what do you see as the differences in the scene?
Kyle: The major difference is generally population. In Canada a tour is very widespread. Cities are very distant. In the US there are so many cities and people. It's pretty cool. I mean, I love touring everywhere, it doesn't matter where it is. It's great.
Nate: There was a Canadian TV show "Due South" that was on for a few seasons down here…it is one of my favorite shows. Have you seen it?
Kyle: Yeah that was a pretty big thing around here. I don't know what happened to it. There are a lot of those programs, like Kid's in the Hall. There seems to be Canadian programs that people are obsessed with.
Nate: Anything you'd like to add?
Kyle: Nope. Sorry, I don't have any final statements.
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