Photo credit: Amanda Rowan
LA rock band Grand Canyon discuss their upcoming album, their timeless approach to music and releasing their singles on vinyl
The Los Angeles based rock and roll band Grand Canyon is a band on the rise. Comprised of Casey Shea (guitar/vocals), Amy Wilcox (vocals), Joe Guese (guitar), Darice Bailey (keys/vocals), John Cornell (bass) and Fitz Harris (drums), the band creates timeless music. With a sound that reflects influences such as Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen, they consider themselves a group of like-minded musicians who were committed to starting a really great band. Taking about a year to write songs together in a practice space and drawing on a variety of inspirations, the band self-produced and recorded their album. Two singles, “Lucinda” and “Standing In The Shadows”, have been released ahead of the album’s release, both of which were released on vinyl as a 7″. Grand Canyon is signed to Bodan Kuma Recordings, an independent record label out of Los Angeles, who are, luckily for the band, a firm believer in releasing recordings on vinyl. With plans to tour, perform at festivals next year and to keep writing new material, the band is poised for a bright future. Staff writer Emily May spoke by email with singer/guitarist Casey Shea who discussed the upcoming album, their approach to music, releasing their singles on vinyl and what’s next. You can stay up-to-date with the band, all upcoming tours and festival appearances and future releases via the links below.
Noise Trade- https://www.noisetrade.com/
How did Grand Canyon form? How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
When I was moving to LA from NYC a few years back, a friend told me there was a guitarist out in LA who I had to meet when I got there. Meanwhile, he had told Joe Guese (the guitarist) the same thing about me. About a month after arriving, Joe and I met up, and as our friend had predicted, we were quick friends. After a few hours of drinking and discussing our mutual love of classic rock and music documentaries, we decided we needed to start a band.
You have all stayed busy in the industry before forming Grand Canyon. What kinds of projects are you currently working on outside of the band? How do you manage your time to accommodate everything?
Everyone in the band has a long musical history prior to being in Grand Canyon. We’ve all got various things going on from solo projects, to recording projects, to sideman gigs. It’s important to have other creative outlets, cause it keeps everything fresh. There’s plenty of time in the day for everything, but scheduling things far in advance and being flexible definitely helps!
I read where you all relocated to LA from the East coast. What drew you to LA? How does the music scene compare to that of the East coast?
Eventually, the weather draws everyone to LA! After being in NYC for over a decade, I was ready for a little jolt to the system. I didn’t come out with a plan or anything, just something in my gut was telling me – go west young man. Turned out to be a great move.
As for the music scenes of those cities, things are just a lot less concentrated out here. New York is simply made for drinking and going out. Subways run 24 hours a day, and your apartment is so small, you’ll take any excuse to get out of it. You can go to the Lower East Side at 7 and walk to 5 different venues and see 10 different bands by the end of the night. You don’t need to plan anything, you just go where the night takes you. In LA, everything is so spread out. If you’re going out to see music, you’re generally going to one place. And you’ve either got to drive and sacrifice the drinking/hanging or you’re taking an Uber/Lyft. It’s much more of a commitment, which makes getting people out even harder than it already is.
You will be releasing your debut album in October! I read that the album was self-produced and recorded. What was the recording process like and what was the inspiration behind the songs?
We spent a good 6 months in a cramped rehearsal space in the Valley with no gigs planned and no plans to record. We just had a group of like-minded people who were really committed to being a great band. We wanted to be ready when those gigs did start getting booked.
We had the rehearsal space mic-ed up, and eventually we figured, let’s record a couple of songs and see if it was something we could pull off ourselves. We knew it wasn’t gonna sound like we had recorded at some legendary million dollar studio, but we thought the songs were good enough and figured if we could capture a great performance, that would shine through some of the sonic limitations. Those first couple of songs came out good enough, so we kept at it for about a year and did about 16 songs in there.
The songs came from all over. A lot of referencing LA, and politics, and one of the band members had fallen on some hard times, so watching him go through things provided a lot of inspiration.
“Lucinda” and “Standing In The Shadows”, the two singles from the album, have been receiving great feedback and reviews. What can you tell me about the songs? How does it feel to be receiving such great reviews ahead of the album’s release?
It’s great to hear people responding positively. Hopefully people will feel the same about the rest of the album when it comes out. As for the songs, they come from totally different places, but at the center, they’re both about a loner guy asking a girl to trust him. “Lucinda” was dubbed the A side, but the B side “Standing In The Shadows” ended up being the one that found a lot of love at radio. I think lyrically, “Standing” is a bit more timely with the world currently being a dumpster fire and all and not being able to trust anything you read.
Your songwriting has been described as timeless and resonant. What kinds of influences do you draw from when you write? Are you the main songwriter for the band or is it a collaborative effort?
Joe and I are the main songwriters in the band. In the beginning, we set up a lot of writing sessions with friends and band members trying to build up a bit of a repertoire, so we could have a reason to rehearse and get the band off the ground. But we ended up finding a really good chemistry together writing on our own.
“Standing In The Shadows” was the first one we wrote as just the two of us, and it came quick and easy. Our influences are all artists I’d describe as timeless and resonant, so I think that’s where we get it! Hopefully in 50 years, people will still think it has that timeless quality….that’s the goal.
Your sound has been compared to artists such as Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac, whom you count as influences. What is it about the classic sounds and arrangements of the ’70s that you find so inspiring? Aside from classic influences, are there any current bands that you would count as influences?
There’s something about the music from the 70s that feels more timeless than any other time period. Technology was catching up with the artistry, but it hadn’t gotten overblown yet like it did in the 80s. In the 60s, unless you were The Beatles, you didn’t have a lot of time to spend creating your masterpiece. But with the success and impact of pop music on the culture and all the money that was being made, more and more artists and producers had more and more time to test the limits of what was possible in the studio. Sonically, it was just getting more and more sophisticated and refined.
As for modern bands, there are a lot of great things happening. I love the fact there are teenage kids like The Lemon Twigs who are super musical and recording things that sound like lost gems from the 60s/70s. That gives me hope. Everything I’ve heard from Middle Kids is great. And there are bigger bands of course like The Killers. They seem to get a bad rap with the cool police, but it all comes down to songs for me, and Brandon Flowers is one of the best songwriters of the last 20 years in my opinion.
You have been called the antithesis of modern computer made and beat driven music. What can you tell me about your approach to music? How did you all develop your musical styles?
I think we all developed our musical styles by listening to the great bands who came before us. Like I said, it all comes down to the song for me, so that’s where it starts. But then finding tasteful musicians who come from a similar place and find the same things cool and are a good hang is paramount. It goes back to that timeless thing. We’re using plenty of technology to create these recordings, but at the heart of it, it’s six people playing music together. If you’re doing it right, it’ll never go out of style.
You released a 7″ record on June 5th, with “Lucinda” on one side and “Standing In The Shadows” on the other! What led you to decide to release the songs on vinyl? How has the response been?
Luckily for us, our label (Bodan Kuma) is a big believer in putting out vinyl for their releases. These days, it’s the only thing that makes sense in terms of creating a physical product. CD players are literally becoming extinct, and everyone with a phone these days has access to the entire history of recorded music with a click. More than ever, people want something to take home from a concert to remember the night. People love them, cause I think they feel a bit more substantial than a CD. I’d say 50% of people who buy them don’t even have a turntable.
What was the inspiration behind the “non-lyric lyric video” for “Lucinda” and the commentary displayed?
99.9% of music videos are awful, but they’re a necessary evil. I loved the idea of having people reading something that felt like a lyric video but was telling a completely different “story”. As for the commentary, it was really just a rant on the art form. We had just put out “Lucinda” and we really didn’t have a plan or a budget to make a proper music video, but we needed to do something to commemorate such a momentous occasion. Ha!
You don’t need a big budget if you have a great idea. There are tons of videos that go viral that cost nothing to make. I wouldn’t say this video was a truly great idea or executed very well, but I figured, that’s sort of the whole point. WHO CARES! I mean the thing stops halfway through the song…but it was easily shareable…great!
What’s next for the band? What are your goals going forward?
Looks like we’ll be releasing the album this Fall. We’re working on figuring out the official date now. Hopefully we’ll get on some tours with bigger artists and play some festivals next year. We’re always writing and recording, so there will be plenty more music to come soon. In the big picture, we’d like keep improving as songwriters and record makers. If we continue to do that, hopefully we’ll find a loyal fan base we can tour to for the rest of our lives!