The followers of Grandaddy’s official Facebook profile were asked this question: What’s the one interview question you’ve always wanted Jason Lytle to answer? More than 150 questions were posted. Here are the 24 best ones – along with Jason’s insightful and openhearted answers.
Jason Lytle currently has two albums in the works, both of which are a pretty big deal – to Jason himself and his fans alike. One of them is the next Band of Horses album, which Jason is producing. The other one is the first Grandaddy album since Just Like The Fambly Cat, which was released in 2006 – after the band had actually called it quits in late 2005.
While we’re all waiting for these two highly anticipated albums to come out, I had the idea of letting fans following the official Grandaddy profile on Facebook get a chance to ask Jason a question: That one interview question they’d always wanted him to answer. More than 150 questions were posted, and I carefully picked the 24 best ones.
Here are the resulting answers. Read along to get the stories behind songs such as Jed The Humanoid, Skateboarding Saved Me Twice and MGM Grand. Find out more about how Jason works as a songwriter and producer. Discover how he feels about concepts such as “nostalgia” and “coming home”. And, of course, get some insights into that new Grandaddy album.
Chris Campbell: If you had to pick one song from your albums for an artist of your choosing to cover, who would it be, what would the song be, and why?
– A-ha. Laughing Stock. I’m a huge fan of A-ha and consider them very underrated in terms of songwriting, arranging and production. I feel like Laughing Stock was always a little weak and frail sounding compared to what I hoped it could be. Partly due to being hastily recorded and the normal constraints of janky recording and music gear. I’d say program some steady four-to-the-floor rhythm during the verses – and then let the choruses really beautifully bloom and explode. I always had trouble hitting the chorus high notes, too, and I think Morten Harket (A-ha singer, ed.) would nail the vocals perfectly.
Ko-b Brown: How did Jed The Humanoid come about, and will we hear about him again?
– I still wonder how and when the whole Jed The Humanoid thing came about. While it was probably half dreamt and half thoughtfully constructed, I have a more current prediction. I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the years with electronic equipment and musical gear. These inanimate objects have witnessed some very personal, private and sensitive moments of mine. Moments I am not too comfortable sharing with people. I also have been known to have a drink or two now and then. I am mostly a healthy person, but there have been phases over the years when things got pretty out of hand. And I still have to keep an eye on things. I don’t know where I’m going with this… But I think there may be an answer in there somewhere. And, yes, there is a little recap on the Jed story included on this new Grandaddy LP.
“Nostalgia” sounds kinda cheap
Kevin Stulen: “Skateboarding Saved Me Twice” – how?
– Definitely in my early teens when I was needing some direction, discipline, creative outlet and a quality means of blowing off steam. And then later in my life up until now. I still ride – there are some really good skate parks in my town. It runs pretty deep in me, as I have dedicated a big part of my life to it. Actually Skateboarding Saved Me Thousands Upon Thousands Of Timesmay have been a more accurate, but lamer sounding title.
Jeff Williams: I've read and heard from others that your music has a sense of longing for the past and nostalgia. When I listen to your music I hear relief from a long awaited release from the past. Which do you think is more accurate, if either?
– I’m definitely into the idea of putting music to a memory. I feel like I’m much more in tune with a piece of music or song I am working on if I can refer to some clear visuals in my mind.Something about the word “nostalgia” kinda bugs me, though. It sounds kinda cheap or like a novelty. I mean – we are very much a product of our memories. It’s just the haze and the dreamy filter of time I seem to like working with.
Morgan Bell: The future production for Grandaddy albums I would see as an in house undertaking, which is definitively part of the band’s sound. If Grandaddy were to bring in an outside producer, who would the band trust to wholly take care of the task, and reach for the starts on this one? Do I smell Jeff Lynne?
– Ha! Yes – Jeff Lynne. There is something tempting about having “my people contact his people”. I’ve actually considered it to the point of putting it into action, then eventually I realized that if it were to happen, it would end up sounding too far off or inaccurate. I’ve just gotten attached to a certain way of doing certain things, and there is a certain degree of thrift store-junkpile-chaos that I need to incorporate to feel comfortable. Combining that with enough beauty and plenty of “ahhhs” – which I know you like. I even abandoned the idea entirely of bringing in an outside producer for this next LP, which I had been seriously considering. No particular reason. Just running on instinct. And realizing that the closer I’m able to emulate the working process of prior DIY Grandaddy LP’s and self-produce it, the more “legit” it’s going to sound.
Steve Sutton: Do you have any one song that you look back on and think, "that truly was horrendous – what was I thinking”?
– Well, I was lucky enough to have a number of years of home recording under my belt before anything was released as Grandaddy. And let me tell you – ughhh, there is a vault of shitty ass crap that exists, which is definitely gonna get a few laughs when I die and when, or if, somebody decides to sort through my early archived material. So I was able to minimize the public humiliation factor considerably. As far as specific Grandaddy songs go, it’s more of a moment-by-moment thing. Some song moments just annoy me. But in order for a song to have made the cut and even get released, it had to have some sort of redeeming value. Even just a little something charming or special.
Coming home and texturizing songs
Brad Kremer: Many of your songs have themes about "coming home." I was hoping you could share your thoughts on what inspires you to write about this subject.
– I’m afraid this might sound like a cop-out answer. But I don’t really know the answer. “Home, peaceful, safe and comfortable” is such a pleasant idea. I’ve never spent time talking to a therapist or had my thoughts and beliefs broken down and deciphered, but I feel the answer to this question might come about by doing that sort of thing. I like the idea of keeping it a mystery, for now.
Pierce Alexander Marks: Did you write any songs about Elliot Smith?
– There is a song on my first solo LP, Yours Truly, The Commuter, called This Song Is The Mute Button that was inspired by a photo of him and I together, which I kept framed and sitting on my piano.
Eric Sandoval: If you could only pick 3 artists and 3 films to listen to and watch for the rest of your life, what would they be?
– Jeez! That’s like six tough questions for the price of one. Artists: Beethoven, ELO and Jeff Lynne, and Beck. Films: The Gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin, Blade Runner, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. By the way, this may completely change tomorrow.
Zachary William: How do you decide how to texturize a song? Do the lyrics dictate whether it will be more dreamy and piano-led versus guitar heavy and uptempo, or do you get instrumental ideas first?
– Well, I normally start with finding a comfortable rhythm that seems to carry the words and allows me to sing them in a natural sounding way – assuming I’m lucky enough to have most of the lyrics penned and the basic chords worked out. Then it’s mostly about energy. Trying to employ instruments that might be suitable to the right energy or message of the song. This can be very obvious stuff, like “dreamy means strings” or “chaotic means scratchy, distorted guitar”. But once you start factoring in more noise makers and instruments laying around in the studio, the color palette of options just enables more interesting options. From there it’s just adding, adding and subtracting and so on. And listening to your instincts and hoping you arrive upon something cool – and possibly even cooler than what you had imagined for that song.
Technological advances, skateboarding and touring
Steve Dunn: How does your use of technology in making and recording songs influence your thinking about technology in other parts of society and life?
– It doesn’t, really. I mean, I feel like I have a pretty open mind in regards to watching and reading about the new tools and technologies that come about. We all give into technological advances sooner or later. And there are plenty of people out there who resist it, but we just don’t see or hear about them. Which is mostly likely the way they would prefer it.
Corey McVann: Is there a skate trick that you've never mastered, but would love to? If yes, what is it?
– I used to ride mostly big ramps and vertical, and there is trick called a frontside invert that I still regret never having pulled – despite many attempts at working up to it. I think Mark Gonzales and Neil Blender did some of the best and most photogenic ones.
Will Amos: How much, if any, did the inevitable call from fans for touring in support of a new Grandaddy album give you pause when deciding to work on said new album? Do you feel obligated to go on tour at this point in your life?
– I think anytime people are expecting too much of me, and – heaven forbid – demanding things of me, my immediate instinct is to rebel and retreat. There’s definitely a cornered animal part of me that I have never done too well with. Having said that, I feel a lot more in control of whether or not and to what extent the touring situation might be. So I have been able to set that part of it aside for now and just concentrate on trying to make an interesting group of songs. Toward the end of Grandaddy, I really had a tough time with the expectations and the pressure to tour relentlessly.
Rebecca Colvin: Did you and your father really throw a lion off the balcony at the MGM?
– Ha! No… But for years I carried a vivid memory around of visiting MGM Grand Hotel in Reno as a little kid and seeing the doped up and lethargic lion they had on display – on a tiny stage with nothing but a gaudy velvet rope separating lion and spectator. It was pretty sad and pathetic. My thoughts were that I wanted to set it free or put it out of its misery, hence the song about this little fantasy.
The wildlife wins in the end
Trader Jones: If you could bring back one artist from the dead to jam with, who would it be?
– Keith Moon, a crate of Brandy, a crystal bowl full of coke, for a whole weekend.
Jared Clark Gay: I'm from Ripon – right next to Modesto. You know the place. Anyway, every phone number in Ripon starts with 599, and everybody in town who likes good music has always wondered if 12-PAK-599 is somehow tied to the city. So here I am. Asking. Is it?
– Oh, I love it – that’s perfect! It was not connected before, but now, thanks to you, it is.
Carly Kate: What I love most about your music is that a lot of it deals with the point where the manmade – objects, situations and so on – and nature collide. It's almost like a battle between the two sometimes. Which side wins in the end?
– The animals and wildlife that are off in the distance, just out of the frame, tucked away and camouflaged by the scenery, watching in awe and confusion at all of this futility unfolding before them.
Richard Murphy: What's been your best tour experience?
– Probably headlining our stage at the Glastonbury Festival and being absolutely exhausted and elated at the same time while playing as the sun slowly set – and we ripped through a very good-sounding set.
Jess Crumby: If you had the offer to do a duet with any hip-hop artist, who would it be and why?
– Uh… How about Lupe Fiasco? Apparently he’s a skateboarder. I’ll add the textures and orchestra hits, and he can do the beats and vox!
Your final setting sun
Sarah Pratt: What emotional state do you connect with the most strongly and find motivates your music?
– I’m not even sure what to call it. But I know it’s very similar to sitting in a car in traffic with the windows rolled up, watching the chaos and people and machines all around you – with a sense of wonder and confusion.
Jack Thomas: I know you've made only a handful of songs directly referencing Jed the Humanoid, but in my mind several others feel as though they're either by or about him. Are there any others that are indeed about him even if they don't speak of him by name?
– There is a song called XD-Data-II that came close. But that may be entirely different robot… Now that I think about it.
Benjamin Merieau: Which of your own songs are you most proud of?
– As they are very much like children or offspring to me, I find it hard to pick any favorite. And I’m proud of too many of them for various reasons. There is a handful of them that still give me chills in certain sections. I wish that were the case for all of them. But I’ll take what I can get.
Melville Bouchard: Your final setting sun. Where would you like it to be?
– Yosemite would be nice! Somewhere in California, preferably high above tree line in the mountains.
Garrett Miller: The last time you were asked this question you almost died, so please strap yourself in before answering this one. What is the secret to songwriting?
– Ha! For reals – and this can be applied to any number of life’s tasks and endeavors: Be ready. Work hard. And enjoy it.