THE GRATES

DREAM 'N' BIG

After barely a musi­cal peep from much loved garage-pop cru­saders The Grates since the wind-up of the Secret Rit­u­als’ tour­ing cycle, the Bris­ban­ites have returned with a rock­salt blast of an LP, the raw and ready Dream Team. It’s an album cre­ated on the band’s own terms, an exten­sion of their newly hard­ened DIY ethic and a move away from their US base for pre­vi­ous LPs.

The wholly inde­pen­dent approach was forged in South­side Tea Rooms, the rel­a­tively new Bris­bane café/bar oper­ated by orig­i­nal Grates mem­bers Patience Hodg­son and John Pat­ter­son (now mar­ried, with a lil’ bubba on the way), find­ing a bal­ance between hos­pi­tal­ity pro­pri­etor­ship and music.
 

“When we came back from the States, we released Secret Rit­u­als and had just been tour­ing. We were excited to be back in Aus­tralia and back with friends,” Patience states. “That first year just got away from us pretty quickly. It often does if you don’t pay atten­tion. When we came back, we had the small bar scene in the States in our minds, and that wasn’t a thing in Bris­bane, espe­cially three years ago. We got the idea that we wanted to open a shop, so we did, a café bar. We’d never done any­thing like that before, so we spent two years work­ing hard on that. It was awe­some. We just had to keep our head above water, and that first two years of any busi­ness is really hard.

“There were a lot of rea­sons we wanted to do that. It was so insu­lar in Amer­ica. It was just me and John. We just wanted to have more than the two of us. It was really fun open­ing the shop. We hired Ritchie as a barista, now he’s our drum­mer. We didn’t even know he was a drum­mer. The only rea­son we hired him was because we’d hired his girl­friend, then the day before she was sup­posed to start she told us she’d taken another job, but she said her boyfriend was des­per­ate for a job so we should hire him. It was just one of the things we couldn’t believe had happened.”
 

With the oppor­tu­nity for music cre­ation beck­on­ing, Patience and John man­aged to turn any free time into fer­tile time. “There was a lit­tle period where we didn’t have the bar licence to open at night. It took five months to get. That’s when John said we should start writ­ing songs, because it would be the least busy we’d be for ages. At the time we were work­ing 30 hours a week, and when the licence came through, it would be 80 hours a week. That’s when we started writ­ing songs for the record. I think in three weeks we smashed out a whole bunch of songs. We sent it to our record label, but we weren’t happy with the response from them. As soon as we got the oppor­tu­nity to take a lit­tle bit of time off from the shop, we started play­ing, get­ting Ritchie on drums. Then it all came together really quickly.”
 

“We started play­ing with Ritchie when we start­ing form­ing the live rela­tion­ship. It was prob­a­bly less than six months ago when we said ‘Let’s release an album, let’s get together every Tues­day, get­ting the con­cept of the album. It felt good to do it all really fast. It didn’t feel like we needed to write. Maybe it was because we’d been our own bosses for the last few years, and we can do what­ever we want with our shop. Then when it came back to the band, hav­ing other opin­ions just didn’t work for us. In this part of my life, the funnest part, being in a band, hav­ing peo­ple say ‘this isn’t gonna work,’ or ‘there are no hits here’, or ‘these aren’t gonna get played on the radio’, hear­ing all that stuff, I was like ‘You guys are crazy, let me do what I wanna do!’. It was a nat­ural thing for us mov­ing on to being indie, not answer­ing to any­one we didn’t want to answer to.”

Shift­ing gears in terms of label sta­tus has imbued The Grates with a resound­ing sense of free­dom, which is a pal­pa­ble pres­ence through­out the imme­di­ate and raw Dream Team.
 

“It’s been the great­est record­ing expe­ri­ence. Part of that was because you have less opin­ions. You can get a lot of opin­ions from back­stage about your music and it can get really con­fus­ing, fig­ur­ing out who you want to lis­ten to. Some peo­ple have more expe­ri­ence, some peo­ple have a taste in music you like, so you have all these con­flict­ing rea­sons when it comes to lis­ten­ing to what peo­ple are say­ing. I like the idea that you don’t have to fol­low a rule struc­ture any­more. Some record labels do, some don’t. The record indus­try is pretty reliant on the tried and tested meth­ods of how you release a record. To me, it’s 2014, when peo­ple say that to me, I think ‘you need to check your­self’. There are tried and tested meth­ods, there’s also so many things you can do that aren’t tried and tested and would be a great way to release a record. Watch­ing the ARIAs and see­ing Sia, and how she’s cho­sen to not show her­self in the media, then had Car­rot Top play her. A lit­tle while ago we had an argu­ment with some­one about a photo we wanted to release, that we didn’t think was con­tro­ver­sial at all, but we were told ‘if you do this, you’re gonna anger the media, and peo­ple aren’t gonna respond to the album’. Then see­ing Sia do every­thing she’s doing now, it makes you realise there are no rules. She can give her ARIAs away, that’s not gonna stop her hav­ing suc­cess in the future. There are things peo­ple say all the time that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily true, that comes from this fear men­tal­ity. Peo­ple don’t want to do any­thing that’s excit­ing. I just wanna do things that feel good to me. Doing things the same all the time gets boring.”

LIVE PIC BY: REBECCA HOULDEN. See more at www.witheverylight.com

Dream Team is out now through Death Val­ley Records.

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