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.