Grandaddy on their comeback: 'We're fatter, balder – and sounding fucking awesome'

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Before they split in 2006, Californian skate-rockers Grandaddy were one of the most woozily magnificent bands of their era.

The acclaimed ‘The Sophtware Slump’ album from 1999 was full of perfect dreamy, drily hilarious tales of life in the woods and small-town eccentrics.

And now they’re back. New single ‘Way We Won’t’, their first new material for 10 years, is only available to fans who go to their intimate comeback gig at London’s Oslo on Tuesday (August 23). Tickets are available now from Rough Trade East.

NME asked singer Jason Lytle about Grandaddy’s new album plans, the perils of ageing and being crazy dads…

How does it feel to have Grandaddy back?
It’s a lot of fun. The differences are the obvious stuff – we’re definitely a lot fatter and a lot balder. I asked everyone if they’d be into getting back together, and everyone ended up being into it. That surprised me, and now it’s a case of just enjoying the ride.

Why did you decided to reform?
Well, what wore me down eventually towards the end of Grandaddy was that I just felt exhausted. It was way too much. I’ve spent a lot of time by myself, processing what happened.

I’d got caught up in seeing how far we could take the band. So (guitarist) Jim (Fairchild) had to assure me that a lot of the workload was going to be distributed more evenly, so I could be along for the ride more. And this time, I just want it to sound good. I want people to get into the songs and for them to be recognisable.
What convinced me was people telling me it was going to be a lot more fun, that it wasn’t going to be such a dreadful process as it had been back then.

Has it been more fun so far?
Yeah, definitely. But I’m a total worrier and a perfectionist. I’m doing everything I can to ensure it’s simplified now. Someone was asking last night how the comeback show in Modesto went and I said “Well, it was a lot better than all the nightmares I had about it.” If I can keep the shows better than the nightmares, I’ll be doing OK.

How did the new single ‘Way We Won’t’ come about?
I wanted it to be a way of saying “Hey everybody, there’s a new album coming!” It’s cool to have it as a 7”, as it means we can have another cool, weird B-side. A lot of people used to be into the weird B-sides we cranked out back then, so ‘Clear Your History’ is another of those.

What was it like playing ‘Way We Won’t at your comeback hometown show in Modesto last weekend?
It was really, really, really fun. A big part was making sure we knew what the hell we were doing before we rolled off to headline Green Man and a few other shows. Doing ‘Way We Won’t’ itself was weird, trying to make sure all the little moments popped and that I remembered the lyrics. I’m noticing a little old age creeping in, senior moments are happening a little more regularly where I forget words.

How are the other new songs sounding?
I’ve stayed pretty consistent, and it’s putting the skills I’ve learnt in my studio into practice. I’ve gotten better at the sonic side of it. A lot of old Grandaddy albums have a lot of painful moments with the sonics. I want to unleash some stuff I’ve learned that’s now going to make us sound pretty fucking awesome.

What’s inspiring you lyrically for the new album?
To tell the truth, it’s Grandaddy itself that’s inspiring me. It’s come about from years of conversations with friends and hearing our songs from enough of a distance to finally have some perspective, to be at peace with what we were doing.

It’s also seeing fans being super-stoked that we’re back. They’re so supportive. A lot of that has accumulated and it’s driven me, got me excited to make a record I can call Grandaddy.

Were you always going to produce the new album yourself?
I tossed around the idea of external producers for a while. But, once the demos started taking shape, I thought “This is sounding pretty good!” So I’ve reverted back to the way I always did it.

When will the album be out?
At this point, early next year. We’re pretty close to putting a cap on it, there’s just a lot of mixing stuff, a lot of decisions on that to make.

What are some of the other song titles?
My mind has gone blank… I could make something up. Let’s say there’s one called ‘This Is Why I Don’t Walk Backwards Anymore’. I have a title for the album, but it’s not 100%, so I wouldn’t be comfortable throwing that out.

What’s the atmosphere like among the five of you compared to the old days?
Some people have got more serious now they’ve got kids and families. But that also means playing shows is “Woohoo! I’m on vacation!” They’re crazy dads. It’s been so reassuring that we get together and everything falls back into place, with the same jokes.

Are you able to now look back at your albums and say ‘We did alright’?
Yeah. There’s a lot of good intention behind what we did. It was fun and hilarious, but still deep music with a lot of light to it. I was trying to capture little bits of life; not be too heavy-handed about it but take it seriously too.

Was it easy persuading all five of you to get back?
The only issue is with Jim, as he’s a full-time member of Modest Mouse right now. There’s maybe a scheduling issue with Jim, but I haven’t talked to him properly about that yet. Maybe there’ll be a tug-of-war.

Do you still want to carry on producing other bands, after you produced Band Of Horses last year?
I’m really looking forward to retiring from the public side of this. I really want to stay in the studio, ride my bike and climb mountains.

What did you learn from producing other artists while Grandaddy were away?
A lot of patience. I’m now able to work out problems and do that respectfully, keeping other people in mind around me. That was big. Back then, I was never an asshole, but I’d be withdrawn. With Band Of Horses, there were moments when I’d be figuring out problems stood there in the middle of the room, completely silent and staring off into the distance. And I’d know “Well, this isn’t communicating very well.” It takes a long time for me to process stuff, but I’ve got better at being aware of the fact there are other people in the room besides me.

Will there be another record to follow the comeback album? Are you a working band again?
That’s the big x-factor in all this. I’m jumping in the water right now, and I’ve already had plenty of moments where I’ve thought “What the fuck was I doing?” I stare at myself in the mirror going “Why are you doing this?’ I’ve no idea what the future holds. I’ve just got to pace myself.

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