At unprecedented times such as these, sometimes you need some grind/crust and punk in your life. Enter Gravehuffer who have been plying their trade for over a decade now and will have something to cater for every genre of music fan, and I can count myself in as being a fan. Gravehuffer are spending this time in quarantine to record a new album which will be out later through Black Doomba records, so I thought it would be a cool time to get in touch with guitarist Ritchie.
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
Hey! Greetings to the Moshville Times! My name is Ritchie Randall and I play guitar for Gravehuffer. We’re from Joplin, Missouri in the United States.
How long have you been playing together as a band?
We’ve been around since 2008, but our bass player Mike, and I have been jamming with each other in bands off and on since 1997.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
I think a lot of it is our wide range of influences. Some of us are into punk, metal, jazz, avant-garde, the list goes on. We all pull from those influences without really thinking and it comes out in the music. We also get told quite often things like, “I haven’t heard anything quite like you guys”, or “So what genre are you?” A lot of people can’t put their finger on it, and neither can we to be honest. If it sounds good, then we play it, simple as that really.
Recently, you have signed with Black Doomba Records for the vinyl release of your next album. How is the new album coming along, how many songs are ready and when would you say it could be released?
The new album is getting pretty close to having all of the instruments recorded. One more day of recording guitars, a day or two for bass, and that will be done. Vocals are all that’s left after that. There are twelve songs on this album with a runtime of about 45 minutes. The timeframe for release is looking to be sometime this fall but we’re not 100% sure on that as of yet. Black Doomba Records has another release to prep for before ours so once that is sorted out, then we move on to our release.
Being active for over a decade, how would you say it compares to that of your earlier material and do you think you have found the sound you strive for or will Gravehuffer continue to keep experimenting?
I think this record is probably more intense than anything we’ve ever done. There’s lots of thrash influence, as well as the punk, hardcore, grind, and even some black metal sounds on this one. As far as the sound, I do think this one is shaping up to have the best tonality and production we’ve ever had. We’ve been smiling from ear to ear listening to the playbacks so far. It all sounds very brutal and in your face, but there’s also a nice clarity to everything. The writing of this record was new for us, in that we had no songs written before we started recording demos. We went into the studio with only some riffs on our phones, computers, etc. and basically just went for it. So to answer your last question, yes, we will always to continue to experiment and try new things.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
We typically get together to rehearse, write, or record about two to three times a week. Mike has a full studio on the 3rd floor of his house that we do all of our band related stuff in. He has a 24 channel analog mixer from the 80’s up there that makes things sound fantastic! We have a small vocal booth, a closet for guitar recording, and the big room is for drums. We have all the equipment we need to do everything there.
One strength that Gravehuffer has is the stability in its line up. However, there have been a couple of changes recently in your vocalist and drummer. What can you tell us about these changes and how did you come into contact with the new members?
We had the same four members for the first nine years of the band’s existence. Larry, our first drummer, had to leave due to requirements with his job needing him to travel at a moment’s notice. We were unable to book any shows because of that, so we parted ways. We tried working with a guy named Matt for a bit, but he just couldn’t commit to playing shows either. We were able to play a handful of shows with him, and record the song “No Boundaries, No Borders” that’s on the vinyl version of the Your Fault album we released. We then got a young guy named Kasey to fill in while we searched for a permanent drummer. He did really well and recorded the drums for our latest EP on NoSlip Records Demon Face/Stalingrad’s Cross. We then found our new drummer Jay, and he’s played with us since July of last year. He has been great and even wrote some riffs on the new record! James, our singer just left a few weeks ago, and it was quite a shock to all of us. He’s been with us since 2008 as well. He wasn’t into being in a band anymore and wanted to concentrate on his stand-up comedy. We had vocalist tryouts for a couple of weeks and our good friend Travis is going to give it a shot. He plays some guitar and keyboards too, so that helps with communicating ideas. His tonality will take time but his dedication and work ethic are exactly what we need.
How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Gravehuffer a band where all members contribute to the songs?
We all contribute in various ways. This new album was a little different approach, but on past albums we would write songs at a weekly jam session or rehearsal for shows. We would then play them at shows to kind of road test them a little bit. Once we had enough material, we would then record all of them. It usually took a year at least to get it all written, recorded, then released. This time we wrote and recorded at the same time, and took a break from playing shows. We did have one show to kind of break things up a little bit though.
Is there a main lyricist within the band? What are the lyrics for the new album based on?
This will be the first time someone other than James writes lyrics. He did have a few lyrics written and we will use those with his blessing. The rest will be written by all of us as a group, so we’re very curious how this all pans out. We’re all going to pick and choose what to sing as well, so definitely interesting.
Being a four piece band and having different musical influences within the band, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?
There has probably been a little bit more negotiating this time than previous sessions, but I think that was mostly to do with how we wrote this one from scratch basically. It’s usually pretty easy to tell if something works or not. If the room lights up, we try it, if not, it gets discarded or used later. It seemed like this time that most of the ideas were really strong. Very few were turned down. There was probably more moving around of parts and riffs this time as well. It seemed like our vision for this album was more clear than any of our previous ones for whatever reason.
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on more bigger tours and further afield in 2020?
Working with our various day jobs, school, etc. is always challenging, but it actually seems like it’s been easier than ever honestly as of late. I think with time also brings a higher understanding of everyone’s needs as well as patience for working around schedules and that sort of thing. The plan is always to play further away and for longer periods that time allows. I feel like we’re getting to the level that we have connections that can help us plan a year in advance on some things, versus a month or two. That helps with travel and lodging arrangements, as well as making sure everyone involved knows well in advance.
You had the busiest year with Gravehuffer on the touring front in 2019. Is this something that you are hoping to build on for 2020 and play further afield?
Yes indeed! As soon as we’re wrapped up with the new album we will be hitting the road in the summer. We all can play at least three or four shows in a row in the summer so that helps a lot with travel and planning. We already have a few really cool shows booked and quite a few more in the planning stages as well.
How hard is it for a band like Gravehuffer to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
We basically run this band to be self-sufficient and not rely on our personal funds. So far we’ve been able to do that with the help of merchandise sales online, at shows, and of course payment from performing. Merchandise can really save you if the payout is poor from a particular show. Every once in a great while we won’t make enough to eat or buy fuel, but we always have a bit of money in the band fund for that. We make sure to not spend all of it on new merchandise. You just have to be smart and treat it like a business and like it’s your own money.
With Coronavirus cancelling bands whole tours over here in Europe, how has this pandemic affected your local and US scene at this current time? For example, at the time of writing in Scotland where I am from, any gathering from gigs to football matches with attendances of over 500 people have been cancelled.
Wow! It’s really affecting us here too. We have had to cancel three out of the four shows we had scheduled in March because of a ban on events with 50 or more people at small venues. We’re not going to book any more shows until May at the earliest to see how this all plays out. We were pretty bummed that the shows were cancelled, as we had never played in one of the areas before, and all the bands we were playing with were new friends as well. The plan is to reschedule all the shows in a couple of months so fingers crossed it all pans out.
Before the internet, magazines and fanzines were the places to find out about new bands and trends. Now publications are replaced with thousands of websites catering for all genres. Do you think that some of the passion has been lost or do you think that the internet has been a good thing for music and Gravehuffer?
Being as we’re all in our mid to late 40’s, we remember being of the age when it was all about zines, tape trading, mail catalogs, etc. to discover new music. The internet has really been great in one way, in that it allows you to get your music out there yourself without having to rely on a label, distro, or other publication. On the other hand, because of that it is extremely saturated with new bands so it makes it a bit more difficult to stick out of the pack. Using a combination of both internet and print really seems to help. We always print flyers for shows and hang them up, do interviews and send reviews for hard copy zines, as well as use as much of the internet as possible that we can and still keep up with it. It’s always nice to have options.
Being from the Joplin Missouri area, are there any other bands from your local scene that you would recommend and give a shout out?
Oh definitely! There’s a band called Sardis that is fantastic as far as that 80’s traditional metal sound goes. Desolation Earth is a new band that is starting to make waves. The Less Fortunate and Soheil Al Fard are also awesome bands doing some really cool and different things.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Judas Priest: Sad Wings Of Destiny, Deep Purple: In Rock, Metallica: Master Of Puppets, Morbid Angel: Covenant, and Rush: Moving Pictures
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times here in Scotland?
We want to thank everyone who supports underground metal, punk, etc and for reading this, and you for taking the time to ask all these fantastic questions! One of the better email interviews I’ve done. Cheers and hails!