There were millions dust particles dancing in the smoky air, kicked up by barefooted people without a care in the world. Lights flashed across smiles stretched tight and the music penetrated every cell. A pulse of jamtronica integrated into the hearts of the wanderers who found themselves there. The crowd was only about half of those who found this band by serendipity, however, as the other half knew exactly what was coming in the sets between The New Mastersounds and Papadosio.
Greener Grounds kept the party going strong with intricate harmonies, funkadelic synthesis and all around positive vibration. Throughout their two sets, they brought out some of their fan-favorites such as “Clairvoyance” and a cameo appearance from Kevin Donohue from SunSquabi to play “Invisiball”, as well as showcased some of their new material just released on their new album Momentous. Hoots and hollers, wolf calls and hearty “YEAH!!s” carried over the crowd of dancers and wild things.
Live for Live Music got the chance to sit down with all four band members – guitarist Joe Shur, keyboardist Roland Hanson, bassist Jay Rieder and drummer AJ Gillman – before the festivities began, and here is what they had to say about their music, their skyrocketing career, and what it’s like to be a team in the writing process.
L4LM: Tell me about your new album Momentous; what was unique to this album from your EP Photosynthesis?
Roland: We’ve definitely come a long way from our first EP Photosynthesis. I think our composition has become better and more complex. We also introduced Ableton. We’ve been a band now for about two and a half years, so two and a half years worth of work shows in this new album.
AJ: Yeah so we have a computer onstage now. If you compare them, Photosynthesis and Momentous, you can see the growth. As soon we dropped the EP, we just hit the ground running with Momentous.
Joe: I think something really unique that we worked on with this album was the songs we made like, over a year and a half ago, so it was kind of like piecing together some old songs with some new songs we were making. So they had completely different sounds to them and there are a lot of different colors to them.
AJ: A lot of the songs we were playing live before we recorded them, and a few of them we waited to drop after Momentous hit pretty much. But as soon as we got done with Photosynthesis we got started writing right away. We were able to come out with an album a year later. We needed some new stuff out there for people to listen to. People don’t always want to listen to live sets; they want to listen to studio stuff too. It makes a big difference. People always tell us “I have one CD in my car and I have to listen to it over, and over, and over again,” It’ll get stuck in your head and that’s what’s happening with us for a lot of people. They tell us, “We listen to your stuff all day because it’s the only thing we have in our car, but it’s still good, you know.”
L4LM: Can you tell me your guys’ writing process?
Roland: It’s different for a lot of our different songs.
Joe: It depends on what we’re going for.
Roland: Sometimes I start a riff, or I have a basic concept for a song, and we all get together and put pieces in and build it together. It’s never one person writing a whole song. It’s always a collaboration. Joe writes a lot of the music – he’ll come up with some really interesting lines. We all get together off one idea that one of us has, and build songs together.
AJ: And then the other process is that we have these Ableton tracks that Roland writes alone, and then he introduces it to us and then we kind of build the song around it.
Joe: It’s definitely a big collaboration, yeah pretty much off of one person. But it’s cool because I’ve noticed, making a riff or making a lick and having an idea for a song, then coming to these guys, sometimes it’ll change up for the better. We’ll kind of develop a song that relates to all of us, because the four of us have very different musical backgrounds but it all clashes beautifully.
AJ: There are a lot of changes in our music that goes from one vibe to a complete 180, it’s somewhere else, and we like doing that because we all have different ideas. We all want to make each other happy with the song that we’re writing. And, you know, if I have a crazy part, there’s no reason why it can’t work itself into the song at one point even though your crazy part (looks at bandmembers) sounds completely different. Some of our songs may start with like an island-reggae style then we go into a real high-energy sea-beat and just jam for awhile. Also we try to go into different directions in the same song.
Joe: I think we really have a good way with crowd-control. Making people feel different emotions throughout the set. We have a lot of different influences and people will come up to us and be like, “You guys sound like this band,” and somebody else will be like, “Nah, they sound like this band!”
Roland: “Yeah, you guys sound like this band with a little bit of mix from this band and there’s a little bit of this band in there too.”
Joe: In Saint Louis some guy kept screaming at the top of his lungs, “Next tribe! Next tribe!” like so loud!
Jay: Yeah our diversity in our music styles that we have a little bit of something for everybody, which really plays to our advantage. Whether you are big into electronica or just the jam or heavy metal or whatever, there’s a little bit of something for everybody. So everyone can enjoy it at least a little bit if not the whole set. We go for it.
Joe: We’ve heard people say we sound like anywhere from Lotus to Between the Bird and Me.
AJ: I heard Deftones a couple weeks ago. Our music has theatrical elements that can really bring out emotion in people. Like some of our tunes, the progressions can really make a person feel something, not just make them want to dance. You can get real happy from like hearing some of the stuff we play. It happens for me, and it happens for other people I talk to and I think that’s really cool to be able to do that, because you know when it’s happening.
Joe: I think it’s also the beauty of instrumental music – people aren’t really focused on any vocals, they’re just listening to us play our instruments. We kinda like to sing through just our instruments.
L4LM: Well it’s really fun to watch too, especially in festival communities, there’s kind of a higher consciousness level, right? There’s a bigger grid, and people are already more open to that connection, so when you have the ability to effect one person, it’s contagious and that vibe becomes everybody.
Roland: That’s one of the most fulfilling things about playing in a band for me, is just the connected energy that we have with each other, with the crowd, and when that energy builds you can see it in their faces, you can see it in our faces, and it’s just this magical moment.
Joe: It’s a cycle, you kind of react off their energy that they’re reacting off of what you’re playing and if you can keep it going that’s awesome.
L4LM: How big is your fan-following?
AJ: It’s grown tremendously over the last year, so we’ve noticed that our crowds are starting to be less of just our friends and more people we don’t know. And we’ve definitely been extending out to the East Coast, playing in the Midwest, it’s cool to make new fans and the second time we went around just last month we noticed so many people have picked up onto us since coming out there and it’s kind of the expansion.
Roland: We just had our album release party at Cervantes’ Other Side last weekend and we sold that out. It’s futurized.
AJ: We’ve gotten a lot of good response from Ohio, especially, just from playing our first out-of-state shows there. We played a lot of festivals there and had a lot of great opportunity, so other than Colorado I would say that Columbus is our hot-spot. We have a lot of friends out there that like to come out and get hype with us.
L4LM: What’s your favorite venue you’ve played at?
Roland: We have not played there yet but we are about to play at the Mishawaka Amphitheater with EOTO and Unlimited Aspect on August 20th. And that will be my favorite.
AJ: Yeah, I’m stoked that’s one of the coolest venues in Colorado.
L4LM: What festival is your favorite? Have you been to any of these 12 festivals on this tour before or will they mostly all be first-timers?
AJ: We’ve already done about nine of them.
Joe: This is our second year at ARISE.
Roland: Yeah ARISE this year was our second and so was Sonic Bloom. And then we are playing Resonance in Ohio in September and that will be our second year as well. And the rest were all first times.
L4LM: How does it feel to be asked to play a new festival, or approved?
Joe: Definitely crazy…
AJ: Just being asked to play a festival instead of pitching ourselves to a talent buyer is a very cool thing. I know Backwoods in Oklahoma is a big one and they reached out to us which I was surprised about. They want up-and-coming Colorado bands for some reason, that’s what they think is hot right now because of the scene here. People from Colorado come out to go to festivals all over the country and I think that may have been a reason but we’re definitely getting people’s attention.
L4LM: Colorado has definitely become the center-point for the rest of the country. Did you all grow up in Colorado?
Joe: Me, Roland, and Jay actually all did and we went to the same high school together. Then we just randomly found AJ on Craigslist and he moved out here from Philly; kind of like destiny.
AJ: I was living out here for a little while before I found you guys and after I left my old band in Philly, which was doing fine, but I saw the potential out here when I visited to see some shows and I was like, “I gotta move to Colorado” and I did right after that and then I met these guys. Now two years later we’re touring. It’s all happened so fast but it’s definitely been the best experience.
Joe: It was meant to be. Everything’s kind of just coming full circle for us and we’ve realized that this is what we’re meant to be doing.
AJ: It’s nice because I have some resources on the East Coast, our manager is from Connecticut, so when we tour over there we have places to stay, we know some people, so when we’re in places we’ve never been before we can get some friends out, get the word out, which is super helpful.
L4LM: What are your memorable moments from this tour?
AJ: I would definitely say the time at Farm Fest there was a huge rainstorm right before we were supposed to play. We had to tarp off all the gear and get everything expensive out of the way. We didn’t even know it was going to happen because it went on for like 45 minutes and then it was gone.
L4LM: After that, pretty much the whole festival came out.
AJ: We did not expect to have that big of a crowd at that time.
Roland: It was a blessing because it was so hot, if it wouldn’t have rained and our set wouldn’t have been postponed, we probably would have had about half the crowd, with half the energy.
AJ: It pushed our set later into the nighttime/late afternoon, which was great. We always want to play later, and it didn’t affect our time so we got to play for the full-length and go later. It was a win-win for everybody.
L4LM: Do you prefer day sets or night sets? The later the better?
(In unison): Night sets.
Roland: We play dance music.
Joe: Just because of the electronic base that we have, it’s just more fun with lights and people tend to have more energy at night and so we pick up the energy too.
Jay: Most of our music is dance-beat.
Joe: Yeah, exactly. We try to change it up, if we play a day set we play mellower and jammy type stuff; we don’t try to play the bangers or any of our heavy stuff before it gets dark. People usually like to hear that at night. .
L4LM: How did you guys get signed with Nimbleslick?
AJ: Our manager James was actually contacted by them to be picked up as one of their clients so pretty much us and the rest of the bands he manages were all on the roster for Nimbleslick.
Joe: They’re based out of Georgia but they wanted to open up a Denver office so James and a few others were the first people to start that office. James became a booking agent for Nimbleslick so he manages us personally and also does all of our booking. He has a bunch of clients that he does booking for but I think we’re the main one he focuses on for management. Without him and all the things he’s been able to do for us, we wouldn’t be as close to where we are right now. We don’t know about publicity, and marketing and all that stuff like he does.
L4LM: How would you describe your music in one word?
Roland: Diversity is a good one. We mess around with a lot of genres and styles and tempos and we’re just kind of all over the place.
L4LM: Last but certainly not least, what’s your go-to candy?
Joe: Nerds Rope or Sour Patch Kids. Just mix in both of those together and shove them into my face.
AJ: I like that AirHeads Tape, or that Sour Patch Tape – I mean, it’s all good.
Jay: I’ve always liked those strawberry candies with the juicy filling in the middle.
L4LM: Oh my God, yeah like at Grandma’s house?!
Jay: Yeah, the grandma one! You get them at like the Dollar Stores and that’s about it.
Joe: Roland’s a chocolate guy.
Roland: I was literally about to say, “I’m a chocolate guy.” Toblerone or Ghirardelli.
L4LM: Also, for my own personal interest, what are your Zodiac signs?
Joe: I’m a giant crab. Which is crazy, because my grandmother was actually killed by a massive crab. *everyone bursts out laughing* So sorry, I actually heard that joke from some movie once…
Jay: I’m a Scorpio.
Roland: I’m a Capricorn.
L4LM: That’s a nice equal combo, earth and water signs.
Roland: How can we figure out what the band’s sign is?
Joe: We’re a Tanceruscorpio.
Jay: A tangerine-scorpio.
Greener Grounds will be finishing up this tour with three more dates in Colorado, with Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs on August 19th, the Mishawaka Amphitheater on August 20th, and a Phish Pre-Party with Pink Talking Fish at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on August 31st before heading out to Resonance (Ohio), Backwoods (Oklahoma), and Luna Light (Maryland) festival. Be sure to catch them at any of these shows, because once they are all just good memories, Greener Grounds will be taking a break from touring while they write even more new music and get started on their next album. They aren’t giving themselves a deadline, so really it’s up to their creative waters on how fast these guys flow into their new album release. As Joe put it, “We wanna put more time into this one than we have with the last few. It’s been good to get the music out that we have but we have not stopped, not taken a minute to breathe, and we need to write some more music so we’re not playing repeated shows. Not like we play the same sets – we’d never do that. But we’re trying to change the order and change the songs up.” Roland quickly followed up with, “We wanna come out in festival season next year and just be playing sets where people are like, ‘I have never heard any of this stuff.’”
A friendly reminder for those unfortunate fans that won’t get a chance to catch them live before they go into hiding with their new album, all their music is free online (donations appreciated) through their website, or you can stream them from Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora, iTunes, or follow their page on Facebook.