Harrison Waxenberg: Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of lespecial? Where did you guys meet, how’d you come up with the name, etc?
Jonathan Grusaukas: I actually met Rory once way back in 6th grade while traveling from school to school with the regional band (I played trumpet he played drums). He had spiked bleached hair and a Korn shirt (probably a ball chain too) so I thought he was just really cool, and he told me he had a Pearl drum kit (same kit he still plays today) so you can just guess that I thought “wow!”. I didn’t see him again till we attended the same high school and we were all involved with the music program there. They’d come over after school and we’d learn Primus or Radiohead songs, and I was in another band on drums and we needed a bassist, so we hit Beam (Luke) up because he just shredded. Beam and Rory have been playing as a rhythm section since 5th grade so they are the tightest rhythm section I’ve ever played with. So when Beam and I wanted to start a new project to satisfy our expanding musical desires (we were listening to a lot of Mars Volta, Miles Davis, and Medeski Martin and Wood) they were the obvious choice for bass/drum combo, this time with me on guitar. At first we just had fun making bizarre sounds in my basement, I sort of took the role as adding the 3rd layer of weird sonic activity (I had never played electric guitar before, I bought one soon after we started playing together), and we used lots of effects and had ambient jams and what not. We used to have “basement shows” and we’d invite 5 or 6 close friends to come listen to us make noise for an hour or two, if they were lucky we’d have some of Rory’s fresh squeezed Limeade to enjoy while we hit our guitars with drumsticks and sometimes even tackled each other (one time on Rory’s birthday part of the show involved carrying him outside and throwing him onto the hammock). We even had this thing called the “fun tube” which was a car muffler with a microphone inside of it running through a delay unit, so we had lots of fun at those first few shows being deep and challenging conventions and all that. As far as the name is concerned, we all share a passion for communicating with pedestrians out of car windows while driving, so “lespecial boy” was some nicety that got yelled one time and somehow we just decided that would be a good name…and here we are 7 years later incorporating synths, field recorded samples, in addition to our traditional instruments, and the best band name there ever was besides “the Who”.

Harrison Waxenberg: One of your first releases, Playonbrother Sessions, was produced by Alan Evans of Soulive fame. How did you get linked up with him and what was it like working with someone of that stature so early in lespecial’s career?

Jonathan Grusaukas: I’ve done a bit of work for the Royal Family, and so I first met Al when I was helping them load out of their studio in prep for one of the Royal Family Ball’s in Brooklyn. I mentioned that we were shopping around places to record our trio, and he was totally into it. He is a straight up jedi master, and it was a huge learning experience to be in a room with someone with such incredible ears and know how. One of the things he stressed was how important the sound source was. You don’t want to record a crappy take and try and fix it with EQ’s and compression, the first step is the most important part. May sound obvious but sometimes you gotta hear someone say it, and this is one of the many valuable tips with which I walked away from Play on Brother Studios. At one point I was doing some organ overdubs on a reggae tune, and the chord voicings weren’t sounding right, and before I even fixed it he walked over like “oh its because..” and I realized I had the 7th on the bottom “yeah thats it’. He could just hear it, he’s not just a drummer, he plays it all, and knows how to capture sound like the best of em. It was an honor recording with him and we highly recommend his talents. I’ve been seein those cats destroy stages since 2002 and they’ve played a big part in shaping our own direction as well, so all around it was a great experience. Be on the look out for all their projects…I hear he’s got some awesome new music bubbling…

Harrison Waxenberg: Last summer you guys were hand picked by The Royal Family to play their festival, The Royal Family Affair, how was that experience?

Jonathan Grusaukas: The Royal Family Affair was an incredible festival and it was good to see them producing their own festival because I feel like if any groups deserve to host a fest, its them. Some people may not know but the members of Lettuce and Soulive work for the heaviest in the industry, from 50 Cent to Lady Gaga. These dudes don’t fuck around, and like Dante says in “Clerks”, give credit where credit’s due. We were pretty inspired by the Royal Fam crew throwing their own event, and a conversation with our own crew at that event actually spawned the whole idea for our festival “Lespeshtival”.

Harrison Waxenberg: How does it feel to garner praise from such heavy hitters in the industry?

Jonathan Grusaukas: Its definitely an honor to be recognized by people who we really see as the pinnacle of professional musicianship. It motivates me to step up my game, continue to woodshed, figure out this music thing inside and out…theres a story Professor Milford Graves told me about his tabla teacher hearing Ravi Shankar for the first time. He said (in Indian accent) “He is good, but when he is 60, he will know!”. You can play for 20 years before you obtain the status of master drummer. These Royal Family dudes all put in WORK, and its up to any new comers like us to show that we take it just as seriously. You gotta live and breathe the music if that’s what you want to do for a job, its not a game, and its time for musicians in this country to get credit and respect for their hard work and intelligence. Lets dispel the myth that this isn’t a real job, I’d be willing to bet that musicians expend more energy and work their brains harder than a lot of other jobs out there that for some reason get more reverence in the eyes of society. The master musician is a healer, a shaman, and a specialist, not simply an entertainer, and I say its time to honor their wisdom the way some other cultures do. In some parts of the world, musicians and doctors are revered equally. They have built neuro-pathways that give a larger understanding of the universe…I guess what I’m saying is I have a lot of work to do, and its great to have dedicated role models. We are grateful for the wonderful reception we’ve been given from fans thus far, and the future will only bring more potent, relevant, and applicable sounds.

Harrison Waxenberg: Aside from killer sets at other homegrown festivals like The Big Up and Magnetic Gathering, as well as a renegade set at Camp Bisco, you guys found time to throw the inaugural, “Lespeshtival,” your very own gathering. What artists was it important to you to bring to this festival and what kind of vibe were you looking to cultivate?

Jonathan Grusaukas: This was all about showin love to our crew. Our beloved grassroots network of friends and bands from our Boston family and beyond. All the artists were important, from our friends like Blue Boy Productions, Higher Organix, Wobblesauce, and Horizon Wireless, to acts that we’ve met more recently like the Durians and Sistine Criminals.. Its so cool to have a bill that’s full of all your friends, pulls a crowd, and its all music you genuinely love. I could watch Sistine Criminals for hours, its the dirtiest NYC subway drum n bass/free jazz improv/drum step I’ve ever heard, and we were honored to have a lineup with so many next level acts. As far as the vibe, we went for a Samhain harvest type vibe, and our art deco team truly went above and beyond to create a beautiful environment in the barn. Corn husks flanked the stage amidst precisely mapped video projections, iron chandeliers covered in antlers, Magnetic Melt productions brought their beautiful mandala light rig, we had blacksmiths forging iron on site, stilt walkers, and our long time friend Feather B painted an enormous back drop that defied expectations. It was definitely a victory for the do it yourself/underground mentality. Big plans for this year….

Harrison Waxenberg: Can you give us any insight on if this will happening again this year and what’s might be in store?

Jonathan Grusaukas: There’s no way it couldn’t happen again, the response was so positive and it went off so well. I can’t describe the feeling of looking around at 4am and seeing a bunch of locals from my town gettin’ down to the alien bass frequencies of Blue Boy Productions. I hope that we will be extending the festival this year, which is exciting because we had to turn down some amazing acts last year, so hopefully this year we can include everyone. We want to build an alien crash site in the corn field this year, VJ Adrenochrome will obviously be there again projecting his alternate reality all over the place, and we plan to continue collaborating with some of the finest visual artists and social sculptors we know.

Harrison Waxenberg: The Brothership Connection Tour seemed to have been an enormous success. For any aspiring artists out there, what does it take as a tour with all independent and up and coming artists to succeed?

Jonathan Grusaukas: It really was a great success, and we’re thankful to each city for comin’ out in hordes and enjoying the new music we’re working on. I’d say it takes perseverance, organization, a shared passion with driven people, a lot of help from our wonderful friends, and regular meetings around a round table. Faith that what you’re doing is valid and important, (not even faith, just KNOW IT) and the self respect to turn down gigs that don’t compensate us in a respectful or feasible way. Self-reliance and self-discipline are good bedfellows too…haha, love cuddlin up next to some self-reliance..

Harrison Waxenberg: Any interesting stories from this first tour, and what can we expect from you guys next?

Jonathan Grusaukas: We discovered the truth about Space Jesus, that he’s an alien not of this earth channeling frequencies from distant galaxies…haha no not really guys! I think he’s at least part human…but he did spend 5 days on a rock with no food or water once, pushing his reality to the edge of sanity. I think thats why his bass lines are so RANDOM and WEIRD.

We ate a lot of great food in his home lair of Philly, hoagies and pizza with long hots, of course we hit up Mamouns Falafel in the village before the Sullivan Hall gig…oh and we realized that having zoned out spunions who can’t even form sentences spilling beer on all your belongings is why we don’t accept gigs without a green room anymore. God I’m sick of incoherent kids giving festivals and LSD a bad name….be productive! Create your culture! Rant rant rant…

It was really fun not just playing a show but putting on an entire production, video mapping each venue, live dancers, and also we got into segueing our live set directly into Space Jesus’ DJ set (we would close each night with “Sound we Do”, and he would open with his remix of the track)..it was fun to blur the lines between live and DJ, and we have our sites set on more of that hybridized style performance.

Next for us is Envision Festival on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We are excited to play with Beats Antique again and make some new friends…when we get home we will continue working on music and then explode vibrationally through the speakers at Psybient Soiree on April Fools weekend at Kutshers Resort in Monticello, NY….very excited that so many of our homies will be there, Dopapod, Horizon Wireless, BBP, Skytree, not to mention Schpongle, Conspirator, OTT, etc. Stay tuned for our festival roster this summer, which already includes Uphoria II, Jibberjazz, Camp Cold Brook, and more….also be on the look out for preliminary artist lineup announcements for Lespeshtival II…oh and a remix CD featuring the talents of BBP, Skytree, Eelko, Space Jesus, and more.

Harrison Waxenberg: Last question… how did you guys get so cool?

Jonathan Grusaukas: You’re gonna have to ask Rory and Luke about that one…I still wonder the same thing when I’m on stage with those crazy dudes…I think it has something to do with not taking life that seriously…and lots of pureed fruit…