Necessary Catharsis; An Interview with Grubby Paws

In the upper west tip of Ohio is where you can find Grubby Paws, a Toledo-based ensemble that incorporates alternative noise rock with soul-driven songwriting.  The band’s latest effort Homewrecker thrashes through the harrowing stories that the band presents.  With the exploration of the internal and external traumas most of us deal with, Grubby Paws provide an arsenal of sonic disobedience to fans and audiences of their live shows. 

We recently chatted with the band to learn more about the band.

How did the band come together?

The band actually didn’t start as a band at first. It was a solo project of mine (Ian) that was like a fuzzy, folk indie thing I wanted to do because I was a dorky college student and SUPER into Neutral Milk Hotel in the late 2000’s. A few years later it became a studio project with our guitar player Eric and the owner and engineer of Northcoast Studios (Alan Fisher) in Fremont, Ohio. The goal was always to have a band, especially after hearing the songs I’d write on an acoustic in a basement stairwell (good reverb!) be played back on studio monitors with full instrumentation. After a revolving door of friends helping out to play shows, we solidified our line-up with the current band (Ian, Jake, Jimmy, Eric and Nick) in very late 2017. We’ve all known each other for years and are good friends outside of the band, so it was natural that we would gravitate towards each other to form the world’s most handsome emo Voltron.

When did it become clear that there was something that allowed you to move forward with Grubby?

The core value that has continued to push us forward as a band is being honest with ourselves and not putting expectations nor deadlines on anything. Just creating for the sake of creating. Performing for the sake of performing. Connecting for the sake of connecting. The rest just sort of falls into place as we continue, albeit sometimes with a stumble with our ass cracks showing, forward.

What could you say is the state of the scene in Toledo?

There are a lot of AWESOME artists in our region who have gotten creative with online performances, song releases, videos, etc since COVID-19 hit us with vengeance.  The Midwest is best and we will wear that banner until death.

With everything surrounding the pandemic, has the band found this time to write more material than normal?

For sure! Probably to the point of excessive, honestly. I know between myself and Eric, we have at least 30 new song ideas ready to get noodled on, hashed out or thrown out. Currently we are still following quarantine procedure, so we haven’t been able to all be in our rehearsal space to put all the puzzle pieces in place, but isolation really does wonders for creativity/madness.

What’s the meaning behind the album cover picture?

The album cover is probably the only thing about the record that is very on the surface. It’s a picture of a rundown/abandoned home on the outskirts of Nashville taken by a graphic designer/photographer friend named Zach Halfhill. The album cover is like the listener is standing outside of the home. The artwork on the cd’s themselves is an image of our merch mannequin looking out a broken window, as if it was welcoming you inside our home. The songs inside represent different rooms, each one with its own different story to tell.

With Homewrecker, there are themes of dysfunctional homelives, death, and lost loves.  Am I wrong to assume that this album was deeply personal?

Incredibly personal. There are some song meanings that will probably remain a mystery to the rest of the world because of how deep of a painful place they came from. One of the things that makes us tick when it comes to writing songs is the song writing process becoming a literal physical need for us to create as a way to cope with the not so pleasant things in life. Necessary catharsis. Sonic therapy.

I have been told that at your album release show the stage was set up to be feature a living room. How did this idea come to fruition?

We come from a world of punk rock or hardcore where we tended to shy away from theatrics and just plug in, play, be really fuckin’ loud and make you feel something. But with this record, we felt it would be a disservice to anyone in attendance to not give them more of an experience into what we created. We loaded in chairs, a couch, lamps, stands, personal framed pictures, paintings, window frames…just anything to make the venue look like a home when anyone came in. That was what we are doing with the album on a sonic level, why not do the real thing for the live show? We also had a projector playing an old VHS favorite of my childhood from the early 90’s called “Beyond The Mind’s Eye”. Anything to make that room as personal to us as possible, we did it.

Where was Homewrecker recorded at?

Northcoast Studios in Fremont, Ohio.

How was the process recording the album? What were some of the most memorable experiences?

Long, arduous, emotional, frustrating and fruitful. Some of us were in the midst of some really REALLY dark times in our lives and I think that got reflected on the reels, so to speak. But there were a lot of cool moments for sure. Greasy Chinese food, beer, good long talks, solid hangs, incredibly fun experimentation with our soundscape/auxiliary guy Nick. Having friends come in to be a little make shift choir for some of the songs really meant a lot too. Especially on the song “Letters From My Father”. I get emotional sometimes when I listen to it still.

What were some of the influences the band looked towards when writing Homewrecker?

As far as musical influences, we are all big fans of all things 90’s emo, shoegaze, grunge or noise rock. Hum, Sunny Day Real Estate, Shellac, etc. Outside influences from our personal lives also played a large part in everything sonically as well.

What should we be expecting from the band in the upcoming future? Is there a followup to Homewrecker?

There will absolutely be a follow up. Sadly, we are waiting patiently with the rest of the world on hitting the button to un-pause everything so we can continue moving forward with the plans we had to promote the record this past spring/summer. With the one year of the release looming in August, we are planning on trying to do something cool to commemorate/continue to share the Gospel™ that is Grubby Paws.