Ladies and Gentlemen...The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rolla! Check out Big Gil (Clint's dad) in the background...Photo courtesy of Jeff
We continue our history series with the year 2001. The band was still in Boulder and was getting ready to release their first full-length album, entitled Sleeping Policeman. At this point the band was on firm ground with the members being Clint, Jeff, Rian, Ben and Chris. We caught up with Jeff, Rian and Clint for their memories of that year. We also have a paragraph by Peter and Neil, as their place within the world of The Grift was starting to emerge...
As you may or may not know, with so much time touring and travelling with each other (and usually staying) in cramped quarters, a lot of nicknames just pop up over time. As such, you may start to see several different nicknames for several different people in the band. It was a constant theme throughout the years. Thanks so much for following along, and we will see you for 2002... next year (glorious 2021)!
El Jefe's (Jeff) Memories
2001 was another big year for the band, and nothing was bigger than finally settling on a permanent name! I actually came up with it in late-2000, but it was solidified by 2001. Rian and I had moved into our new apartment, The Funky Miracle on 34th St., and I had settled into a nice Sunday routine. After football, I’d go to the local Taco Bell, grab some tostadas to go, and settle in for a night of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and X-files. One episode of The Simpsons had Bart and Homer becoming con-men and they kept talking about “grifting”. The lightbulb went off and I brought it to the band. After months of nearly every combination of words to make a name, we finally had ours.
We were playing more and more varied venues. We still toured back East a few times and even managed to get a few corporate gigs here and there. One such gig brought us to Orlando, FL right around the time we were thinking about recording our first full length album and trying to again come up with a name. On the cab ride home to the hotel after having dinner, there were about 100 speed bumps. Someone made a comment about them and our Jamaican driver said to us, “Yes, the sleeping policemen. You must respect them…” We all looked at each other knowing we had the name for the new album.
Speaking of the album, we once again recorded it where Rian worked, although this time it was at a new company. It was a really fun process and we got to have a lot of our friends (including one Neil Matthews) help us background vocals and little things here and there. We also had been soaking in the multi-cultural, multi-style music scene in Boulder and it was reflected in the wide breadth of musical styles represented on Sleeping Policeman.
One of my strongest memories of 2001 is related to the biggest event of that year: 9/11. We had a tour in late Sept/Oct and one of our first shows was in NYC. We were playing on the corner of Houston and Broadway and you could still see straight down Broadway to the smoke still there and at night the huge lights emanating from that area. It was quite a powerful image.
Reng's (Rian) Memories
In response to Peter's memories, I’m trying to remember if there was ever a gig back then where we DIDN’T play Oxygen. We can at least say it was a safe bet. It’s true, I had cobbled together a little studio in the office of the “Internet marketing” company where I “worked.” It was the kind of place where we mostly played foosball and then occasionally did something productive. Until, that is, we started recording Sleeping Policeman. I have really warm memories of that time; we were recording after business hours in the office, late into the night. Burning CDs of mixes (!) and listening to them in the car, making notes, heading back inside to tweak (and tweak again). So so so many hours for all of us.
The other thing that stands out to me about that process was that we got the record mastered at an actual (gasp) mastering studio, which I still think was a super smart call. Because we were already relying on my very green mixing skills, so it made sense to ask a pro to try to clean up my mess. I loved that process. Also, big shout out to @soulswirl for designing a great CD package for us.
Clem's (Clint) Memories
Unfortunately, things are pretty hazy from back then.. I was working at Howard Brinton Star Power Systems crushing the IT gig. We were gigging a bunch and also writing a fair amount. Sleeping Policeman. I remember eating a ton of Noodles & Company, Chipotle, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, and I want to say there was an Arby’s involved maybe…
P.Diddle's (Peter) Memories
I think 2001 is really where my Grift story starts… Spring of 2001, Middlebury College. I had heard legend of this group of recent Middlebury grads that – much like I was doing in various bands at the time – had also all honed their skills in late night rehearsals in the band room and at marathon party gigs around and off campus at Middlebury. (Remember the band room at Middlebury?! In the bowels of the service building, and someone had to brave the maze of basement steam-pipe corridors and find that one guy with the key just to sign it out? Ha!)
Well, word had it these guys had moved to Colorado after graduating and were able to make playing in a band their main focus. Whoa! Whaaa? Wait, you can do that? I had been in a few bands at Middlebury and was pretty serious about music - it was certainly my main passion, I had just never considered that it could actually also be a profession. So when I learned that The Grift was coming East on tour in their band van (“I heard they even have a TV in there. I mean, c’mon!”) and trailer full of gear, and were going to play a show at Middlebury, to say I was eager to catch them is an understatement. I think it might have been the annual Free Tibet show up by the (then) “New Dorms” and maybe Dispatch played too?
But I remember that someone’s amp gave out before the show and my friend Dave Koltai helped procure a suitably badass replacement rig. And I remember how tight The Grift was, and good everything sounded, and how pro they were - the harmonies! The guitar solos! The funky basslines! They even played Oxygen, which was by then a cult classic around campus to which we could all belt out every word.
I think I got a short bass lesson that day or maybe the next from “El Jefe”, and Clint sang some harmonies on a song of mine I was recording in the old electronic music studio below Freeman Dining Hall. I was over the moon, and I remember thinking to myself: “Man. I want to be in a band like that and do what they’re doing after I graduate.” Little did I know the lifetime of friendship and collaboration that was just beginning…
Nelson's (Neil) Memories
I think I am going to jump in here, 2001 seems to be as good a time as any. I was busy in Vermont running the pizza shop I bought after college (with the government's money, from a business plan that I got college credit for, that's another story for another time:), but I was still missing those days of playing music with Clint - and we kept in touch on a regular basis.
I played with him in a band called The Ushers of Jonesville at Middlebury College, helped a bit on $6 Sunglasses, and Clint even worked at the pizza shop in the summer of '97 after he graduated. He had a pizza named after him on our menu. Pepperoni and pineapple - it was called the Glenn Source, and it stayed as a permanent menu item. It is/was pretty damn good, you should try that combo if you haven't. I've seen him curse out a meat slicer as if it was a human. Makes sense now, he wouldn't be too good at the guitar if he lost his fingers in a meat slicer while slicing salami for a sub on Sunday. Sorry. I digress...
I knew from the first time I heard him play that I would always love Clint’s music. He was a total visionary in my mind, and really got me interested in being in a band in the first place with the Ushers. So, when The Grift was in town, I definitely caught their shows every time, and even remember the trip to Colorado where I got to do some backup vocals in the studio for Oxygen. Clint and I had been friends from our early college days, we were in the same social house (co-ed frat) called ADP. I was just getting to know Jeff, Rian, Ben and Chris. We became fast friends (I gave them free pizza), and I still love all these guys to this day. So, even though I wasn’t technically in the band in 2001, I was always following them pretty closely, longing to play with Clint again. Little did I know that would happen in a big way again soon...
Thanks again for reading this far, that is what we have for memories of The Year 2001. We are going to take the Holidays off for this history series, but we will be back with another episode on January 14th, where we highlight the year 2002 with The Grift. It was a year that saw a cross-country move, a lineup change and a dive into full-time music. Have a great Holiday season, and see you in 2021! Now for some photos...