Picture - One of the gems from the $6 Sunglasses photo shoot
We kick off our series with the year it all began, 1999. The original lineup was Clint, Jeff, Rian A., Ben L., and Pat. We were able to catch up with Clint, Jeff and Rian for some memories...
CLINT - I began writing the songs that would become $6 Sunglasses during college. Upon graduating in 1997, I teamed up with Dispatch drummer, Brad Corrigan, to record them. In the spring of 1998, we went to Jack Gauthier’s studio, Lakewest Studio, in RI and laid down all the drums in 4 hours. Brad played on all the tracks with the exception of One More Drop, which had college friend Neil Matthews (future member of The Grift) on the skins. At the time, Neil owned a pizza joint in Middlebury called Neil and Otto’s Pizza. For the recording session, he brought some pizzas that he made and went to a local pizza shop to heat them up. We were all pretty surprised that he was able to convince the place to just let him use their oven for a few minutes…
I then spent the next 4-6 months driving between Boston, where I was living with my sister, and a funky NYC apartment of my longtime friend and collaborator, Wil Rothman. Clint, Wil, Rian Alfiero, and Ben Lively recorded the rest of $6 Sunglasses in that apartment and it was finally pressed and released in early 1999. In March of that year, Rian Alfiero and I reached out to fellow Middlebury College alum, Jeff Vallone who was living in San Francisco, about starting a band to play these tunes live. Jeff agreed. Clint then wrangled drummer Pat Knightly to join. Pat was in Boulder, CO. Pat invited Saxophonist Greg Warren to play, and the band was formed. But where to live? We decided Boulder was the best spot. Great weather. Great scene.
JEFF - In my recollection, you had talked to Pat first and he called me. The previous summer Pat, Greg, Ben, and I had lived together playing in a band on Martha’s Vineyard. When we decided to give it a go, they said Boulder had a great music scene and that seemed to be a good idea.
RIAN A. - That may be true, Jefe, though I always tell it you-first. What I remember specifically about that was when Clint and I started talking about a band, it was a very specific discussion that went something like, “who would we want in the band, out of anyone?” You and Pat were the immediate dream-team names we thought of. And we knew you were in SF, and Pat was in Boulder, so it seemed sort of pie-in-the-sky, at least to me. And then when we called you, you had just broken up with your girlfriend in SF, and your lease was up in a month, so it was a total no-brainer for you. And Knightly was psyched, and had a place in Boulder, and I remember at that moment thinking, “ahhhh, this thing has legs.”
CLINT - Jeff drove from CA to Boulder and hopped in a truck with Pat and Greg.
JEFF - None of us had a car that could fit Pat’s drums, so we rented a U-Haul. The only one they had available for a one-way trip was a 15 ft. moving truck. So we filled 1/10 of the truck with our stuff and sat 3 across on the bench for the 24+ hour trip. There was no tape/CD player in the truck (This WAS 1999, after all) so it was a lot of country radio and silence. Mostly silence.
CLINT - They drove to Fort Wayne, IN where I was staying with my parents. Alfiero drove from Maine and we all met up on April 7, 1999 for the first official Grift rehearsal. The plan was to learn a bunch of tunes for a few days and then head back East to VT to play a series of gigs both at Middlebury and a couple of other spots in the Northeast.
JEFF - We ended up living in Middlebury for a month, using it as our home base as we played shows in NYC, Boston, etc.
CLINT - We purchased the first van at that point. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla was the lifeblood of that original band for YEARS. We did the Northeast run and then all ended up moving to Boulder, CO to have a go in the music business.
JEFF - The Boulder Years - When we arrived in CO, we had to start from scratch in pretty much every aspect. We had friends there, but not a lot of connections. We needed jobs, a place to live, and most of all, gigs to get this new band off the ground. Greg and Pat already had a house, affectionately dubbed “Jonesville”, that we used as our rehearsal space and where I slept on the couch until we found a place to live. We eventually found jobs (on the way home from a successful interview for a job at the venerable acoustic guitar store, HB Woodsong’s, I was rear-ended by a car full of college kids who were distracted by a group of cute girls walking by at that moment. I couldn’t blame them, but a peculiar safety function of my car turned off the gas, so I was left waiting for a tow truck during rush hour in the middle of the busiest street in Boulder. Not the best welcome to a new city, but the insurance money helped pay for my share of the deposit to our new rented house...Hotel Gillaspie).
Rian ended up getting a job in the office at Warren Miller Productions. We had all grown up watching those ski movies, so we were pumped. It ended up being fortuitous for several reasons, the first of which was we soon moved our rehearsals into the warehouse there. It was a little surreal.
RIAN A. - We all turned our day jobs to our musical advantage for sure! I got a multitrack recorder from my part-time thing at a marketing company, and we rehearsed in the WM warehouse, recorded/mixed in WM’s post-production audio suite; we also rehearsed a lot in the Howard Brinton warehouse (Clint’s day job), we must have “borrowed” a ton of gear from Woodsong's (Jeff’s job). I’m not sure what Ben’s bathroom design store connections got us, but I’m sure Ben had a clean tushy at the very least. Plus, we got various gigs through all of our work connections, too; Christmas parties, BBQs, corporate gigs, birthday parties. It was no mystery to anyone we worked with that our priority was the band.
A good start for sure. Thanks so much for reading the first in our series of trips down memory lane. Although we were worried that all of our computers would crash and supreme chaos would ensue at the beginning of Y2K, The Grift continued. Stay tuned for our next email in the series, where we remember (what we can) of the year 2000 - the year that the first recorded album was produced. And now for the pictures we were able to find…