Photo of the band at Waring School - 2004
We carry on with the year 2004 in the history of The Grift series, a huge year for the band. So many highlights to this year, with the biggest probably being the release of Life Beyond Aluminum, the second full-length studio album. It was arguably their most ambitious, with a bit of a new sound. Jeff had transitioned to the turntables most of the time, which created a whole new dynamic. It was an amazing recording session in Buffalo, NY with major help from Dave Koltai, Greg Tobler and Gary Mallaber on the producing of this album. We also had and amazing Do The Deck (2nd annual) at Rene Paquette's house - and we were able to get some of the new Buffalo friends to make the trip to Vermont - calling you out T-Money!
The year also saw the band play close to 200 shows, capped off with a 4300 mile Southern tour in December of 2004 that took us all the way down to South Carolina, back up through the Midwest, and then back to Vermont. It really seems like we played almost every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and sometimes twice on Saturday. So. much. music. And driving.
We were able to catch up with Jeff, Peter and Neil for some memories of this epic year. Clint was able to add his own type of memories with an awesome video of him and Peter doing In Between Takes from Life Beyond Aluminum. 2004 was definitely a year full of highlights and tons of fun. I know there were also a ton of tough, grinding hours of touring and working - but it's funny that only the good memories seem to bubble up to the top:).
Of course, no year would be complete without some pictures! Remember to scroll down to check out some photos from 2004....
In 2004 we were really hitting our stride. Pete had settled in and it was a super creative time with lots of new songs and sounds. We were also playing a LOT of shows all over New England and Midwest and added tours to the South as well. We were putting together enough songs that it felt time to get in the studio again.
The other guys will expand upon the recording session, but a few fond memories I have are being happy to be in Western NY again, lots of Mighty Taco, seeing old friends (O-Dubs, Koltai) making new friends (T-Money, Tobi-Wan...), and getting endless quotable lines from the Gare-bear. Oh, and some music. Oddly enough for me, I didn’t actually play much music. I played bass on a couple tracks, but most of my parts were in the scratch/synth realm, so were recorded last. It was strange to be the icing when I was much more used to being the cake. I used the time to soak in as much as I could from Gary and Greg...as well as reading the DaVinci Code for the first time. It’s always good to have something to occupy your mind during the expansive down time that comes with a recording session.
Some other highlights from 2004 that you’ll see in the pictures include many post-gig nights spent blasting Spandau Ballet at our friend Pokey’s house in Boston, Moogy’s in the morning for breakfast, playing right next to Fenway Park during the 2004 playoffs (they beat Oakland in extra innings!), karaoke in Nashville, the most EPIC night ever in Bridgeport, CT, (the picture of Neil at the trash can was HIS end to that evening - so glad he was my roommate... Argh.) and an intense yet inventive drive through a snowstorm. On that particular trip we completed a month-long Southern/Midwest tour with a show in Ft Wayne, IN. Clint and Lauren were staying there to spend Christmas with Clint’s family, so Neil, Pete, and I settled in for a long drive through a serious snowstorm. By the time we got to Buffalo, our wiper fluid jets had frozen over completely. We had been pulling over every so often to use a lighter on them, but they were refreezing so fast, it became untenable. We decided to stop at the Galleria Mall (and Mighty Taco) to figure a way to fix it. Neil had the great idea to buy super-soakers and fill them with wiper fluid! So, for the rest of the trip home, every couple minutes we’d hang out the window and shoot the windshield. It worked surprisingly well and got us home...
2004, oh man! SO many highlights… Recording Life Beyond Aluminum in Buffalo was a peak experience... I had been in the studio before, but never like this, this felt like the real deal. We set up shop and spent most of the month of June living and breathing these songs and the recording process. As the other guys mentioned, we stayed (squatted?) in a house next door that was somehow connected to the studio, or maybe Robbie the studio owner just knew the landlord? Anyway, I think it was scheduled for either demolition or a total renovation later in the summer so no one was living there at the time. It was a pretty big house, I think everyone got their own bedroom (i.e. floor on which to crash on a camp mattress… but there was a door!) And there was still running water and electricity (I think??) and a dorm fridge. We spent the first day or two loading gear into the studio, setting up, and then deep-cleaning the humble abode next door to a somewhat livable condition (for 20-something dudes in a band, that is), and the finishing touch was the idea to move the back bench seat from the van into the living room so there was even a couch… It was perfect! There was a coffee maker in the studio and Mighty Taco a short walk away so we had everything we needed. I remember the music spilling over from the studio into the band house “living room”, which was filled chock-a-block with all of our instruments for the session, and we would rehearse songs and jam late into the night. And that amazing feeling of camaraderie of all of us working these crazy long hours towards the same goal of the best possible record, as in the record of an event, as in the event of friends making music together in a room. And the Grift family grew - we all learned so much working with Gary Mallaber (we still keep in touch!) and Greg “Tobi-Wan” Tobler and tone doctor David Koltai and keyboard samurai Pete Nilsson (check out those waterfalls at the end of Day and Night!) I have a vivid memory of listening back to a bunch of the tracks, and when we finished playback in the control room, Gary just kind of smiled and nodded and said, “I really think we’ve got something special here, boys.”
And 2004 was my first radio performance: Clint and I played a few songs on 104.7 The Point which was thrilling and terrifying at the same time… That year was also my first Do The Deck, the backyard bash to rule them all… and SO many fun shows in the Northeast and beyond, we really got into the rhythm of being on the road for a few days at a time and then coming back to the band house in West Addison to re-charge, write, jam, watch 12-hour Beatles documentaries, have epic wiffleball battles at Clark Goldfarbe Jr Memorial Stadium. (We would literally play 9 full innings, balls and strikes, ghost runners, the whole deal.) I also think The Grift house single-handedly kept West Addison General Store deli counter in business for a few years, there were a lot of sandwich runs out that way. (“Hey could you grab a bag of those TGIFriday’s baked potato chips, too? And a couple Red Bulls? I think I owe you one…”)
And so much jamming in the garage! It was our therapy, we would just go and play for hours, and fortunately the neighbors (The Paquettes - hosts of the famous Do The Deck and high in the running for greatest neighbors in the world) were not only accommodating, but would often come by and bring a couple Labatt's and just hang out and listen. You can hear a lot of these early demos on the garage sessions (volume one and volume two)that we’ve posted for your listening pleasure.
We wrote a lot of songs that year - one of my favorites from that era is “In Between The Takes.” That was one of the first collaborations with Clint where we each had a section or two of music that needed finishing, and when we pieced it together, BOOM! They just sort of magically fit. Add in some nostalgic “I knew you when” lyrics inspired by an old girlfriend who had moved to LA to be a rock star and a song was born. Check out the video of the acoustic version we put together for the History Of The Grift series.
Oh man. Reading all of these accounts made me so nostalgic. 2004 was one of the greatest years in Grift history for sure. Not only was Life Beyond Aluminum one of my favorite albums I’ve ever been a part of, but we also toured our asses off and really lived the “band” lifestyle. Peter, Neil, Jeff, and I really became brothers that year. I also met my wife in 2004.
I feel like we stayed at Pokie’s house in Boston like every other week that entire year. I got really good at backing the van and trailer up his skinny ass driveway. We played so many MA boarding schools that year and actually made a decent living as I recall. We pretty much left every Thursday and then we would come back to VT on Sunday every week. So many gigs.
Was the Otis Spunkmeyer incident from 2004? I think it was. “Neil!! Just sit down and put your seat belt on!!” Neil dropped a chocolate chip muffin between his legs and had a nice poop looking stain on his butt area - and no one brought a ton of clothes on tour...
The Buffalo house was SOOOOOOO gross! But perfect.
Some highlight gigs for me:
2) Artists Development Complex
3) Do the Deck
4) The Pour House - Charleston, SC (the 1st time)
5) The Middle East CD release party for LBA where we played the entire album in the jam section of Oxygen
6) Deerfield Academy morning meeting - we drove down from VT to Deerfield, MA (3 hours) to play 1 song during the all school meeting. We played Check One. Sounds crazy, but every single kid in the school came to the show that weekend and that song became an anthem at their school.
7) The Bridgeport, CT wedding where Neil got kicked out of the hotel bar (when we went to the minor league game). We ended up getting shut down by the police like 5 songs into the show which was at a private residence.
8) Bucket’s in FT. Wayne, IN for a ton of my high school friends.
Man, 2004 was definitely an epic year. Peter was a welcome addition to the band, and Clint, Peter and I were settling into our “domestic” life at the house out in West Addison. We were missing el Jefe, but we definitely got to see him a ton in Burlington. We generally tried to go up there to party and see our group of friends which was growing larger by the day. I will say that one of the best things about being in the band and touring different places was the amazing connections that you make along the way. I personally met a ton of new people and hung out with many old friends as well throughout the year. I still owned the pizza restaurant, and I was definitely busy juggling both the restaurant and the band. I had considered selling the restaurant when the band started, but I ended up hiring a manager instead by the name of Scotty Constantine. He was going to take over the operations so that I could focus on music as much as possible. After Scotty arrived, I definitely didn’t have to spend too much time at the shop - but I also paid for that privilege. However, after a few growing pains, Scotty ended up being a huge asset, and remains a close friend to this day.
We were working away on our music, and had the practice room/studio set up in the garage. It was a pretty sweet space. As Jeff mentioned, we recorded a bunch of stuff (we also added it to the website - The Garage Sessions:). We knew that a new record was on the horizon as soon as Peter showed up. The dynamic of the band definitely changed with Jeff moving to the turntables, but it was super exciting to have this new energy. I remember the series of phone calls that Clint and Peter had with Dave Koltai, and then Greg Tobler. They mentioned that we might be able to get this producer, but they were still working on it. Dave’s friend Greg was a studio engineer and had done some work in this studio in Buffalo. I remember us certainly not being opposed to working in Buffalo. I then remember the phone call from Gary Mallaber about producing our record. He thought that we had something, and would love to work with us on a few songs.
I remember being a combination of very excited but also deathly afraid of working with Gary. I was gaining confidence as a drummer, but I was still learning. I still am. Gary was the drummer of the Steve Miller Band. He also had played with Van Morrison, Eddie Money, Bruce Springsteen, and a number of other artists that were up in the stratosphere. Because he was not only producing, but ALSO a drummer, I felt a bit of pressure to not suck. However, when I first spoke to Gary, he said something that I will never forget, and it immediately put me at ease. “I’ve heard you play, and I understand your limitations”, he said. “I will push you, but I’m not going to ask you to do anything outside of your skill level”. That was just what I needed to hear to put my mind at ease. It was super comforting, and put me in the perfect mindset to get to work. I improved SO much from that month of recording, it’s insane. Gary taught me more about playing the drums and my confidence in one month that I had ever learned up to that point.
I think I could write an entire book on the recording session and our month in Buffalo. The studio, Audio Magic. Our buddy Robbie Konikoff, who owned and operated the studio. I cranked cigarettes with him and chatted everyday. Practically squatting in the house next door. T-Money and our new Buffalo friends. Dave Koltai and Greg Tobler - two guys with such immense talent and overall great friends of the band. Mighty Taco and shopping cart golf in the MT parking lot. Wegman’s - the best supermarket I had ever seen. Late night wiffle ball battles with Peter in a parking lot because we were so obsessed with wiffle ball at that point. I took many trips to Niagara Falls to play poker. Side note - drummers usually record stuff first, so I would get my work done, and then go play cards:). Some late night spots in Buffalo open until 4am, I really grew to LOVE Buffalo - of course we were there in June... And the final house party in the squatter's paradise. I’m psyched I can remember anything at all from that month!
Before and after the recording session, 2004 was FULL of shows. I think that was the year that we came really close to playing 200 shows. We were really pounding the pavement at this point. We played all around New England, and even ventured as far South as South Carolina and as far West as Colorado. Our live shows were getting really good, and it was a super fun time in my recollection. I mean, being in a van with 3 other guys and driving all over the place could be very difficult with a lot of people. But, honestly, this was some of the best times of my life so far. We laughed so damn much. Of course, I’m sure the other guys wanted to kill me at times, but it is a testament to our friendship that we are ALL (every incarnation and most former members of this band) still hanging out and are the best of friends. I feel very lucky to have found these fellas (and ladies) in the Grift family.
Ok, I can’t complete 2004 without talking about Clark Goldfarbe, Jr. Memorial Stadium. I had a habit of naming everything that I saw. I love giving people nicknames, fictional names, whatever. It just pops into my head. I think we all do/did that. I mean each of the vans had a name. We were sitting on the porch one day and we decided that the tree in our yard looked like it should be named Clarence MacDougal. So it was. I know I have a screw loose. I digress. At any rate, the house in Addison had a large side yard, and Peter and I started playing wiffle ball as a way to let off some steam, and it was just fun. We were all stoked on the Red Sox (he was a lifelong fan), so we started having these one-on-one battles. A folding chair was the strike zone and off we went. However, we decided that we needed to take it up a notch. The home plate was set in the corner of the yard so that our second floor deck was right in left field, creating an upper deck viewing area. So, we went and bought the orange snow fence and built the outfield wall. Then, we got foul poles and spray paint to make it official. We even bought the Home Depot work lights, and successfully had a few night games. I really wanted to steal one of the heavy duty construction lights from the highway, but thankfully thought better of that idea. We played countless innings and games head to head, and it was just so much fun. Good times.
And now for some photos...