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Grimson on “Household,” Visualizing His Music, and His Process

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Isolation is a funny thing. We’re social creatures, and when we’re alone we have to find ways to cope. Grimson explores this in “Household”, in a drifting, dreamy, sound reminiscent of early 90’s alternative and 60s psychedelia. It’s a track focused on its story, where the rhythm and sound and vocals build towards this central theme of loneliness.

Grimson presents a lopsided rhythm through the entirety of “Household,” and it feels as though we’re teetering throughout the entirety of the track. Jaunty, spacy vocals guide us through an industrial sound: ringing toms, plucky piano chords, and this underlying brassy bassy sound. Moving into the chorus, the violins scratch out an energetic rising arpeggio alongside the vocals. This is the first time we feel a direction in the song. There’s this sense that Grimson is building to this crescendo, what with the strings flourishing out, and the ringing hi-hats…but then it’s cut out, the music resets, and we’re back on a wobbly path, with only a single plucky guitar and the snares to guide us. 

With the return of the vocals, we build up again. This offsets a wonderful crescendo we get at the climax of the sound. Entering the final bridge, rising vocals are drawn out with a powerful and loud swell of sound. Kicking into a higher pitch for the finale, the snares and strings rise with the declaration of the singer to “beat the giants.” But when the high fades, the sound is so much more somber. In sharp contrast to the lush sound, there’s only the drum set, and a single soft guitar. “When I get out of this…house” is muttered in such a quiet, defeated tone. It’s an absolute ride to listen to.

“Household” is somber listening: the type of track to play when you may feel distant and trapped. It’s kind of cathartic, evocative of a mood and written to simmer in that desire to escape, break free, and the fear that comes with it. Grimson understands that feeling and shows it in “Household.” In that way, it can make those lonely moods a little less lonely.

Do you frequently find yourself visualizing scenes as you write your music?

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. I think I experience emotions most deeply when I visualize them, whether it’s a scene, a person, or an object. So when I sit down to write, I already have an image or texture in mind, and the song follows that. Other times a random lyric or wordplay will create the image for me, and then it’s a bit like I’m watching my own film and I try to write the soundtrack to that. Overall, it’s just a fun process for me – to think about creating more than a song each time I sit down, especially when it all happens naturally.

The music video of “Household” has a unique art style, very surreal and reminiscent of Pilotredsun. Where did you get the idea for the art style when directing it?

Oh, funny. I saw PilotRedSun on Tiktok a while back and was totally enthralled. I love how they treat audio. I did the video for “Household” with T. Marsh, who I met in college. They have a quite distinct, colorful and grotesque art style that I became a fan of immediately, and when I pitched the idea for doing the music video, we had pretty much all of the same references in mind (even though we hardly knew each other). Those included Mary and Max, Fantasia, Fantastic Planet, and a host of other obscure animations. Obviously there is a Terry Gilliam/Monty Python connection people are making because the way I arranged the song itself conjured up 60s pop and psychedelia – but honestly that wasn’t at the fore when we imagined it. At times I become a bit tired of how melodic my music is, so having an eerie, grotesque visual accompaniment helps give it another, more layered dimension. The song is pretty epic, meaning there are a lot of peaks and valleys, so I knew the video had to mirror that somehow, otherwise I would be doing the song a disservice.

What images do you wish to conjure in your audiences heads when you listen to music? Is it a location, a scene, or just a general mood?

I was most surprised when people started describing my music as “comforting.” When I recorded these songs, I really thought I was creating something stressful and bitter – something that sparked creativity. But I’m glad that people find comfort in my songs. I’m not sure if it’s the voice or the production, or the chords or what. I think the answer to your question is in the music videos and artwork I’ve done for nearly all of the songs I’ve put out. Those are the types of locations and scenes I imagined when writing these songs. Around the time I wrote most of these songs, I wanted to be a therapist – so I think there’s an element of challenging and reassuring that I want to evoke in the listener. Ultimately whoever listens to the song will have their own visual experience of it – just based on where they are, or what’s in front of them – and I think that’s beautiful.

When writing, do you see your listener alone or in a group? Would you say your music is more one-on-one or more of a group listening experience?

I wouldn’t say that I picture one person, but sometimes impressions of certain people do come to mind. I grew up in a pretty competitive music environment, so there was often a desire to impress my peers, or even teachers. I’m excited by the fact that a song can one day be played in front of a group of people who can all collectively enjoy it, or commiserate to it. Generally, though, I would imagine my music being listened to on headphones. I listened to most of the music I love on headphones on my childhood bed staring up at the ceiling, or on the subway looking at strangers, and there’s something delightful about being lost in Audio World when there isn’t anything else to distract you.

What genre would you personally call your music, or is there a particular artist or genre you channeled for “Household”?

“Household” is a funny one because I originally arranged it for my four-piece band. Because it’s such an intense song, it was always a bit hard to translate live. Eventually I settled on the idea that it would work as a Grimson song if I stripped everything back and made it more organic. I wanted it to sound like Antonio Carlos Jobim’s early productions, and the Zombies – tender but confident. For the string arrangement, which I had so much fun doing, I obviously channeled George Martin’s Beatles stuff from Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, and then combined it with a bit of early 2000s hip hop influence. Generally, though, I would say my music can be defined as chamber pop, or melancholic psychedelia. We’ll see with later releases, because I finally discovered how to use synths (albeit crudely), and now there’s no stopping me

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