As Chris Whitehall continues on in The Griswolds’ new journey, he’s able to do things however he wants whenever he wants, as he shows in new EP ‘ALL MY FRIENDS’.
‘ALL MY FRIENDS’ EP – The Griswolds
“I feel like with this new music, I’ve had a chance to go back to that point in time where I’m just loving this shit more than anything, and I’m just making music with my friends with kind of no pressure attached to it,” Chris Whitehall of The Griswolds explains. “[…] And being able to sort of have that chance to come back after a break and be able to do this again, and do it in a new way; a healthier way, a more fun way, a more pure, loving way, you know, it’s a dream come true for me.”
Whitehall and The Griswolds have experienced significant changes over the last few years. Following the release of the band’s sophomore album High Times for Low Lives, the band amicably split off to pursue other endeavors, ultimately leaving just Whitehall and drummer Lachlan (Lucky) West. On Valentine’s Day, The Griswolds released their first effort following the break, an EP entitled ALL MY FRIENDS. Consisting of five uniquely astute and cognizant songs, ALL MY FRIENDS beautifully illustrates relationships of every shape and form; a fitting narrative considering the band’s circumstances.
Now, as Whitehall continues on in The Griswolds’ new journey, he’s able to do things however he wants, whenever he wants. The Griswolds are not quite starting from ground zero, but yet, they sitll somehow are. Or at least, Whitehall is. This air of freedom shows not only in the music, but in Whitehall himself, as he discusses with Atwood all of the new things that are making The Griswolds thrive better than ever. Says Whitehall:
“[T]he fact that I can still say now that I can release music and people care enough to listen to it, it really is one of the most special feelings and one of the most incredible things I can say that’s ever happened in my life.”
Watch: “ALL MY FRIENDS” – The Griswolds
:: A CONVERSATION WITH THE GRISWOLDS ::
Atwood Magazine: Hey Chris! The first time that I interviewed you was almost five years ago, and a lot has changed. Tell me a little bit more about this new direction that you're going in?
Chris Whitehall: Well, I mean, the direction I guess — I mean, that’s a really great question, so thank you. The direction has changed so much, I guess in the way that I think about this whole band. I’ve had to kind of, like, reevaluate everything and kind of break everything down to nothing to rebuild it, if that makes sense. When I think about when I think about making the second album, for instance, in 2016, and, you know, we had all four members kind of contributing and helping and writing it together — and at that point in time, feeling like the writing process was — I guess I almost thought it was difficult. And like, going through some more difficult times back then, and being really vulnerable about the way I was writing songs and lyrics and putting them all in one kind of putting everything out there, like putting everything on the table. Painting this picture about kind of, I guess, this story and journey that the band had been. And, you know, a lot of it obviously was great, but when it was kind of getting to that second album time, you know, if you listen to that album, the lyrics are a little bit — they’re a little bit kind of darker. They don’t always paint this amazing story. For me, it was more talking about some of the darker times and the harder times that I was going through.
So I guess now with the band sort of taking a break after 2017, and I’ve had this chance to sort of find this new lease on life and this new way to do the band, that could just be a much better way to be in a band, I guess, if that makes sense. It’s like, I think — the band hadn’t taken a break in our whole career. So that’s why like, everything was feeling a little tired, and everyone was a little stressed and everyone was working so hard, and that’s why it got to that point where that second album, got to that kind of darker place, because I personally was in a darker place. So, we needed to sort of pump the brakes a little bit with it. And it was the best thing we could have done. Because like, we were just almost blindly doing everything that the band needed us to do, and forgetting that the band is consisted up of members that make it a band, and those members need to tend to their health, and they need to tend to their mental health, and they need to tend to what they need, personally out of life. You know, happiness is a big, it’s a big deal.
So, I guess getting back to your question, taking that break, after that was an amazing opportunity to rediscover what making music was all about for me, which was going back to a place before The Griswolds started, when I was just making music for the love, like not trying to be successful, not trying to write a hit, not trying to, you know, not trying to break it and make it into the world; like, I was just writing music. So I feel like with this new music, I’ve had a chance to go back to that point in time where I’m just loving this shit more than anything, and I’m just making music with my friends with kind of no pressure attached to it. I can make music with anyone. It’s like, just very freeing, very free and what feels like an endless opportunities of fun to be had whilst making music with this new stuff. There is no pressure around it and I’m having so much fun with it. And being able to sort of have that chance to come back after a break and be able to do this again, and do it in a new way; a healthier way, a more fun way, a more pure, loving way, you know, it’s a dream come true for me.
That's awesome. Yeah. And I mean, it shows in the new EP that it was kind of like the rebirth, and it really is awesome to see that. And do you think that the way that you write songs now has changed?
Chris: Definitely. Like, I think the actual physical process has changed a little bit. I guess with like, the band members doing their own thing after 2017 […E]veryone took on their own personal thing, Dan became a dad and was doing more just producing stuff at home and wanting to be around his family; Lach started playing for Walk The Moon; Tim left the band entirely. It kind of left me with two choices realistically: to give up and shut the doors on The Griswolds, or find a new way to do this. And I guess the writing process now is very much just me writing to friends and being like, “Hey, you want to write a song together? Let’s have some fun with it!” So like, there’s this, there’s not the not the pressure of — I think before when, you know, me and me and Dan would go away to a songwriting house for three months and try and write an album, that’s kind of like a lot of pressure to put on oneself. And I think as much as I always loved writing a lot of songs with one person, I’m also, I guess I’m also having a great time now, writing songs with so many different people, because I think it just brings a whole new bunch of ideas to the table. So, like I can, I can hit up Nick [Petricca] from Walk The Moon and be like, “Hey, want to write a song?” And we do. And we did. And you know, that song made the EP, the song called “SOMEBODY.” And, you know, I’ve been able to hit up AJ [Jackson] from St. Motel and be like, “Hey, you want to get a songwriting session? Let’s just let’s just kick it and see what happens.” And, you know, that’ll probably be a song that ends up on an album at some point. So I’m just kind of like, freely hitting up anyone and everyone I know that is in music and meeting these great people that are sort of becoming this team that I create with now. And it’s a very large and widespread team of different talents and different genres as well. You know, like, not everyone I work with is specifically working in the indie alternative, rock kind of thing. Like one of my favorite people that I’ve been working with is an EDM producer named Max [Styler], and he just has such a different spin on the way that he produces stuff. So, like, it’s pushing the songs to new levels, I feel.
Listen: “SOMEBODY” – The Griswolds
Definitely. And you can definitely tell that. I mean, it's a very -- the new stuff is all very cohesive when you listen to it together, but you can tell that you definitely drew inspiration from a variety of people and experiences as well.
Chris: Yeah, and that’s kind of important to me when making a collection of songs. I think 2020 is now it’s such a single market, like people are just dropping singles and singles. Like, without a lot of thought on the collective kind of masterpiece. So like when I put out like an EP I want it to be a journey of like, ups and downs where you’re kind of getting a story that correlates through the whole collection of works. I want it to be this roller coaster that people get to listen to the album from start to finish or the EP from start to finish, and they get taken through a story. Rather than just listening to five singles that kind of have no jelling, cohesiveness around it.
Right, absolutely. The first time I listened to it front to back, I instantly got like a narrative. It tells a whole story, you kind of go on this roller coaster. And I think that's important in music now, because like you said, it's all single-heavy in the current landscape. Do you think that you kind of focus more on like the single stuff, versus like creating a whole piece or have you always sort of felt like this?
Chris: No, I definitely think that like, we made Be Impressive, I think we just kind of — everything was like very, not much thought, I guess. And what ended up being Be Impressive is — it ended up perfectly, because I feel like it definitely had that journey in it, but I think that wasn’t intentional, until we maybe had eight or nine of the songs done and then I realized “Oh, there’s definitely like, a theme in this, this ‘be impressive.’ This like, pressure you put on yourself to ‘be impressive.’” So I think that that theme definitely came through. But when writing High Times for Low Lives, that definitely was very, very intentional. Like how that album was kind of all about this breakup and, you know, what that kind of puts you through, to go through a breakup.
I think success for me now is to be able to make music happily and to be able to sustain a way of doing this where I can keep doing it for the next 20 years.
So now that you are basically on your own with this, do you feel like you put more pressure on yourself personally to make something good, or I mean we talked a little bit earlier that it's a lot more freeing and stuff, but do you think that you are kind of harder on yourself in terms of making the music perfect?
Chris: I think in doing it myself that what I have noticed is, it’s like, I guess there is no one else to blame if it’s shit. There’s essentially no one else down to the bottom line, which is me kind of deciding creatively what is good and what isn’t. So, I’ve definitely noticed that creatively without having your people around all the time, and the same people, you know, you get good at how you work with those people and how you bounce off those people. So of course I’m noticing not having that, I’m having a hard time sometimes being like, “Oh, I wish I could just bounce this off of Dan,” or something like that. But I guess the beauty is that I still can. And I have. So as much as as much as he’s not physically in the band to do that so much, you know, he’s still a best mate and the brother that I can still send all the demos to, and still write with. Like, he co-wrote two songs on the EP. So like, to be able to still work with those people, Lucky and Dan, on stuff is incredible, because it’s — as much as I can feel like I’m doing this by myself, I don’t have to feel that way.
That's great! Do you think that your idea or notion of success has changed at all?
Chris: Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think success for me now is to be able to make music happily and to be able to sustain a way of doing this where I can keep doing it for the next 20 years. And whether that’s Griswolds, or whether I start another project, or whether I do multiple projects, like whatever that is, I think [with] success the key is being happy and loving what you’re doing. It shouldn’t — having a job like being a musician or a songwriter, or being in a band or an artist shouldn’t be like, this crazy stressful thing that you’re that you’re starting to hate because it’s becoming so hard. Like, it should be something that you’re grateful for every day because it’s an amazing opportunity to go travel the world and play your music to people. So, I lost the sense of that a little in 2016 because we were so much just like, chasing our tails and never took time to — let’s not say we, I’m just gonna say me, I can’t speak for everyone else — you know, chasing our tails trying to catch up with the success of the band, because everything was just always on this up and up. And you know, we’re basically simple Sydney boys from Australia that started making some music and before we knew it, we were touring around the world. So I think success for me, in like 2016, was like, we’ve got to keep pushing this forward, up and up and up and up and up. We need to keep riding bigger and better hits. We need to be the biggest band we need hits on pop radio, like we need to — we need our “Shut Up and Dance.” You know, can send us to number one! And it’s the kind of pressure that you can very easily put on yourself as a creative. But yeah, now again, with that, being able to take a break and reevaluate, sit back for a second and kind of look at the journey that I’ve been on and be like, “Wow, I’ve had an amazing run with this band.” I’ve had amazing times with amazing people. I’ve met incredible people and I have traveled the world with this band. And we’ve had songs that people want to listen to people want to pay for tickets to come and see you play live, like, these amazing things. And success for me now is just holding on to that; being able to continue making music, happily.
Yeah. And appreciate everything that you got, because comparison is the thief of joy. And that is such a cliche, but it’s true!
Chris: Yeah, but you’re absolutely right!
Yeah. And so do you think that you're going to start touring again soon or unclear?
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. The whole goal — I guess, the plan from the beginning was to start releasing music out and just kind of getting people warmed up back into Griswolds, back releasing music, and then the plan is to tour this year for sure. Whether it be opening for someone or heading out on a headline run. I get so many people writing to me all the time saying, “When are you going to tour again? When are you going to tour again?” and like, that’s a really special thing to get. I love getting messages like that; that shows me just how many fans are still out there just wanting The Griswolds to hit the road. So I’m really excited to be able to get back out there and play some of this new stuff and kind of show the fans like how far The Griswolds have come.
…The fact that I can still say now that I can release music and people care enough to listen to it, it really is one of the most special feelings and one of the most incredible things I can say that’s ever happened in my life.
That's great. So, what, at the end of the day, after music is out, and people are listening to it, what do you want people to take away from it, or remember you for?
Chris: Huh. That’s a really, really good question. You know, I really just kind of tapping into when the EP came out and feeling like, what I would really want people to feel from that, I think music can bring so many emotions, I guess. It’s like, you know, a great sad song should invoke a little bit of sadness, a great party song should invoke celebrations. So I guess for me, you know, like I’m always just hoping that people find whatever they need from a song. People are going to interpret things in so many different ways. You know, when I release a song, like “ALL MY FRIENDS,” that’s encouraging people to reach out when they need help, and encouraging people to not feel like they’re alone in this world. You know, it’s this very, “We’re all in this together guys, so like, let’s help build and grow each other and support each other.” I would want people to feel encouraged by that song and kind of have that song feel like a warm blanket, in a way. Just to kind of give people like, a safe feeling. Then that’s that song in particular, I guess. So like for every song, it would be a little different, like for a song, like, “NICE TO MEET YA,” I would hope that people listen to that song and just feel nothing but fucking joy. They will just want to dance and scream that hook at the top of their lungs. And then, you know, like, I’ve written songs, like on the second album, like, [the title track] “High Times for Low Lives.” And, you know, I hope people will hear that and kind of feel the emotion that I was trying to put through into that song. I just want songs to — you know, songs are going to hit people so differently. So whatever people take from a song is kind of their own journey. And I just hope that people keep on listening and take their inspiration, however it comes to them.
Okay, yeah. I mean, music is always going to be subjective, but that's great! So I guess to wrap up, what is your absolute favorite part about this crazy life that you get to live or have lived?
Chris: Ah, wow, my favorite part — I mean, I think one of my favorite parts is to be able to have my music — like, to be able to go and play my music to multitudes of people across the planet and have people actually kind of want to — people care enough that they’re turning up to your shows and lining up outside for hours on end, and sometimes even overnight, to try and get the barrier and get front row just to see you, I think has to be one of the most rewarding things I can take from this journey so far and take from starting The Griswolds. It’s definitely not something we ever expected in starting the band. And the fact that I can still say now that I can release music and people care enough to listen to it, it really is one of the most special feelings and one of the most incredible things I can say that’s ever happened in my life.
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:: THE GRISWOLDS ::