Category Archives: Grade

Interview: Grade

This is the last of the four interviews conducted in 1998 and the only one where I actually sat down with the band. On this occasion, Shawn McGill (guitars), Greg Talyor (guitars), Matt Jones (bass) and Kevin Finlayson (drums) of the Burlington, Ontario band Grade were kind enough to sit outside on the sidewalk and answer my questions prior to their show in Ft Pierce, FL on May 19, 1998. The band had released their seven-song EP Separate the Magnets on Second Nature Recordings (which will be remastered and repressed on vinyl later this year) the year before and just wrapped up two weeks of dates along the East Coast the previous evening in Gainesville, FL with Hot Water Music. The band talked about touring with Hot Water Music, addressed rumors of signing with Revelation Records, the new album and meeting Scott Ian from Anthrax in New York City. The interview was originally recorded on 8mm film, and it took me a while to have it transferred into a digital format and finally transcribe it. I filmed the show that night in Ft Pierce and Grade and Hot Water Music’s shows the night before in Gainesville, FL. I’ve got one video up (see below) and hope to get the rest up soon.

Phil> First, could you give a little history of the band?
Matt > We started about four years ago now, with the same lineup we currently have but with a different drummer. We released a CD on Workshop Records. It was a split CD with Believe, a band from Burlington. Maybe a year or so after that, we recorded another LP, And Such is Progress, on Capsule Records. It sold really well but went out of print, and the guy that ran Capsule never repressed it. After that, we took a little time off, we recorded another 7″, but after that we broke up for a while. I think mostly because…
Greg > We didn’t break up!
Matt > Kind of…
Shawn > I didn’t know that either!
Kevin > Well, you guys kind of took a break. You weren’t doing anything.
Matt > Yeah, we took a break. We didn’t play any shows for about six months.
Greg > Because everyone was doing side-projects, that’s why. Everyone ended up doing side projects that ended up doing really well.

Grade live@ The Hardback, Gainesville FL 1998

Grade live
@ The Hardback, Gainesville FL 1998

Phil > Acrid?
Greg: Yeah, Acrid, Jersey, SeventyEightDays. More than half the band had different side projects that were doing well. So, that’s one of the reasons why we took a break.

Phil > Where do you see hardcore going as a genre, especially with bands like Earth Crisis and Sick of it All gaining popularity?
Matt > I think a lot of the hardcore bands these days are taking over from where the thrash metal bands from the 80s were. They all had their videos, and they were the big thing. They were doing arena tours, but now you’ve got Earth Crisis doing OzzFest. They’re as big as bands were in the 80s, I think, so they’ve just kind of picked up where those bands left off when hair-metal fell to the wayside. I think it’s pretty cool that they can make a living off of it and be successful by doing something that they’re really into. I think more and more bands are going to start doing that as well.

Phil > They take a lot for it from inside the scene, though.
Matt > Yeah, I guess they get a lot of shit.
Greg > But, I mean that’s from people who… they don’t know what it’s like. They don’t what the struggle has been like. Usually it’s from people that don’t even know anything about the people in the band at all. What their situations are, or anything like that. In my mind, none of those bands have really… they haven’t sold out. They haven’t changed their sound. They haven’t compromised their music. What they’re really doing is spreading a message to people that don’t know what’s been going on. They can say the same thing to the same people a million times, and it will make no difference. So, I think it’s pretty cool.

Phil > So, what was touring with Hot Water Music like for the last two weeks?
Greg > Amazing!
Matt > It was awesome.
Shawn > It was so much fun.
Matt > That was the best time we’ve had in a long time.
Shawn > Those guys are definitely one of my favorite bands, and have been for a long time. So, it was so cool to get to hang out with them and see them play every night.
Matt > Yeah, we just got to watch them every night and that was the best part of it. Just hanging out with them. They’re so fun.
Shawn > The shows were all really good. They bring in a huge crowd. They’ve toured with Avail. They’ve done so many tours that it really helped us out supporting them because so many more kids came to see the shows than if it were just us by ourselves.
Kevin > Yeah, we played about five or six sold-out shows up in New England, which is great. Sold-out shows on a Monday night are pretty rare.
Matt > We sold out three shows in a row or something like that. Four out of five shows were sold out. That was awesome.

Phil > I had hear that you guys might be putting out stuff on Revelation now, is that true?
Greg > It’s a possibility.
Matt > Yeah, it’s possible. We are kind of in negotiations. We have been talking with Revelation and Some Records from New York City, which is run by Walter from Quicksand, Matt from Judge and Sammy from Youth of Today. We haven’t really decided yet. We’re still thinking about it, weighing our options.
Kevin > We haven’t really talked seriously about it yet, but we’ve got a publicist now and we’ve just signed with Sesac to get royalties from radio stations.
Greg > You guys are going to have to talk louder!
Kevin > You’re going to have to sit closer!
Greg > Can you hear them?

Phil > I can, but I don’t know if the camera can.
Greg > You’re going to have to talk louder…

Phil > If not, I’ll have to crank it up on the TV. So, how is the touring going, experience-wise? You’ve toured before, but does anything stand out on this one?
Greg > It’s the biggest one! It’s the biggest and longest tour we’ve done. It’s been the most people. It’s been the best tour so far. I’m sure that was largely one part Hot Water Music and one part our new record on Second Nature. But it’s been good.
Kevin > There have definitely been some highlights. New York City was a really big highlight. We got there, we went to the club, Samiam was shooting their video, which was really cool, and just getting to hang out with those guys afterward. Scotty from Anthrax came to the show, and that was just kind of cool.
Shawn > And his ex-girlfriend tried to pick up Caleb, the merch-guy for Hot Water Music…
Greg > And then we got smashed at a bar.
Matt > Some of us did.
Kevin > No, we all got smashed. It was was back-pocket edge that night.

Grade live@ The Hardback, Gainesville FL 1998

Grade live
@ The Hardback, Gainesville FL 1998

Phil > How has Grade affected you guys over the last four or five years? Has it become a huge part of your lives, or do you still keep it…
Matt > It’s become a bigger part all the time now. It was never taken too seriously, just a hobby where we’d just play shows on weekends occasionally and record every once in a while, but now… I just quit my job to go on tour. We want to tour as much as possible. These guys are thinking about taking some time off school so we can concentrate on writing a new record and touring a lot more. We’re going to try and do a new album in the fall, record a new album in the fall, which will hopefully be out in the winter or early spring, and then next year just tour as much as we can. We just want to travel. We’ve never been… we’d like to make it out to California. A tour out there. Europe maybe, Japan, Australia, Hawaii, wherever we can go. We want to play.

Phil > I’m not sure who write the lyrics, but is there any one thing you’d like to get across in the lyrics, or is it a multitude of things?
Greg > I’d say for the majority of the band, we try and construct songs in a way that they just explode and we hope that other people get โ€“ obviously not the same reaction โ€“ but something similar. Or their own emotion out of it. Some energy. Have a good time.
Kevin > A lot of what we’re trying to say, we actually write with the music and Kyle puts the lyrics with that. But, there are four of us writing the music, and we say a lot, right in that. Trying to make it really emotional and powerful. All the songs are like anthems.

Separate the Magnets
(Second Nature, 1997)

Phil > This record, I would say, is more upbeat that And Such is Progress
Shawn > yeah!

Phil > Is it just progression. I listened to the Grade/Believe split for the first time and last night, and it was like… wow!
Matt > Yeah, we’ve changed a lot. But there was a big gap with the new record. Almost two years. And I guess the way we wrote songs has just completely changed. Now they have way more energy, are way more upbeat and faster, more powerful, more rockin’ or poppy or whatever you want to call it. In general they’re catchier. People get more into it.
Greg > It’s just a progression, because I didn’t listen to the And Such is Progress LP for a long time and I went back and I listened to it, and it was just like “holy shit, this stuff is really slow”. I still like it, it’s just a little slow. Even when we play those older songs, we speed them up a bit now. It’s more energy, I think.

Phil > Just one thing, could you guys play the last song from your new album…
Matt > The Tie That Binds, yeah, sure no problem!

Grade playing The Tie That Binds in Ft. Pierce, FL that night:


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