The Puget Sound region of Washington State has a long and proud heritage of rock n roll. Those early garage rock bands? We had The Sonics and The Wailers. Surf rock? We had the motherfuckin’ Ventures. The golden age of classic rock? We had this one guy named Jimi who was pretty good at guitar. You wanna talk indie rock? We gave you Sunny Day Real Estate, Death Cab For Cutie, and Modest Mouse. But of course, I’m avoiding the obvious one here. There was that little cultural phenomenon back in ’91 that Washingtonians still feel a little uncomfortable embracing. Yes, we’re very proud of our Nirvana, our Mudhoney, our Soundgarden. But please don’t remind us about “grunge”. It conjures memories of Ugly Kid Joe, Stone Temple Pilots, and Candlebox.
But should we be ashamed of grunge? I mean, none of us really wanna embody the stereotypes concocted by Cameron Crowe in Singles, but are we really bummed on scrappy no-fucks-given bands that have an affinity for big riffs and scuzzy tones? Aren’t the Melvins still one of the greatest bands on the planet? Why aren’t we all waving the grunge flag? Seattle’s Good To Die Records might be one of the only labels on the planet that doesn’t shy away from the g-word. Their flagship band, Sandrider, even went so far to make “Louder Than Louder Than Love" shirts modeled after Chris Cornell and co.’s lauded sophomore album. And now they’ve teamed up with Sub Pop grads and cosmic dirge purveyors Kinski for a split LP. The collaboration is a pretty sweet reminder of everything we loved about that first generation of Northwest musicians who were obsessed with equal parts Flipper and Zeppelin. The riffs are grimey. The beats have that kind of kick-and-crash emphasis that a certain DC transplant brought into Nirvana just before they blew up. Don’t call it a throwback. Call it a reminder that the Rainy City never lost its grit and guts. Get it here.
But maybe I’m projecting too much. Maybe the Sandrider and Kinski guys are operating on a whole other label that I’m not hip to. I figured it was worth asking them.
NOISEY: Is it finally safe to use the word “grunge” again? Or is grunge so outdated and offensive that it’s practically an epithet?
Chris Martin/ Kinski: Grunge was outdated at the time that it was happening.
Jon Weisnewski / Sandrider: The nice people at ESPN called us "GRUNGE BAND" on TV, if that helps answer the question. There are some "grunge" labeled bands that will always be favorites and huge inspiration to me, and there are other "grunge" bands that are extremely offensive examples of major label money grabs on current music trends. I've always said Sandrider is a "loud rock" band. You can call us whatever you want. It won't bother me.
If you had to cite one classic grunge band as a major influence, who would you pick? And you can’t say Blind Melon cuz everyone knows they weren’t trve kvlt grvnge.
Chris: No grunge band was a major or minor influence on Kinski. Once when an old band of mine opened up for Blind Melon in a little club in Pullman, WA, they made us sell our t-shirts for $20 to match what they were asking. We were asking $5. They sent some of their girlfriends over to buy a shirt. We had made a sign that said $20 but we were still selling them for $5. They got mad. We like rock music from '65 to '73, some punk and Hüsker Dü! And a bunch of other things that aren't grunge.
Jon: I've always been pretty outspoken about Soundgarden being a big influence on my song writing. We even aped them on a shirt. They often get lumped into the ol' grunge bucket.
Sandrider’s cover of “Mountain Song” is pretty faithful to the original Jane’s Addiction version. So I have to ask, do you guys wear shirts when you play it live? Or do you totally half-ass it?
Jon: I tend to remain firmly shirt-ed live, but we do have photographic proof that all guitars were tracked shirtless to preserve authenticity.
Speaking of shirts off, Sandrider claims to be “louder than Soundgarden”, but are you as cut as Chris Cornell?
Jon: No. I do exercise a lot but it's only to offset the beer and cheeseburgers. And we're not louder than Soundgarden either. Nat and I were lucky enough to get into their first secret "Nude Dragons" reunion show at the Showbox when they first got back together and it was easily the loudest show I've ever seen. Sunn, Thrones, Melvins, Indian, all those bands that are known for being loud? Soundgarden shat all over them that night. It was a horror show (the good kind).
There’s some pretty serious wah-pedal action on the Kinski side of the record. I can’t think of a whole lot of wah awareness in the history of grunge, except unless you count Jerry Cantrell. But Alice In Chains were always a little dubious. What’s your stance on Alice In Chains? I won’t judge you. Bear in mind that the main riff in “Them Bones” has the double-punch of being in 7/8 AND being based on a chromatic scale, but don’t let that sway your opinion.
Chris: I would rather have a colonoscopy than listen to Alice In Chains.
So are you guys grunge bands or not?
Jon: If that's the buzzword you need to push units or get website clicks, then go for it. You can call us dub-step if you want. It's not gonna change what we like to play.