Last fall, the Chicago duo Grapetooth quietly released their debut single “Trouble” on YouTube. Anchored by a earworm synth line that would probably be grating in any other context, the song is a mesmerizingly catchy jam boasting hand claps and gang vocal hooks. The frantic fisheye lens video featured band members Clay Frankel, who plays in the local rock outfit Twin Peaks, and Chris Bailoni, a producer who makes music as Home-sick, gallivanting around the city and riding motor scooters. Even though the whole thing consisted of less than ten words, it still felt like a defacto summer anthem for the cold fall and winter. With its seamless but still weird-as-hell meshing of Frankel's raspy, Stones-like howl with Bailoni's eccentric '80s-inspired productions, it didn’t sound close to anything coming out the city recently. The same goes for their second single “Violent,” which is premiering below at Noisey.
Frankel and Bailoni had been acquaintances for years until they bonded in late 2015 at a bar over Spaceman 3, New Order, and Arthur Russell. "It definitely was a late night drunken thing where we’d yell at each other, 'let's make music' so I didn't think anything was going to come of it until he hit me up next day and came over with his guitar,” remembers Bailoni while sipping an Old Style at Chicago’s iconic dive Rainbo Club. But while the two with no pressure wrote a couple songs together over the course of several rainy afternoons, they didn’t figure out their sound until they wrote “Trouble.” Frankel adds, “It was pretty obvious that it worked. We weren’t going on too many cigarette breaks trying to figure out a song or a sound with that one.” After they found a sound they settled on the name Grapetooth, which Frankel explains came from Twin Peaks tour manager Peyton Copes making fun of him for drinking too much wine one night on tour.
Now roommates, the two have enough finished songs recorded for a full-length album. Some tracks feel like Tears For Fears-indebted rave-ups while others boast slide guitar and country twang. It’s a jarring mesh but the two pull it off. Perhaps the most immediate of these unreleased tracks is “Violent,” which sonically feels like if New Order’s “Age of Consent” was written in a smoky Chicago apartment. Bailoni explains, "This was one of the most recent songs we’ve written. After our first show, where we opened for Knox Fortune, we realized we needed a really fast pumping song that was almost Suicide-inspired, especially with the drum loops.” On the track, synths bubble over a pulsing drum machine and a bouncy Cure-like guitar riff. Like first single trouble, "Violent" makes up for its lack of lyrical variety with an urgent delivery, "How violent are you?." Frankel explains, "I definitely had the Terrence Malick movie Badlands in my head while I was writing it for the song to make sense to me." It's a nostalgic, almost dreamy song.
To pair with the single's release, Grapetooth are sharing a video directed by Weird Life Films' Jackson James and edited by Bailoni. It has the same intense, fisheye lens-aided energy as the "Trouble" video but adds a lot more strobe lights and some semblance of a story of cops vs. robbers. “It’s definitely about the energy of pursuit and I tried to pay a little homage to Badlands," explains Frankel. While this is just the second taste of Grapetooth, the band has more material on the way as soon as they figure out what to do with the songs they've recorded. "We’ll figure it out. Grapetooth is definitely going to be a band. We might play rarely but just because I’m in another band, doesn’t mean the shows we do aren’t going to be just as fun," says Frankel. Watch it at the top of the page.
Josh Terry writes about Twin Peaks the Chicago band more than the show. Follow him on Twitter.