Interviews

"We Are Literally the Worst Band Ever": Canadian Hardcore Superstars Grade Release Two New Songs

The prodigal Canadian sons have returned.

Jonah Bayer

Either or you love Grade or you don't know who they are, it's really that simple. At a time (a.k.a. the 90s) when underground bands seemed to either be incredibly heavy (Integrity) or earnestly emo (The Get Up Kids), Grade were able to merge those two worlds into a unique amalgam of music that was as crushing as it was vulnerable. The band imploded in the early 2000s but rebanded four years ago and this year they released a reissue of their flawless 1996 EP Separate The Magnets (which includes liner notes by yours truly, among others).

But what's even more exciting is the fact that today we will be premiering not one but two new Grade songs for you from their seven-inch Collapsed Lungs which comes out on Dine Alone records on November 28. The title track is super different for the band and reminiscent of their early Second Nature Rcordings material while the B-side "Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object" features the type of melodic rock influences the band acquired during their slicker, Victory Records era. Either way, it's two new Grade songs that you can hear now for free. What else do you people want?

Don't forget Noisey is presenting a show with Grade and Garden State hardcore legends Ensign at Saint Vitus next Friday to celebrate the release and tickets are still available for that show so what are you waiting for? What better way to give thanks than to give a big middle finger to Christopher Columbus and go see a Canadian hardcore band instead?

We recently caught up with singer Kyle Bishop.

Noisey: When did you guys decide that you wanted to start recording newer material?
Kyle Bishop:
It was half by accident to be honest with you. When we did that seven-inch with Bane [in 2010], we wrote seven or eight songs and we chose to record the two that are on there, which I think are actually really good. But I sing them in such a high register that it's literally almost impossible for me to sing them accurately, so we don’t play them very often. But at that time we had songs; I don’t know what happened to them, they just kind of disappeared. We kind of just forgot about each other again, right? It’s sort of part of our makeup: We get bored playing the same old songs forever—and then when we were just practicing some more stuff came out and we decided to record it.

Were guys practicing regularly or practicing for the Separate The Magnets reissue shows earlier this year?
It’s all intermittent. It’s extremely difficult for us to get together to practice and it’s painful at times to be honest with you. All these guys have families and wives and kids and responsibilities; we all have jobs and stupid adult crap going on. For us to squeeze out two hours a week, it’s so arduous to get to that point. So regularly, definitely not. Not even close. I don’t even know what we would call it. Once in a while, really.

I know Separate the Magnets was just recorded in a couple of days. What was the process like for these songs? Did you spend more time on it?
No. [Laughs] We are literally the worst band ever. This was the worst recording process of all time, I would say. We ended up starting in a steel mill doing the drums with a guy who recorded some of our earliest demos and the very first Grade/Believe split that we did. It took us a million years to figure out when and how were gonna finish doing the guitars—and it just went from one thing to another and we ended up in a sort of real studio after that. They used some stupid fucking piece of machinery and I hated and the guitar sounded awful so they ended up having to go back and record them with proper amps in [guitarist] Greg [Taylor's] basement. Then Greg’s kid got sick and we had to cut the session off and we didn’t get back into the studio for literally five months later. The same process has gone on throughout the whole thing and uh, it sucks. [Laughs] I just put the whole idea of this record out of my mind up until yesterday when I found out that it was being released. I don’t even want to acknowledge the existence of this because it just makes me angry to think about it.

It’s interesting that the person who worked on the Believe split helped work on this because “Collapsed Lung” kind of reminded me of that that early era of the band which I haven't heard in a while.
Interesting. Well there’s a reason you haven’t heard it for a while is because it’s horrible. And a different level of horrible. I know that were never really that great of a band but that was just awful. But actually recording it was pretty good compared to the other recordings we did over the years, which were always pretty terrible. [Laughs] We have a knack for fucking things up, I guess.

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who’s in a band that people love so much that is this self-deprecating. It's usually the other way around.
I think it’s an illusion that people like us. I think there are maybe a handful of people that think that we’re OK.

What have the shows you have played recently like?
They've been pretty awesome and weird all at the same time. Promoters think that we’re bigger than we are and are putting us on these massive shows and the crowd is going, “Who the fuck are these guys?” We played a show recently out in Quebec City with Madball, Sick Of It All, and Sublime. It was two massive stages beside each other and Madball goes on and people are going crazy—and then we get on the other stage afterward and literally the entire crowd like disperses. Disappears. Ten people, maybe, might be across the front where the barrier is, which is about 15, 20 feet away from me. It was the worst experience ever. Then we finished, Sick Of It All goes on and the whole place fills up again and explodes. So we were like, “Wow, we just drove nine hours for this.”

Is it weird that Mineral and Braid and all these other bands from the early 00s are all also back together and playing shows? What's that like for you?
Nah, I mean what’s different? Look, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride are back together, too. A lot of times you just need to cool off, right? You get to the point where a band just isn't producing or doing anything good anymore and if the scene falls away from it, then the band will just stop. Then when the interest comes back and people want to hear the music again, they’ll come back. It’s all cyclical, there’s a reason why it’s happening. You have to kind of break up and disappear and let other things come in. I think it’s cool. I’m glad that Mineral’s back, I’m glad these bands are playing. They’re great bands.

Is there any sort of bitterness or a lack of recognition when it comes to Grade as far as what it was you guys were doing in your heyday?
Bitterness, no. I mean, as I said, there’s a lot of accolades that people give us for supposedly starting something and I think that’s all bullshit to be honest with you. I think that there’s a billion bands that were doing similar things before us and after that that deserve just as much credit. And if we do get some credit by certain people, awesome. If we don't, it doesn’t really matter because I really don’t think it’s true anyways. I was never bitter about it. I was more mad at myself for being stupid at that time for not being handed some award for being awesome, you know? It was never about that.

Maybe I’m projecting my bitterness onto you.
[Laughs] There’s a lot of self-sabotage that happened within this band. There are a lot of moves we could have made that we didn't because we were too hardcore or too punk rock or too idealistic. If we were smarter then things would have been so different. But instead of making the follow-up to Under The Radar a pop gem like everyone wanted from us, we made a metal record that sounded like shit. And the one poppy song on the record that was supposed to be the single, I changed during the video shoot just to piss off the record label. It was all self-sabotage. We were just like, “It's way cooler to do it like this!” In theory, yeah, sure. But in reality it was kind of stupid. Especially if you wanna have longevity in the band. [Laughs] I’m sure it happens to a million bands.

One last thing. I think a few years ago someone sent me an article about you saving a woman from a burning car, superhero style. Is that true or did I make it up?
That was real. At the time, I had a truck and I was filling it up for Canadian Thanksgiving and some lady decided to drive into the gas station and smash into the pumps. The whole station blew up and in the midst of it, I saw her and her friend in the car and I ran in and pulled them out of the flames.

Wow. That's very impressive.
Well I’ll tell you, I had a little bit of an inner battle saying, “Hey, should I drive my truck away and get it out of the flames? Or should I save the lady who just destroyed the entire place?” I saved the lady instead of my truck. Sometimes you’ve got to make the better choice.

This is a time Jonah Bayer's life where everything is falling apart but at the same time, it's all coming together. Follow him on Twitter - @mynameisjonah