Pictured from left: Grayson Hamm, Brandon Brewer, Wes Belk, Walt Blythe
This interview was used as a basis for a write-up on Space4Lease that you can read here. Featured are Grayson Hamm (lead vocals, keyboards), Walt Blythe (guitar), and Brandon Brewer (bass, vocals). Wes Belk (drums) was absent from this interview.
In this interview format, the subject chooses from categories to determine which questions are asked. Each category has a varying degree of control, both on the part of the interviewer and the interviewee. This structure is designed to empower the subjects interviewed as well as broaden the topics discussed.
Hamm: Not that long at all. *all laugh*
I’m pretty hard on myself, so if I had a friend that was just like that, being so hard on me, I don’t know how long I’d want them to be around.
Brewer: But is it hard in a positive or a negative?
Hamm: It’s back and forth. I would say more positive, more constructive criticism on myself. But it’d be funny, yeah, not very long at all.
Blythe: I could go down a very big rabbit hole with this question. I feel like I’d love myself if we were both at a bar having a good time, but then the next day, you kind of go, “When are you going home, bud?” (all laugh)
As a human, you could grow, so there’s the rabbit hole conundrum. If that person does not grow and stays the person that you are when it comes about, then you’re probably not gonna like it. We all grow and get over the things we don’t like about ourselves. Or we don’t, and we hold it like baggage. If they could grow and continue with you, then of course, they’d be like the cool twin we all wish we had but never did.
Brewer: I tend to find the positive in things. If you stay negative and constantly bash yourself, then you don’t feel too good about yourself. If I had a friend that talks to me the same way I talk to myself, I think we’d probably be pretty good homies.
Brewer: Not so much. This is the first EP that, like, this is us. We really wanted to show multiple sides in the project, and “Holding On to Hope” is the brighter side of it.
Hamm: More optimistic?
Brewer: Yeah, for sure.
Blythe: Not so much musically, but concept-wise, “Holding On to Hope” is pretty broad and introspective yet outrospective at the same time. What I take in is what I put out. The rest of the EP goes down some different themes. I think they land well together, but they also musically and conceptually can also be in their own little pockets as well.
Hamm: This EP definitely has a theme. I see the song as the anthem for what I was feeling at the time or my generation or my social class or my peers. That’s why we really pushed it as a single. We felt the importance behind the whole theme of the song. We didn’t look so much in the style of the song or the lyrics of the song, but in the theme and the energy that it brought. Playing it live, we saw that.
I really feel that it’s important for people to know that we have a bunch of different influences. Walt being very jazz, Brandon being very influenced by hip-hop, being a producer in that sense before he was even a bass player, Wes being a drummer in two other bands that were more heavy rock, and then me not being in any band at all—it’s really cool to see all these characters implement into the EP.
What I’ve said before is that “Holding On to Hope” is the head of the spear. The whole EP definitely takes you on different routes.
Hamm: No matter where you’re from or how old you are, everybody wants to succeed. Everybody wants to do well. Everyone wants to leave behind a legacy. I think we all do it in different types of ways. As for us, we found it musically.
The world can definitely alter that throughout your life. You can have some life experiences that can change your course for sure, but I think growing up, everybody strives to be something great and to dream big. As artists, it’s a luxury because you still have that mindset of making a difference through music. That’s probably my favorite part about being a musician–still feeling like a little kid at times.
Blythe: Community and being accepted. I think music plays a huge part in that, and we’re lucky we get to do that. We all hang out because we accept each other. We want other people to accept us from our music, but also, we want our music to help other people accept each other. I like that.
Brewer: The ability love somebody, not just in a sexual way, but having that care enough to do something good for somebody.
Blythe: I’m really giddy about this one. Myself and our sound engineer, tour manager, and good buddy who goes on the road with us Mr. Caleb Gray were in Utah on our last tour, and we had an extra day off. We went around Moab, UT, on a hike and got in this remote, deep spot along this creek in this canyon covered by caves and rock walls that were like 1,000 feet tall.
We both had this look. Caleb walks into rooms and claps to hear the reverb. We both were like, “How amazing would it be to take every single bit of recording equipment and go out into this canyon that take miles to hike into and be able to record an album? I don’t think anyone’s ever really done that, and if they have, I don’t know about it. I feel like I should know about that.
That would be my own personal one, to go into the most remote, craziest acoustic location that no one’s ever been to and record a full album.
Brewer: I would love to just have a really, really nice studio and rehearsal spot in the same building. We’d be able to do whatever we want at all times without having to worry about bills and all that bs. We’d wake up there, drink some coffee, and then play.
Hamm: I would just love to travel and take a camera with me everywhere.
I went to Haiti last summer. I met people that were my age that I had no idea even existed on this planet until I met them face to face and lived that reality. I really fell in love with that. To see new places, new cities, new people of all cultures and ethnicities would be my second dream job.
Brewer: Like that dude from Humans of New York.
Blythe: We’re kind of a band that likes to take risks. We all like so many different styles. When you’re playing a show and play something that no one’s expecting, everyone’s like “What the hell?”
Brewer: “Bunch of white boys up there singing R&B”
Blythe: The few hip-hop songs that we’ve done have actually done wonders. It’s great because we do have a bit of that influence in some of our sound. It works better in some places than others, but you find the right time, you throw it out there, people enjoy it, we enjoy it.
Brewer: I’ve always really enjoyed hip-hop. There’s just something about it. I run a little recording studio, and that’s what I got into early on. I recorded local rappers, and I got sucked into that scene for a while. When I moved to Oklahoma City, I didn’t know anybody, so that’s how I kind of “cut my teeth.” Even at Norman Music Fest, we had Grand National come do a verse on our show.
Hamm: Like Brandon said, I’ve always loved hip-hop. For a 10-to-15-year-old kid who’s super into athletics, what better music is there than hip-hop to get you pumped up? That’s where all that came from.
Even with piano and songwriting, being 18, 19, 20, I still have those same influences today. It was important to me to show those off. I don’t go the direct route of trying to imitate it, but I use certain aspects of it.
Blythe: So I do all the booking.
I don’t remember who said it, and to tell you the truth, I think the person who said it to me was no one who had done it. I just remember one day at some hip-hop show here in town, I heard someone say ‘Nobody loves you and really wants to see you until you’re gone,’ and that stuck with me really hard.
When you don’t oversaturate, you don’t overplay, and you go other places, you not only meet people, make new friends, get to see cool places in the world, but also when you come back home, people are ready for it. The really good thing for us is that when we get home, we’re fresh. We’re playing 11 days and 14 nights, and then we come home for a show, people are excited to see us, and we come out hot.
We’ve made great connections. We kill the record stores in the towns. We’ve met a lot of blog writers and bands. They’ve opened our musical minds, our traveling minds, our professional minds to new areas of creativity, professionalism, and individuality to become who we want ourselves to be.
Brewer: Also, we love to travel. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and being able to do it while playing music? What? That’s dope, dude. That’s one of the coolest things you can ever do in life.
Hamm: Isn’t that what every band wants? We’re so blessed in a way. You have me that writes a lot of the material. You have Walt that books a lot of the gigs. You have Brandon that does recording and mixing with Caleb. We really do have something that’s unique.
It’s an adventure, not knowing what to expect. Some nights are better than others, but the fact that we all have the drive to accept it for what it is makes me enjoy playing in this band. We do complain and get in arguments, but we have a base mentality of trying to do this for real. [ACM@UCO] has helped in so many ways to give us the education to even think on this level as professional musicians.
Blythe: I just want to add that it’s a lot of hard work. You gotta put a lot into it. You gotta deal with some stress. You gotta learn to cooperate with people, but it’s actually easier than you think.
Hamm: We all exist. That’s for sure. The difference for me is stepping out of your comfort zone, really pushing yourself to be as good as you can be not just as a musician but as a human being in general. You want to see your limitations and see how far you can really go. That’s kind of what we’re doing in a musical sense already. We’re living that difference between living and existing.
I used to get so nervous about playing because I didn’t start singing until I was 17, and I had never played in a band until I got to ACM@UCO. I felt some pressure where there was the fear of “am I good enough? Am I worth it?” Overcoming that fear was proof of living and not just being content with where you are.
Blythe: I’ll take a bit of a different route and say that I don’t understand the universe. I don’t understand the cosmos. I don’t understand why we’re here, but that’s part of it. I love that, being able to question things.
Existing is being here, and living is taking that and making something out of it. That’s as far as I can go because, like I said, I don’t understand it yet.
Brewer: I really like it in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City has such a blossoming scene. I want to be a part of that for as long as I can. We love going out of town, but I like being here and going to shows here. I love the people. The artists are dope. There’s so much talent. People want to make it cooler, and you can feel that. I think that if I left, I would come right back.
Blythe: When we tour, some places have a really great music scene where you can tell everyone is really connected. There’s good venues doing good things, and people like each other and think each other is talented. If they can’t do a gig with you, they’ll find someone who can. That is such a good feeling.
That’s what I want from here, and we have that if the scene keeps growing until we have one conglomerate of amazing artists who really give a shit about each other. Sometimes I find some of our young mentalities can make jealousy a factor and things like that.
As the scene is growing and as we’re growing within it, this is our home and will always be our home. I love getting to travel, but I really like what goes on here.
Hamm: There are not a lot of communities like Oklahoma.
I had an ex-girlfriend who was from Wisconsin, and I lived in a small town, in Prague, OK. Everybody waved at each other, and she was blown away by the fact that everybody was so nice and sincere. I think the whole state, the whole community brings that vibe. I want to keep being a part of that. I think Oklahoma has made us who we are.
I feel our mindset is right where it needs to be as young artists–really humble about what we do and sincere when we’re traveling to new places, going out on these adventures, and meeting new people. If we were from L.A., would we have that same mindset? Probably not.
You learn to appreciate the little things in life, and I don’t think you find that in many places.
Anything you want to add?
Blythe: This EP is near and dear to our hearts. We took our time with it. We really were able to shape it and shape ourselves. You don’t just jump into a band, write an album, and throw it into the wind. This is the foundation, and it’s set us on a great path of knowing our strengths, our weaknesses, and how to play with each other.
Hamm: We’re so ready as a band to get this music out. We love creating. I’m super excited to get the foundation down and build on that. We’re progressing, and we’re not taking steps back. There’s so much more material that we want to put out.
Blythe: I’ll take that. That’s good. If you had given us a bad fortune cookie, we would have been out.
Brewer: We’d move to Seattle. (all laugh)
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.