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Art should be disruptive or it probably isn’t worth doing: grandson - CFMU Artist Sketch

Blog/MusicFebruary 13th 2019
Roohi Kailey

It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be loud. It will smell like stale beer and sweat. It’ll be people that look like a lot of different things, and I hope you will feel safe in this space.

grandson, the stage moniker of 25-year-old Toronto artist is loud, in-your-face, and dare I say, the face for the future of rock and roll. Yet, his gritty, blues-inspired hip hop beats and electronic synths are hardly the biggest distinction in what separates grandson from the crowd.

Striving to empower the youth of today to fight against apathy, the now Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter is both the fuel and the fire in the modern day revolution.

We got a chance to interview grandson before the start of his No Apologies tour, which is making its stop in Hamilton on February 28, 2019.

The thing we admire most about you is your ability to speak your truth. How important is it to you, and why, that your music conveys that?

Thank you. I think it is the responsibility of an artist to be honest, sometimes painfully so, to bare your scars your insecurities your truth in such a way that others can learn from it or be more comfortable sharing their own. I think that if it isn’t disruptive, if it isn’t a little uncomfortable, it probably isn’t worth doing. Otherwise you’re just singing. And lots of people are singers. But an artist is something different. That’s my take on it and I try to meet that commitment fully. 

Grandson promo1

What does it mean to you be an activist, and what do you say to those who believe politics has no place in art?

To be an activist in 2019 is to try and get people’s attention, and keep it, on the things you find important. Those things will sometimes go against what is popular or convenient. I ask myself what more I can do a lot, and feel a little guilty being referred to as an activist. I think my privilege of circumstance enables me to be active in the way I am. Different people feel different levels of urgency.

"Art is whatever you make it. Maybe they’re right. I think they’re wrong.  I think they can eat a d*ck and crawl back under a rock."

Big problems take big solutions, those solutions often take more than a two week viral campaign to achieve. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed at the magnitude of some of the problems we face. That’s why the cathartic release of yelling into a microphone has become so important for me and my mental health.

What would I say to a person who believes politics has no place in art? F*ck if I know. They probably don’t give a shit what I have to say if they’re so sure of themselves. Art is whatever you make it. Maybe they’re right. I think they’re wrong.  I think they can eat a d*ck and crawl back under a rock. But I still listen to Migos and embrace escapism sometimes too. 

RELATED: "I think if you’re emotional than you’re political. If you’re sensitive than you’re alive." Read our interview with Broken Social Scene.

Your sound in and of itself is revolutionary. As a 21 year old myself, your music represents for so many what it means to be alive in this moment right now. How does this translation sit with your own intentions?

However you translate it, you are right. My intention is to make music that is evocative, that is reflective of the time I’m writing it, in my head in my community and in my political environment. That convoluted feeling of being alive now, in what feels like the best and worst of times, is different for different people. I’m glad you resonate with it. 

Grandson promo2

A lot of your music touches on ideas mental health, gun violence, fighting apathy, and financial inequality- that has been really controversial, or at least topics of discourse spread wider by means of the internet. What do you think of the way being online has affected communication, do you see it getting better/worse?

I think the internet just makes us more of what we already are- fickle, distracted, passionate, fearful, apathetic, empathetic. It certainly bolsters different silos of thought and limits contact between different ideologies in calm, rational settings. I think the human brain has certain capacities to process information, to confirm what it thinks it already knows, to respond to fear or the threatening of identity, and I think those capacities are being assaulted by foreign and domestic agents with their own motives and agendas.

"It’s hard to remain optimistic sometimes. Maybe that’s why self deprecating or really macabre memes and Instagram pages are so popular."

I recognize my own experiences and biases constitute my beliefs, and at this point I just hope that “my side” can break the system and assert our agenda- of inalienable human rights, of environmental rights, of justice- in ways that resonate and move the cultural needle a bit. It’s hard to remain optimistic sometimes. Maybe that’s why self deprecating or really macabre memes and Instagram pages are so popular. F*ck if I know. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better.

How would you describe your live experience, what can fans expect on this tour?

It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be loud. It will smell like stale beer and sweat. It’ll be people that look like a lot of different things, and I hope you will feel safe in this space. It’s an homage to the bands I grew up influenced by. It’s the small rooms this music was meant to be played in. Its elbows flying in the mosh pit but everybody stopping to pick you up if you get knocked down. It’s going to be real. 

As we are a community radio station for McMaster University, we see a ton of great musicians coming out of the school. Do you have any advice you could give them?

Make it honest, be honest with yourself as you make it. If you think it’s good, if you think it connects, there’s a pretty good chance somebody is going to agree with you. Find that person and make it about nothing beyond serving them. 

grandson’s new single “Apologize” is out now on all streaming platforms.

Roohi Kailey is in her graduating year at McMaster University for Communications and Multimedia, and is the current Music Director at CFMU. She hosts the Top 5 every other Thursday, and spends her days listening to new releases. 

WATCH: "I worked as a photographer's assistant... it's was a pretty, can I say sh*tty?, a pretty sh*tty job. Watch our Radiohead interview.

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