Chris ‘Griff’ Griffiths is one third of the membership of Sydney band Grimick and one half of its name.
Confused? Never fear. (Small band member joke there; we move on.) Yes, never fear because Griff has a black belt in algebra, and is not afraid to use it.
Grimick are Griff, Mick (join the naming dots there) and Dr Fear.
I first encountered Grimick at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival several years ago and was quite mesmerised by their songs and music. Later, listening to their wonderful album ‘Dazzle’, I was even more enchanted. Firstly, for the stunning production values and warm, rich sound, and secondly for the fact that Grimick have this tendency to give their music away.
Griff explains more about this giving-away ethos in the interview, both giving away CDs at gigs and giving you the ability to download the whole shooting match at their website.
I interviewed Griff at Punchbowl Boys’ High School in Sydney’s south-west earlier this week and we spent a bit of time talking about the benefits to be had from inter-meshing music and education.
And by and by, we did discuss music, and Grimick’s first foray to the National Folk Festival this weekend.
Highly recommended. See them if you can.
*** Audio file will be removed at end of February 2020 ***
Bill Quinn: 2013 is a year for doing interviews in new and interesting places. Already I’ve done one in a harness racing kitchenette, and now we’re at the Punchbowl Boys High School. I’m talking to Griff from the wonderful band Grimick. Hello, Griff.
Chris Griffiths: How’re you going? Thanks for making your way out to sunny Punchbowl on this Monday morning.
BQ: It’s sweaty Punchbowl at the moment; it’s nice and warm out there.
CG: It is. When is this humidity going to go?
iBQ: Possibly when we hit autumn. Oh! We have.
CG: Autumn will be just about over by the time we get some cool weather. But it can hold on a few more days for me, because I don’t mind if we have balmy weather down at Canberra for the National.
BQ: Yes, we’re going to talk about the National, and we’re also going to stop talking about weather. In the last interview, I said I’m going to stop talking about weather.
Griff, tell us about Punchbowl Boys High School and how long you’ve been here for.
CG: I’ve been at Punchbowl Boys High School for four or five years now, operating as a deputy principal. Wow, what a wonderful team of people to work with, and I’m very passionate about it, actually. And I know, Bill, when we’ve chatted before, education has come up a couple of times.
As a result, some of my songs have been inspired by some of the students I’ve been involved with, some of the teachers I’ve worked with over the years. Yeah, very passionate about it, five or six years in, and ready to do another five or six years or more.
BQ: Do you sort of feed some of your music back into the education stuff? Is it something the children respond to?
CG: Absolutely, particularly some of our more disengaged students.
When I was working in a different school, I was involved in developing an audio engineering course, and we found that there were a number of students who, in many ways, probably wouldn’t have shown up for school had it not been for doing remixes and learning how to record and how it all works in the studio. Luckily we had some good resources there, and it helped them to engage in their other subjects that they were doing.
And I find it’s a way you can connect with the kids, and particularly in the type of environment where you’re at a disadvantaged school in south west Sydney, you need some things you can connect with the kids on.
It’s all about connection; if they feel connected to you, if they feel that you really are there for them – and music can be the vehicle for that – then they show up. And not only show up, they want to add to the school; they want to do positive things for you and for the school.
BQ: You’ve hit on something that I’m a fan of. You can take kids that are a bit like a square peg in a round hole. You put them in a classroom and they’ll disassociate from algebra. But put them behind a mixing desk and let them twiddle with sounds and tweak things, and it’s a different story.
CG: Well, thanks Bill. My background is actually in mathematics! So…
CG: But I can agree with you there, because it’s not always the most engaging thing that kids will sit down and do, sitting down to do algebra. And the question is, of course: when am I ever going to use this in life? But it does teach a discipline.
But I agree with what you’re saying. We have boys here in our school and there’s no shortage of intelligence, but they’re not necessarily directing that intelligence, talent or whatever into some of those mainstream courses. So, if you can come up with something creative…
In fact, at the moment we’re celebrating the fact that we’ve got a school song that’s now been performed on the 7.30 Report and in a number of different places that was written by some of the students. As a result, the words come across as being really true and honest.
And it’s actually quite moving, because you realise that for some kids, school is the most stable element in their lives. So they’re wanting to write something from the heart, and if you can help that along or be a bit of a vehicle for that, or even just to put the right people in place or positions to help that, that’s what you try to work around the system to do.
BQ: And moving into music, how’s everything going with Grimick?
CG: We’re having a great year this year. We’ve had a number of festivals. We came back from the Cygnet [Folk] Festival in Tasmania, we just a little run at Humph Hall on the Northern Beaches, a beautiful little venue – I don’t know if you’ve heard of, they’re totally acoustic. We love Wayne [Thompson], he’s out there, and he’s trying to build a real community around that place.
We’ve got the National, we’re booked in to do the Northern Beaches Music Festival, and just really enjoying it. And I guess our feeling is if we continue enjoying it, if we continue working to look after our audiences and they’ll look after us. So, we just feel really privileged at the moment.
And look, it’s a good outlet too. We have our day jobs as well that we’re passionate about, but in many ways we don’t sort of separate the two. Music is our life along with our work, and it’s music whatever we do. So if it’s performing at a festival or whether it’s performing on an assembly, or whether it’s performing in a classroom – it’s all performance, in a way.
So we’re really just enjoying it at the moment. We’re a pretty relaxed group; whoever wants to hear us play, we’re there. That’s our attitude.
BQ: Now you know I’m a massive fan of that wonderful album ‘Dazzle’, is there anything else in the pipelines in terms of recording?
CG: Absolutely. At the moment we’ve got a little six-track sampler that we’re giving away at our performances to give you a taste of our forthcoming album. And that [album]’s going to be ready in a month or two. We’re really, really proud of this new work. Haven’t quite come up with the title yet. I’ve got my idea, but as bands go, there’ll be arguments and tantrums I’m sure before we settle on it.
BQ: You’ll need those assistant principal skills with the band!
CG: Yes, that’s right! Mediation skills.
But at the moment, as you know, Bill, we’re the type of group that give our music away. We do that for a number of reasons. We have a philosophy, as I’ve sort of mentioned earlier, that if we look after our fans and we look after our audiences and we give them songs that really mean a lot to us, we just love to see them at our shows. And if they’ve got the songs and if they know the words and they want to come and see us for that reason, that’s why we do it.
And it’s been interesting that, with that philosophy, we get a lot of people that actually want to contribute and want to pay for the works that we do. And so far, touch wood, as we’ve looked after people, the universe has looked after us. As long as that keeps going, we feel like we’ll keep going.
BQ: And I’ve seen that in action down at Gundagai. You’ve said that, and I’m holding this beautiful tri-fold album – and I’ve told this story so many times – I loved watching people coming up and contributing because they felt like they wanted to.
CG: Yeah, well we feel like we wanted to. If someone can’t afford an album, we don’t want that to be a barrier to hearing our music. We do a thing where we say: whatever you can afford, or if you can’t afford anything but you really love our music, then come and grab it. We’ve got a lot of our stuff that you can download as well off the internet.
And for us, it’s the real deal: it’s not like a marketing ploy. We love our music and we believe in the messages behind what we do, and we spend a lot of time working out lyrically what is the story that we want to tell. So we would like as many people to have access to that as possible.
BQ: The National Folk Festival: is this the first time for Grimick?
CG: First time, yes. We’re so excited about it. We’ve been chipping away for a few years now, and I guess to us it’s a little bit of indication that Grimick the name is sort of getting out there a little bit.
There’s a few people now who’ve come and seen our performances, and know that our performances vary wildly, and there’s a lot of off-the-cuff humour in it, there’s stories that we tell along with the music. People that have heard our performances know that we blast them with our harmonies as much as possible and try to keep it real. Rhythm, melody, a good story to tell: they’re the elements that we strive for.
So it’s really been a blessing to us to know that, so we’re starting to feel like we’re almost starting to be included in some of these pinnacle events of the year on the folk festival calendar. So, the National: really, really looking forward to it. We’ve got some great time slots, great stages, and yeah: just can’t wait.
BQ: Look for them in the program: Grimick. I can give you a personal recommendation. I can’t be objective here, I absolutely adore this group. So come along and see them at the National Folk Festival, and get along to the Session Bar afterwards.
Griff, thanks for joining us.
CG: Thanks very much for having me, Bill.
*** Audio file will be removed at the end of February 2020 ***
Grimick’s performances at the National Folk Festival:
Friday 29 March 2013 – Scrumpy, 9pm
Saturday 30 March 2013 – Flute and Fiddle, 7pm
Sunday 31 March 2013 – Scrumpy, 6pm