In the meantime I got hold of Ollie Stygall, Grifter’s frontman: a friendly genuine rocker with a nice witty humour and a strong passion, as well as a highly appreciated reviewer for the fine UK webzine The Sleeping Shaman.
Mari - So, here we are, Ollie! Well, my intention was to start the interview with one of those classic questions that I like, i.e. about the history of the band and so on, but I guess that many many people by now know about Grifter after the blasting tour with Orange Goblin and the experience at the Desertfest in London! So I thought I might start with a flamboyant update for the fans!
I guess you have a lot to say about the tour through UK with Orange Goblin and a lot of expectations and curiosity for the coming dates on the "continent" ...
Ollie - Oh thank you Mari, that does seem to be the standard opening question...I've heard it so many times I'm tempted to start making up utter rubbish in response!!!
The tour with Orange Goblin was incredible. It was great to be asked by those guys to go on the road with them and they showed us a lot of genuine hospitality, kindness and respect. The tour started off great with Desertfest. We headlined the Black Heart stage on the Saturday night and, despite the time clash with Orange Goblin in the Underworld, we ended up with a full room in front of us giving us a great reaction...it was a real buzz!!! The rest of the tour was also a real buzz. The only flat gig was Newcastle and even there we got a good reaction, everywhere else the crowds were amazing to us, we were blown away. Orange Goblin also put on a great show and Ben is an awesome frontman...it was a real lesson touring with them.
We can't wait to come to Europe. We have two gigs in Belgium; Room 66 in Leuven and La Taverne Du Theatre in La Louviere on May 17th and 18th with our Italian buddies Doctor Cyclops then we head to Netphen in Germany to play the first Freak Valley festival with bands like Doctor Cyclops, Orange Sunshine, Bushfire, Wicked Minds and Colour Haze. It's our first time in Europe and hopefully not our last. We've heard that European crowds are really cool and the beer looks awesome!!!
Mari – Oh, I am sure the Euro tour will be a blast as well! And I do hope, too, that more will come! And, by the way, how does it feel getting a mention in Metal Hammer?
Ollie - That was awesome. We didn't even know they had the album so to get such an awesome review from them was pretty cool. I guess we should try to get them to a gig some time. Having said that all the reviews we've had so far bar one have been pretty damn good so we can't complain?
Mari – OK, sorry, I have to do it, I can’t avoid it … For the unlucky ones, for those who still are not conscious about Grifter (!), I have to ask you, please, “that” question … i.e. to outline the history of the band and its roots, previous experiences of you guys, your personal definition of the music you play, how the adventure started, and the whole lot, you know what I mean …
Ollie - Aargh you did it!!!! Well, to sum it up, we formed in Plymouth, UK in 2003. At first we were a four piece with a different singer but he left right after we did our first gig, I mean literally as we walked off stage!!! No problem we were back on stage a month later as a three piece with Foz on drums, Phil on bass and me, Ollie on guitar and vocals and it's been that way ever since. We started doing the usual local circuit and building up a following then did a demo (Elephantine 2005). Gradually we started getting gigs further afield around the country and caught the eye of Fury 76 Records who released our first EP (High Unholy Mighty Rollin' 2008). After that we hooked up with Catacomb Records and appeared on their Sound Of The Catacombs compilation and put out another EP (The Simplicity Of The Riff Is Key 2010). The EP release coincided with a UK tour with Sun Gods In Exile which was a lot of fun.
Musically we're just a rock and roll band...maybe heavier and dirtier than some but still just rock and roll. We don't really buy into the whole stoner, doom, sludge labelling thing to be honest. None of us listens to much of that stuff and between us our tastes cover a huge range from metal to grunge to blues to ska to reggae to hip-hop to folk to 70's rock and beyond. Collectively we all dig Sabbath, AC/DC, Clutch, Led Zep, ZZ Top, Motörhead...etc. it's all just good, hard, arse kicking rock!!!
Ollie - Before they were a label Ripple was, and still is, a very well respected review blog so I sent them the second EP to review and they loved it. This was right at the time they were putting out their first release, the JPT Scare Band album. They asked us to be involved in the Heavy Ripples vinyl split alongside Stone Axe, Sun Gods In Exile and Mighty High so we naturally said yes. When we recorded the tracks for the split we decided to also record an album and see what happened with it but Ripple offered to release that as well. It's been a great relationship so far, they've worked hard for us and want a second album so let's see what the future holds.
Mari - And now that you are enrolled with a cool American label has life and activity changed in better or the interaction with a label induces stress? And do you miss the "early days"?
Ollie - Distance doesn't matter with the Internet nowadays. Those guys put their backs into making things happen for the label and the bands and we have no complaints. In fact since we signed with them and put out the album things have been on a constant upward trajectory for us...we got on Classic Rock magazine's CD, got the Orange Goblin tour, got offered the festival in Germany, hit a whole bunch of year end best of lists, got some incredible reviews...etc
The only thing I miss about the early days is that, now we all have home life commitments and now live in different towns, we don't get to hang out socially anymore except at practice or gigs...but it makes those times more fun.
Mari - Another mandatory question is about your future plans with Ripple Music, although you gave us already a hint …
Ollie - As I mentioned Ripple have asked for a second album so we're busy pulling material together for that and aim to record later in the year. The material is a mix of new tunes, some old tunes that have never been released and revamped versions of some other older unreleased stuff that now sounds killer...they've finally found a home!!! Other than that we're working on more gigs and looking to get a European booking agent. There may be other cool things in the pipeline but it's way too early to say anything now and jinx it!!!
Mari – Right! Well, can’t wait for the new album, then! Now I have another question about an important issue, i.e. about your constant activity in the promotion of your own band during all these years. You made a lot of efforts for auto-promotion and you never lost, let's say, "faith" even when you had no or very sluggish reactions in forums etc. I admired you a lot for the effort. So do you think all that effort in auto-promotion was worth and effective?
Ollie - I guess “faith” is a good word to use. I have ultimate faith in the band and the music we create. I know we don't fall into a convenient musical pigeon hole so a lot of the people who can't see beyond their own narrow genre may pass us by, but a lot of other people do pick up on it. The thing is you have to promote your band if you want to go further than practicing or playing your local bar. It's a very big world and the potential audience for each band's music is huge, so you need to go out and get them as people won't necessarily come to you. Every fan you pick up along the way is important but they need to know you exist. I'm passionate about Grifter, not just as a member of the band but as a fan of what we do. If I hadn't put in the hours promoting the band, making contacts and getting our music heard there is no way we would have got as far as we have now.
Mari – In this respect, I often have the impression that many young or emerging bands have difficulties in organizing their auto-promotion. So how would you advise an emerging band about this issue?
Ollie - Unfortunately there is no guide book for this. It all boils down to investing the time and making sure you have a product worth promoting. If you're starting out as a band don't stick crappy quality rehearsal recordings on the Internet. Get a decent set together and gig it then choose some of the songs and record them properly. The next step is then to get your music in the hands of the people who can spread the word...magazines, fanzines, blogs, radio...etc. if that means spending money and ending up out of pocket then so be it. Put stuff online for free...people love free stuff!!! From there people need to know you exist so you need to start hitting forums, social media sites, posting news on blogs...etc. finally you need to make friends...organise gig swaps to get your music to new audiences, trade CDs, talk to blog writers...etc. maybe even start your own blog to review other bands and send your stuff out in return. Ultimately if you're passionate about what you do that passion will spread and you will never regret the time and money necessary to promote a band.
Mari - I’m sure your words and advices will be of interest and helpful to many people out there. Well, Ollie, thanks a lot for the pleasant chat. All the best for the European tour and the cool things to come and keep on rocking hard! \m/
Ollie - "Thanks, Mari, for the interview and thanks for the support over the last few years. Hopefully we'll.continue to kick your arse with rock and roll for a few more years yet!"
Interview by Marilena Moroni
Grifter Official Website
Grifter @ Facebook
Grifter @ Bandcamp
Here are two cool videos from Desertfest in London, one of which carries a cool cover of a song we all know and love around here …
Grifter Pendulum @ Desertfest London 17/4/12
Grifter Fairies wear boots @ Desertfest London 17/4/12