Grand Buffet Interview

It was a rather cold, rainy night in Seattle when Yaeka and I headed to Seattle’s Chop Suey for a show featuring Grand Buffet, Rogue Wave, Hawnay Troof, and headlining Mates of State. The set was rather short due to the lengthy billing, but it still of course kicked ass in typical Grand Buffet style. As was the case with the one other Grand Buffet performance I had seen away from the Colgate campus, where the group’s performances are now legendary, the crowd began afraid and rather unsure of how to respond to the two men performing on stage. This uneasiness was demonstrated clearly when Jared (aka Lord Grunge) performed his trademark dance moves onstage while Jackson (aka Grape-a-don) made his way into the crowd and approached an audience member with right hand in the air, requesting a high-five. The young woman, stunned, just stood there, looking at Jackson until he moved on to receive a high-five from someone else. However, she wasn’t completely in the clear, Jackson returned once again and she, now understanding that the typical performer-audience rules didn’t apply, gave him five. The situation is one that Jared and Jackson have had to deal with before and they explained their willingness to confront these situations.

Yaeka: If you dislike pretentious people so much, is it difficult being in the music world?
Jared: Very, but also they’re great cannon fodder; pretense is the easiest thing to assault. I’m not out to crush anyone’s self-respect, but crush someone’s pretense, sure, why not? You’re doing them a goddamn favor.
Jackson: It helps that that kind of attitude exists to kind of clear a path and find kindred spirits in music or in art.
Jared: Or just in life.
Jackson: Yeah, and in the audience once you call people out for playing that game, usually people will start to cheer up—it’s like a middle school dance, everywhere. It doesn’t matter how smart the people are at times. When they see the group not dancing, and then when they see everyone dancing, they would feel weird if they weren’t.
Jared: It’s not an intellectual thing. Some of the smartest, most intelligent people are the most miserable, self-loathing pretentious assholes. It’s not like it’s playing on one’s intellect, but it’s about getting people to be real, be cool. To me that’s not an intellectual thing. Our shit definitely has an intellectual component that I think people can appreciate, but that’s not all there is to it. I definitely think that we do shit that people would dig if they would just fucking let go of their garbage, you know, it’s the emperor’s new clothes phony shit. It’d be like, pardon the expression, it’d be like if in a high school the retard with glasses that everyone fucking hates the shit out of. It’d be like at the game—the football game—the team is down five points and the fucking homo, retard four-eyes loser scores a touchdown for the team; they’re going to forget how shitty they are. They’re just going to drop it and that’s kind of how it is for me when we crack the crowd and they get that we’re not playing by their rules. Maybe that’s not a good analogy at all, I just wanted to say the word “retard.” But it’s like sometimes when you hit people hard enough they will relinquish the whole pretense.

During their performance, Jackson took a moment to share with the crowd that he and Jared had seen Cheaper by the Dozen. However, it wasn’t this film that dominated Grand Buffet’s sharing with the crowd that if they didn’t like the show they could simply use The Butterfly Effect to go back in time and change the results. The change that they spoke about was a bit more extreme than what I had imagined as they’re alternate ending would have led to their death so that they wouldn’t have even been able to perform. It turns out that such ideas aren’t incredibly out of line for the Pittsburgh duo.

Jackson: That’s always been a source of humor—our destruction or the destruction of the people that have given an ounce of a fuck about our music. It just makes sense to us on a comic level and in two years we’ll do shows and no one will laugh at all because it will be so goddamned funny. We’re just moving on that kind of level. Or everyone will laugh just because they want to be part of the fun. We did a show in New York where it was like that. A lot of the shit we were saying were inside jokes or jokes that had no punchline—there was nothing funny about it—but they were laughing just because they wanted. They knew instinctively that we were hipper, that we just had more fun inside of us and they just wanted to be liked.

One of the concert highlights was the performance of a song from Grand Buffet’s future children’s album. A couple of the children’s songs have been regulars at Grand Buffet shows over the past couple of years and it was the direction Grand Buffet planned on taking with these songs that intrigued us the most.

Yaeka: So tell us about this children’s album.
Jared: It’s really coming.
Yaeka: And you’re taking it totally seriously?
Jared: Yeah, it’s not backhanded and it’s not ironic. It’s an honest pop album. It doesn’t cater to kids, but it is for anyone.
Jackson: When we were growing up, Jim Henson was still alive and parents liked kid’s programs too because the music was good and it kept their attention—it was quality. It wasn’t just making baby faces for the kids. It wasn’t just stupid. It was practical and game was being kicked. And so we’re writing pop songs, we like melodies, and so we’re writing children’s songs. Why not?
Jared: Why not, dude?
Jackson: We’re the type of dudes that people should feel safer babysitting their kids. You see us; you see all; we’re multi-dimensional people. Where as people that have a more respectable role in society, notably people in religion or teachers, turn out to be really sick creepy assholes.
Yaeka: Were you guys babysitters?
Jared: Actually, I was starting to say this before, post-Borders during the summer of ’99 I babysat. An ex-girlfriend of mine had the gig and one night there was this whole group of kids so I went to help. Then she moved so I got to pick up a little extra work. It was just for one family, but still I like having that under my belt.
Yaeka: Do children love you?
Jared: Well I love kids and I think that’s what makes the difference. People can know how to act around kids and that’s one aspect of it, and then there are people that honestly just try to appreciate kids. I love people who aren’t pretentious period and most kids haven’t learned how to be pretentious; that’s why I feel a vibe with kids. Some people say that kids are like grown ups, but, no, bullshit, they’re not, they’re kids. They’re clean, they’re honest, they’re real and that’s what I can relate to.
Jackson: Definately.
Jared: And that’s why I like babysitting.
PhiLL: So the kids album, is it just going to be an album or are you going to tour with it?
Jackson: It’s going to be an album, we want to get Grand Buffet a little bit bigger and put out a legit children’s album under a different name, Gorilla and Fox. We want to hit a legit children’s entertainment market, but at the same time we want to have the option of opening up for ourselves at clubs.
Jared: That’s why we are really laying back about putting the album out. The more established we get Grand Buffet first, the better because the kid’s shit is a side project. We’ve been doing this stuff for years at Grand Buffet shows.

By the time their set was done, the majority of the audience had been won over and newly made fans were seen purchasing the entire Trilogy of Terror collection. We experienced our first Grand Buffet show about four years ago. At that show Jared ended the set by breaking a bottle over his head. Now that Grand Buffet had several tours under their belt and were definitely attracting a larger audience. We wondered if maybe over the years the fans had started becoming crazier than Grand Buffet.

Jared: Really cool fans, like a couple, well I guess I’m just thinking of one diehard fan. She’s actually one of my best friends now. She was insane, before we ever met she sent us this thing and she wrote it with her left hand or something so it looked like it was written by an eight year old and she put a picture of some eight year old girl and I totally thought it was from some kid.
Jackson: What was the question?
Jared: Do we have any crazy fans?
Jackson: Oh yeah, we have a lot of crazy fans.
Jared: But she’s like the craziest one ever.
Jackson: She’s just like one of the crazy fans that it’s fun to hang out with
Jared: She’s not just like a fan anymore. She started out as a fan, but now she’s like a close friend. That was a weird transition. It’s like Steven Seagal fucking his babysitter and getting her pregnant. Steven Seagal and Kelly LeBrock named their kid after the babysitter. Then a couple years later Seagal was fucking the woman he named his kid after with his wife. That’s what I mean, it’s just weird. The only shit she knew us from was our music, but that was cool because that was like a gateway to a pretty bona fide friendship.
Jackson: I don’t know. What are some other ones?
Jared: Oh dude, like at Reno. We just played at Reno and this dude and his girl they came to Healdsburg ““ they’re from San Francisco ““ which is like an hour drive, no big deal and then they came to Reno. This dude, we think he’s a scientologist, he’s a super cool dude, but they like bought us a fucking hotel room. I went and played blackjack with dude until 7 am and he was just a maniac. I love casinos, but I fear and respect them. This dude was just totally fucking with everyone that worked there and almost got us thrown out. They came to like three shows in a row. They came to Healdsburg, Reno and then San Fran and bought us the hotel room. That was a first.
Jackson:But we’ve had kids roll out to shows with homemade t-shirts that reference our songs. I guess it’s your definition of crazy.

I wondered, though, how many of the less diehard fans were aware of an album that came out before Sparkle Classic, the album Grand Buffet has been touting as their “first album” on the website.

PhiLL: So Sparkle Classic, that’s the first album?
Jared: Officially.
PhiLL: Okay, because I found a copy of…
Jared: Scrooge McRock. Truth be told, Scrooge McRock is a demo. We’re not hiding from it, but it was a demo. We wanted to get signed so we tried to make something that was a means to an end.
Jackson: There was a three year gap between those albums. That was basically our high school album. It represents our creative level at high school.
Jared: Yeah, well there’s still, well did you dig any of it?
PhiLL: I am a big fan of the one about little league.
Jared: “Headballs”.
Jackson: Yeah, that’s the one people still mention.
Jared: There’s a few tracks on there that I think are cool, but it’s just a demo. It’s not really us. It’s a demo, bro.
PhiLL: It doesn’t say demo on it.
Jared: I know! You know what, dude, it’s a demo and it looks like
Jackson: It was well put together for a local first album. We had the visual game tight before we had the rest.
Jared: The reason I call it a demo is because at that point all we wanted was to get a deal. We tried to craft something that would rope it in. It’s the most contrived thing we have ever done. To me that’s the thing about it that’s not cool.

As our interview at Denny’s came to a close around 3 am, most of what we learned about this pair was not captured on tape. The pair that makes up Grand Buffet are very different individuals and take what they say and do very seriously, but most importantly when Jared says, “RESPECT”, he truly means it and it’s that mutual respect that keeps Grand Buffet together.

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