The Grunions Bring a Hypnotically Eclectic Delivery In New Album, 'Star Fish Prime'

The Grunions are here on BuzzMusic to show off their jazzy collection of instrumental spy music. The Grunions, consisting of members Andrew Joncas, Christian Ingelevics, Jeremy Lear and Nick Teehan, released 'Star Fish Prime', an album with ten instrumental tracks, each full of their own personality.

The Montreal-based band focuses on bringing creativity to an eloquent and expressive level with 'Star Fish Prime'. The band is all about constructing novel sounds with their own quirks embedded for that right kind of flair. With a slight psychedelic style, The Grunions donate mesmeric and riveting sounds for all jazz fans alike.

The first song on 'Star Fish Prime' is "Dr. Phantom", and it really sets the mood for what listeners can expect to experience within 'Star Fish Prime'. You'll hear prominent bass within "Dr. Phantom", accompanied by light guitar riffs, as well as a smooth tenor sax. "Alpha Draconis", the second track off of 'Star Fish Prime' houses more of that intricate sax sound, allowing for that elusive jazzy sound. Once diving deeper into the track, you'll begin to hear the introduction of drum soundings, which work to amplify the bubbliness the track provides. There are so many different moods wrapped into "Alpha Draconis", as The Grunions deliver a variety of ambiance's to listeners with their frequent switch-up regarding the instrumentals. 

Soon, we find ourselves immersed in the creaminess of "El Swoncho", a very compelling jazz production with heavy use of tenor sax, as well as the guitar. "El Swoncho" has us feeling light and full of buzzing energy. It's quite unrealistic not to move your body along to the appealing rhythm of this track. You'll find yourself completely compelled to "El Swoncho" if you're the type to fall in love with those vibrant and lively jazz compositions. The fourth track 'Star Fish Prime' sees delivers a more low-key environment for listeners to lose themselves in. The drums in "St-Otto" have definitely backed down for this track, and the more percussion-based instruments find themselves shining. Once over halfway through "St-Otto", listeners will find themselves in for an eclectic experience. The strategic blend of instrumentation in order to give the hypnotizing effect was the perfect kind of approach from The Grunions.

We continue our journey with the band once we come along the midway point in their album with their track "The Scrunger". This track did a whole 180 for us! There's definitely a grungier feel with "The Scrunger", in which the guitar and bass dominant in order to give a rock flair. Providing more of a darker ambiance, "The Scrunger" really attracted our attention with its multi-dimensional manner. That mystified setting sticks with the following track, "Night Shift". Listeners will see that "Night Shift" smoothly transitioned from "The Scrunger", and this probably comes from the clear similarity the two tracks have. 

"Vaqueros Rising" is the seventh track that 'Star Fish Prime' sees, and right from the beginning of the track we felt vastly unsure of what was about to come. "Vaqueros Rising" began off with a similar tune of "The Scrunger" and "Night Shift", but quickly delved into a more fluid soundscape. There was so much to take away with "Vaqueros Rising" and we felt as if there was almost a cloud of rejuvenation that soared over us throughout the duration of the song. "Makeout Island" brought us back down to reality with its mellow and laidback production. "Makeout Island" was the right kind of background noise to find productivity in. It's a bubbly and vivacious instrumental track that brings lighter elements into play and really focuses on the exploitation of vivid synths.

We're brought back to normalcy with "Hamspace", where we find ourselves presented with a similar type of sound to the beginning of the album. Nevertheless, our expectations are exceeded once The Grunions decided "Hamspace" would benefit from a crazy guitar solo. After listening to "Hamspace", we came to an agreement that we loved when The Grunions brought in those potent guitar rhythms because it really amplified and accentuated that jazzy tempo present in almost every track.

We now find ourselves onto the last track of 'Star Fish Prime', titled "The Dark Comet Suit". Similar to "Dr. Phantom", "The Dark Comet Suit" houses some of those best-known jazz collections, which offer the typical spy-type sound you'd expect to hear within your favorite James Bond movie. We find warmth in the chosen use of instrumentation with this track, and we're basking in the familiar feeling of this song.

"The Dark Comet Suit" definitively was the right kind of track to end off 'Star Fish Prime', as it offered listeners that one last bittersweet jazzy goodbye. In essence, The Grunions created their album 'Star Fish Prime' with absolute flair and personality, delivering a range of atmospheres for listeners to enjoy. Whatever jazzy sounds the band releases next, we know we'll find ourselves indulging to the fullest.

Stream 'Star Fish Prime' here, and get to know more about the band in our interview below. 

Hello, The Grunions! We are absolutely loving your album 'Star Fish Prime'. What was the songwriting and production process for this like? How did the songs transform after the initial recordings?

Thank you! We are very pleased with how this album has been received by critics and fans so far! However, all of the song transformations happened before the recording, not after. As songwriting goes, the approach was pretty varied, each song was developed before presenting it to the band. Often the musical idea just comes from out of nowhere, Jeremy describes “Hamspace” as dropping out of the ether, a real “presto” moment where the slow groove in his imagination found a compromise with the instrument in his hands. While this is a common process for a lot of musicians, including Andrew. Nick had a very different approach to writing his featured song.

Nick started with the title “Makeout Island” and worked backward. Inspired by his love of the reality TV show “Temptation Island”, the intro of “Tahitian Moon” (Porno for Pyros) and the melody of “Baby Elephant Walk” (Henri Mancini); he was able to bring something earthbound and cheeky to the band’s cosmic sound. As for Christian, who keeps a list of potential song title ideas at the ready, he chose “El Swoncho” for the melody in his head. He then made a conscious effort to sing it first rather than go right to the guitar so that he wouldn't fall into familiar finger patterns. Once fully formed he recorded the tune for reference and added the chords.

Once presented to the band the compositions go through each member's “personal musical filter” and the songs take on a life of their own. “The Grunions” worked on the music as a whole for about six months between weekly rehearsals and gigs.

Preparing our compositions for concert performances is very different than preparing for them for the recording studio. At our live shows, we would arrange our songs by extending certain sections and creating musical build-ups in order to get people out of their seats and dancing. We’d even have the crowds participate in dance-offs! For example “The Dark Comet Suite” usually lasts 15 minutes (the studio version is only 7m13s), however, we would often extend the piece even longer if the crowd requires more.

While getting the songs ready for the studio we quickly realized we needed to tweak our arrangements for the recording session. While the long live jams pleased the crowds, having shorter versions of the pieces would create a better place for the album.   

We heard that this was recorded live off the floor and wow! Every part sounds incredibly musical and tight. What was that recording process like? Were there any challenges faced due to the aspect of it being live? 

Yes, we did record live off the floor! It’s a daunting task but It’s always been Andrew’s preferred way of recording because it allows the engineer to capture an accurate representation of the band’s energy. The result is a very exciting performance and the process is more familiar to the players because they get to work together with the way they usually do at rehearsals and shows.

There was a great ambiance at Skybarn thanks to engineer Pietro Amato. Even though we worked many long hours in a confined space, everybody present was really excited to be working on the project! That being said there was a lot of pressure to get the work done quickly! Even with a successful crowdsourcing campaign under our belts, the band’s biggest challenge was the budget constraint. It forced us to make split decisions on the fly that would ultimately shape the final version or the record.

We recorded the bed tracks for nine songs in one day and having someone as experienced as Pietro in the room really helped with picking the right performances for the record. Some songs were great on the first take, while others took six or seven… we probably averaged about four to five takes per song! In the following two days, we were able to record the percussion, guitar and synthesizer overdubs!

Every song has such a unique flavor to it! How were the concepts of each song thought of? What was the inspiration for this album? Was there a story being told throughout? 

The first track written for the album was “The Dark Comet Suite”. In actuality, it’s three separate compositions, which together, make up the full suite. This piece was the springboard that inspired the Sixties Psychedelic /Sci-Fi/Spaghetti Western /Spy movie sound that permeates the album. Andrew’s idea for the bass line in the intro came out of the surf rock tradition and after working on it for several days he came up with the rest of the first movement. There is definitely something haunting about the song, and Andrew’s interest in astronomy inspired the song’s title.

The Sci-Fi theme continues with “Alpha Draconis”, while songs like “Vaqueros Rising” and “Dr. Phantom” are tributes to the Spaghetti Western and Spy movie soundtrack genres. Meanwhile, the compositions “The Scrunger” and “Night Shift” borrow heavily from the Psychedelic Blues movement of the 1960s. We like to think of the album as a book of short stories. For example, In “St-Otto” (The Patron Saint of Parking) Jeremy’s bass line and Christian’s rhythmic drums are meant to remind us of the hustle and bustle of busy urban streets while Andrew’s initial guitar riffs and Nick’s saxophone honks harken to the interplay of car horns and revving engines.

How did the members of the band come to meet? There's a strong sense of musicality and chemistry between the parts. What does the typical songwriting session look like?

Three of us – Andrew, Christian, and Jeremy – met after we were recruited for a now-defunct Montreal surf band. After developing a kinship we agreed that we’d like to continue creating music together. Needing a fourth member to help round out the sound of the band, Christian invited his college buddy and former band-mate Nick to join us during one of our rehearsals. We very quickly got along, and within a few weeks of him joining the band, we were gigging and working on new songs together.  

As previously stated, the initial ideas for the songs are developed before they are introduced to the rest of the band. Having a clear vision for the songs when they are presented to the band is important, however, allowing the flexibility for each member to infuse their own personality into the parts they play helps to achieve the musicality and chemistry that you are picking up on. The goal of the band has always been to have a great time. If we can have fun on stage the crowd will catch on and party with us! We hope the album will inspire people in the same way!