Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An EXCLUSIVE interview with GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE




By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     While the band Green River Ordinance may be a fairly new name to some of you, these Alt-Rock veterans have already celebrated their 10th Anniversary and have experienced much in the way of experience. In the last few years alone, they signed to a major label, released a hit album (2009’s Out Of My Hands), left that very same major label and are currently one of the hottest Indie bands on the scene.  Their dedicated fan base continues to grow by leaps and bounds and they are now more successful than ever. It’s safe to say that Green River Ordinance has defied the odds and have accomplished more in their career when NOT playing the “music business” game.  To the band, “music” has always come first.
     Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Green River Ordinance play their own brand of Rock.  Mixing Post-Grunge, Indie Rock, Americana, Country and straight ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll, the band have forged their own path by embracing the timelessness of their influences. 
     The band have been known for their guitar-heavy Rock, but with their latest release, the Morning Passengers EP, Green River Ordinance put down their electric guitars and replaced them with acoustics, piano and airy harmonies, showing a more delicate side of their Rock ‘n’ Roll persona.  It’s emotionally heartfelt and, dare I say it, sweet without being sappy. Morning Passengers just may be their finest musical statement yet.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down bassist Geoff Ice to discuss their new release and all things Green River Ordinance…



SPAZ:  Your most recent release, the Morning Passengers EP, is now in the shops.  How are you feeling about this release and your career up to this point? 
GEOFF ICE: Our expectations for the Morning Passengers EP have been completely surpassed. We initially recorded the EP out of a love for these songs that didn't fit the concept of the Out Of My Hands album. We were blown away by how well our fans received the Morning Passengers songs and the new listeners that have found us through the EP. I personally felt like we were taking a risk of confusing people by showing this other side of Green River Ordinance that didn't have layers of electric guitars and huge drum sounds. If anything, the EP really complimented the LP and gave us a chance to explore other genres and different approaches to songs before we went back into the studio for our next full length album (which we are currently recording, and I am really excited to finish)

SPAZ: Unlike most bands that leave the ‘comfort’ of a major label, you’ve actually gained some momentum in the short time since you left EMI.  Has the independent freedom reinvigorated the band? 
GEOFF: Leaving everyone at EMI was a really tough choice… everyone that worked with us there was so supportive. But it is really invigorating as a band to not have a looming deadline or being pressured into a specific format while you are going through the creative process of recording your next album. We had almost eight years as a band to prepare for the Out Of My Hands record and then we released it and toured non stop with no time to write for the next record. Then, when we were first off the road, we were immediately given a deadline to write and record the follow up with a very short time frame. It just made sense to walk away from the record label and give the second album justice. We didn't want to make a sloppy follow up record with rushed songs, we wanted to take time off, live life and write music that we liked and were proud of, and that's not something that fits into the annual fiscal budget of a record label. Needless to say, we were really blessed immediately after we walked away from EMI: we went on the biggest tour yet (opening for Switchfoot and the Goo Goo Dolls) and released the Morning Passengers EP.

SPAZ: Why did you decide to do an acoustic-based release at this point in your career?
GEOFF: It just felt like a breath of fresh air. Most of the songwriting process for us is done with acoustic instruments, its less cluttered and so much easier to hear ideas and try things out when you aren't screaming at each other over someone trying to figure out an electric guitar part. So honestly a good 50% of our songs all start out acoustic and these particular songs just felt really special staying the way they were written. There is something very intimate about an acoustic record that feels like the band is playing to you in your living room, which is something that we have done multiple times on the road and we wanted to explore that sound and see if anyone else enjoyed it the way we do.


SPAZ:  There are so many layers to GRO’s music.  Who are some of the band’s biggest influences, musically and otherwise?
GEOFF: With five different members, our influences cover a big chunk of the record store catalog. I guess it's fair to say that in the same conversation someone may reference Lyle Lovett, Collective Soul, or Peter Gabriel when writing a song. In fact, we even spent a month learning some of our favorite songs from the 70's from Tom Petty's "American Girl" to "The Weight" by The Band and Fleetwood Mac's "Go your Own Way", just to get a different perspective of how these songs where put together. We went ahead and recorded the best of the covers all live and in the same room together in the most old school way possible. It was like exercising as a band, and really stretching to fight for that perfect take with out using pro tools to punch in and fix a bad note. 

SPAZ:  Looking back at your catalog, is there a single track that you think personifies what GRO is all about?
GEOFF: Coming up on our 11th birthday as a band we have constantly been trying to evolve as band and push our songs and we have gone through some pretty significant changes from the early years of being a classic rock blues jam band back in middle school when we first started. But if I were to pick a song that really summed up our band as a whole it would be a pretty odd mash up of one of our simple sing-along fun songs like "Come On" and one of our more experimental opposite end of the spectrum songs like "Inward Tide" from the Morning Passengers EP. We as a band are about writing music that brings a hopeful fun perspective to life with songs like "Come On" but we also love a song that lets you escape and hopefully takes you to a place like "Inward Tide" still does for me when we play it live.

SPAZ:  GRO is a band that is hard to pigeonhole.  I’ve seen you described as everything from Roots to Post-Grunge.  Where do you think the band fits in, musically. 
GEOFF: I think that we are constantly trying to figure out and push what our sound is and not always settling for what seems comfortable for a specific format. I think if you were to put the songs "Outside" and "West Wind" back to back it would be confusing. One is definitely a straight a head almost Punk/rhythmic Rock song and the other is a simple folk song where I play the accordion… but both of those songs are always in our set lists. The fact that we can play such different songs in a set and transition between the two is why I love being in this band and why we have continued to work together for almost 11 years. We want to have songs that are opposite in format but still recognized as a GRO song.

SPAZ: You had a track featured on the Freedom CD, which brought awareness to the topic of global slavery.  You were perhaps the only secular act on the collection, which was made up of Contemporary Christian artists.  How did you get involved with the project? 
GEOFF: We actually came into contact with IJM through our website TheHopeGROs.com as it was the charity that our singer Josh chose to represent. We were asked to play a few events for them and started to really get to know the organization and see first hand the light they were bringing to some very dark places. IJM's fight is for human rights and against slavery and sex trafficking which is a 5-9 billion dollar industry. We felt that even though they are a Christian organization regardless of one's religion or world view, the fight against slavery is something that everyone should be a part of. For us to be able to help in any way with our music is why we do what we do. 

SPAZ: What can you tell us about your charity site, ThehopeGROs.com?
GEOFF: We are always looking for a way to use our music as a way to bring hope and stand for more than just having a good time, even though we love having a good time. So, we made the website ThehopeGROs.com, where all five of us picked a charity that we were individually passionate about and on the site we are, selling previously unreleased B-side tracks and old recordings. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the songs then,  in turn, goes to one of the five charities that the consumer chooses to support. We wanted to release this material but we really wanted to give back at the same time and hopefully expose people to amazing organizations like IJM. It's been a great experience; our generation wants to give back and we really wanted to expose people to ways in which they can be a part of greater story than just living for ourselves.

SPAZ:  Can it get difficult to concentrate and focus on the music when there are issues to attend to in regards to being an Indie band, running a charity site and all other aspects of being a member of GRO?
GEOFF: It most certainly can be, which is why we really wanted to take the risk and leave our record label. Music is such fickle thing, people know when it's forced and isn't honest, and some times you really have to stand back and live life to find that spark that makes a beautiful song. We don't want to take for granted the fact that we are incredibly blessed to have fans and people that give us such an amazing job and want to thank them by making the best record possible. We are just really fighting to find the balance of working and playing shows with still taking to time off to find the head space to write music, and it's been paying off, we have written over a hundred new potential songs for the next record.

SPAZ:  You’ve already celebrated your 10th Anniversary as a band.  A decade ago, did you even imagine that you’d reach this point?
GEOFF: Honestly, ten years ago I would have thought that by now I would be in Costa Rica digging up dinosaur bones and trying to recreate Jurassic Park, but being a full time musician certainly doesn't suck.

SPAZ: What’s next for Green River Ordinance? 
GEOFF: We are currently in the studio recording our next full length record, and I think it's going to be really cool. We are taking our time and really exploring the next stage of our band. 

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your record, CD and DVD players? 
GEOFF: Speaking for myself I am currently obsessed with the new Battlestar Galactica series. I am also really excited about HBO's new series Game of Thrones. I am a Huge George RR Martin fan and the book series a Song of Ice and Fire (of which a Game of Thrones is the first book) is by far my favorite fantasy series. The new Foo Fighters record Wasting Light is currently rocking my face off overtime I get into my car and the only time I switch it off is to listen to the Nationals record High Violet.  I have a feeling the rest of the guys would answer this pretty differently, though. Ha.

Thanks to Geoff Ice

Special thanks to Paul Steele and Shawn Fowler

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