WINNERS! 2007 SAN DIEGO MUSIC AWARDS!!!
WINNERS! 2006 SAN DIEGO MUSIC AWARDS!!!
THE GRAMS are a group of musicians featuring three locally acclaimed vituosos. There's singer/songwriter Chuck Schiele - of whom reviewers are frequently prompted to write that, ï¿½when he sings about soul, you know he has one."ï¿½ And, Craig Yerkes, one of the hottest, most revered lead guitar players in southern California - delivering one gorgeously fierce solo after another. At the age of 14 Guitar Player Magazine was quoted as saying that Craig was playing like a "seasoned pro in jazz, rock, funk and country styles" with no excuses. In San Diego he is undisputably the guitar player's player. Sweet Elise is the exotic beauty who reinvents classical violin by way of experimentation and signal processing. Bart Mendoza of the San Diego Reader and SD Music Matters publications said that she was the defining element in the Grams' sound. The Grams are supported by a stellar rhythm section giving this very edgy acoustic act a rock solid groove.
Together, The Grams begin with a pop, rock, Americana and world music approach to songwriting. Equal parts orchestration/ improvisation. With the overt use of only 2 acoustic guitars - in a variety of virtuosic styles and situations - along with the effects-driven "space" violin, they create a heady blend unique unto themselves. This style is not only melodic, but very, very rhythmic. "Hittingï¿½ the guitar is part of the fun in The Grams. Whether they are covering tunes out of context, or writing instrumentals based on ancient Persian themes, or just rockin' out - it all comes together in a way that is unique, interesting and fun.
The Grams have been wowing audiences all over Southern California, playing everywhere. Clubs, festival, coffeehouses, Television, FM Radio, Internet radio, you name it, they're busy. The Grams also recently were featured at a special Halloween show in New York City at the ï¿½world-famousï¿½ Kenny's Castaways during the Annual Halloween Parade Festival, which takes place in the heart of Greenwich Village.
The Grams were honored to receive a nomination for a San Diego Music Award last year (2005) in the Best Americana Group category even though they'd yet to release their debut CD. Band leader Chuck Schiele had been nominated in 2004 for Best Acoustic Artist. Third time is a charm as this year saw The Grams take home their 2nd SDMA award in a row - in the Best Americana Group category! The artists are nominated by the Awards commitee and foundation members and the voting is open to the public along with the Awards committee so it is an accurate representation of the people's choice as well.
Update: On June 28, 2008 Craig Yerkes, lead guitarist for The Grams was in a fatal automobile accident. Craig will be loved and remembered forever for his humor, kindness and musical brilliance.
Both Chuck Schiele & Craig Yerkes contribute as music writers in the San Diego Music Scene.
Chuck Schiele owns and operates Beach Music Mafia - a music booking and promotions service, with his wife Joanna. Beach Music Mafia specializes in exciting unique music events that not only foster a better local culture, a better music environment - but also gives back to it's community. We help to raise LOTS of money and goods that are donated to great causes such as assisting women and children of abuse and helping challenged families, Toys for Tots, etc. http://myspace.com/beachmusicmafia
Chuck Schiele owns and operates StudiOB, a full-service recording studio, in Ocean Beach, California. http://myspace.com/studiob92107cs
Feel free to contact us for bookings, press and more information!
Joanna Schiele: email@example.com
Chuck Schiele, vocals, guitars
Craig Yerkes: guitars, vocals
Sweet Elise: violin, vocals
Tony Sandoval: bass
Billy Coomes: percussion, drums, vocals
The Grams are scheduled for their "Love Factory" CD release at Anthology (San Diego's premier world-class venue), San Diego, April 16, 2008.
The Grams, released self-titled debut in March 2006
Several tracks from the Grams debut CD can be heard on various radio stations in San Diego, Japan, New York.
Grams recordings are also being circulated on a variety of compilations CDs, as well. In the meantime
Compilations and prior works:
- Staring at the Sun Vol 6, 2008 - Track: "Love"
- Staring at the Sun, Vol 5, 2007 - Track: "Sixteen Seconds
- 102.1 KPRI San Diego Music Compilation - Track: "Daymaker
- Chuck: The Gandhi Method, 2004 - album: "Hi"
- Chuck: Chuck Schiele & the Mysterious Ways, 2002 - Album: self-titled
- SanDiego.com Christmas Compilation, 2007 - Track: "Merry Christmas, Baby!"
- KYXY San Diego Christmas Compilation, 2006 - Track: "Merry Christmas, Baby!"
- Enough Said - Compilation featuring solo acoustic guitar, 2000 - Track: "Dorothy"
- San Diego Music Awards Compilation CD, 2003 - Track: "Dorothy"
Cameo's on other artists:
- vocal harmony arranger and performer: CD: Christopher Dale, "Pick Me Up."
- performing vocalist: Sven-Erik Seahom, CD "Upload"
- producer: Podunk Nowhere self-titled debut CD
- producer: Johnny Different CD, "Growin Up
- percussionist: Christopher Cash CD
LITTLE DO THEY KNOW
HEADS ABOVE WATER
HEY LITTLE GIRL
DOROTHY - CHUCK AS SOLOIST
The Grams Weigh In The Anatomy of a Modern Working Band by Simeon Flick
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It is still many hours before his band's gig later that night as Chuck Schiele saunters somnolently ...It is still many hours before his band's gig later that night as Chuck Schiele saunters somnolently down the stairs in search of a cup of joe. His wife Joanna had just let me in moments before, greeting me with a warm hug and a smile, and trailing the scent of many enticing culinary delights in from the kitchen behind her. I have entered nothing if not the cozy HQ of Charles Schiele Creative, Beach Music Mafia, and a number of other joint and singular ventures on which the still somewhat recently married Mr. and Mrs. Schiele collaborate.
It is also ground zero for The Grams, Schiele's latest musical project. Everything about the Grams (as in the movie 21 Grams, which is the supposed weight of the soul that leaves the body upon death) begins and ends here in this halcyon two-story house and accompanying backyard garage. These edifices both literally and figuratively bespeak the anatomy of a modern working band.
(Now, by “working,” I mean to imply two things: one; the Grams “work” in that there is a symbiotic synergy between them, that each band member has his or her own complementary function, ergo it works in a way that won't find them disintegrating anytime soon, and two; they seem to be working like mad these days, gigging frequently, taking advantage of every available opportunity that comes their way, and building a successful career in music outside the confluence of the flagging major label system.)
Schiele picks up a snack-laden tray that Joanna has prepared and leads me out through the small backyard, past a congenial sea of deck chairs and barbeque grilles (where much colloquial revelry has obviously transpired) and into the converted garage. Here is where his growing collection of instruments, eclectic trinkets, eccentric furnishings, band posters, memorabilia, and recording equipment is housed. This is the creative womb where Schiele conducts rehearsals for the Grams and other local bands as an ancillary service provided by his Beach Music Mafia, or simply the Mob.
This tapestry and rug-laden room is the principal-if not always literal-birthplace of Schiele's music, and the locus where it usually passes through sundry bits of recording equipment to find quasi-physical form. He is the chief songwriter and lead vocalist for the Grams and a veteran of the San Diego music scene.
Schiele's formative years transpired in upstate New York, but you would hardly know it from the laid-back bohemian air he now emanates. It's necessary to wait for the brusque New York frankness to spill out of his Sagittarian mouth to confirm his East Coast origins. When he was four or five he matter-of-factly informed his parents he would be heading out West when he came of age. Perhaps the shock of his leaving was more due to the realization that the time had finally arrived than to any disbelief of the child he had been when he'd made the promise. Even at such an early age, Chuck Schiele already had a supple grip on his destiny like Babe Ruth's hands on a baseball bat.
While the time-biding child languished in Syracuse, he vainly set about trying to get his elementary school music teacher to learn him the drums. Schiele was diverted to at least three other less enchanting instruments before quitting music altogether. It wasn't until college that he picked up the trail again, inspired by the Beatles, Queen, Aerosmith's “Sweet Emotion,” and his dad, who was a professional jazz bass player in San Diego at the height of the '70's club scene.
“There was a guitar in the corner, so I asked him to show me how to play it,” Schiele reminisces. °ßHe explained music theory to me and I was off and running. I never really had any formal music training, but I took a lot of classes in college, went to recording school, and then learned mostly by jumping in. I could write songs before I could play guitar and have written them all through my life. Early on I often wrote stuff I couldn't play, so my lesson became the act of learning how to play the music I heard in my head.”
“Before I knew it I was in a band,” Schiele continues, “and have been in a band ever since. My favorites include The And (rock and groove band), Modern Peasants (rock/groove/world), Mysterious Ways (rock/acoustic), the Gandhi Method (folk rock/acoustic), and now the Grams.”
Along the way he also made a point to play solo, fleshing out the musical concepts that stemmed from what Jim Earp had taught him regarding alternate guitar tunings during their time together in the Modern Peasants. In a live performance scenario with the Grams, Schiele draws on this erudition by providing the perfect foundation for his bandmates: a bass-heavy sound with solid, driving rhythms. He is, in effect, a self-contained rhythm section.
The music that flows out of Schiele now is at once Southern sass (think N’awlins, Cajun, Zydeco), classic rock, and implicitly evocative of old world locales where ancient religions have roosted for eons. “I write mostly from spiritual motivations, often associated with travels,” Schiele relates. “I also write from explorations in my personal music learning. I learn something new to do everyday... something to pick on my own skills about... and I'll always be in that school.”
We’re conversing over the hors d’oeuvres in the darkened garage studio when the husband and wife team of Craig Yerkes and Elise Ohki finally arrive. They’ve left their gig clothes and instruments up front in the living room and have joined us in the studio. “Craigness” and “Sweet Elise,” as they are familiarly known, are usually late for Grams-related events because they have to commute all the way from North County. The married musicians also have full-time careers - Yerkes commutes to Orange County five days a week for his job, and Ohki works in the biotech field.
The trio harbors no old-fashioned dreams of—and have no time or patience for—the idiosyncrasies of rock stardom, but they may still be able to enjoy some kind of success and notoriety due to the growing number of resources and marketing avenues now available to independent artists. Their recent inclusion on a Japanese radio playlist, Schiele’s recording sessions at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, his solo appearance at New York's renowned CBGB, The Grams appearance at the reknowned Kenny’s Castaways (also in NYC), and their San Diego Music Award nomination this past September are all evidence of such emerging possibilities.
Elise Ohki grew up in the greater Buffalo area of upstate New York and discovered the piano and the violin while still in single digits. She played the latter in school and county orchestras, including the Buffalo Suzuki Strings, and found her way to Oberlin College, where she would arrive at the crucial musical crossroad of her life. Ohki felt too much pressure to be perfect on the path to becoming a professional classical violinist, so she made the decision to pursue a career in science and keep her musical activity free on the side. She was determined to obtain a degree in a field that would enable her to provide for herself financially, since the classical music profession seemed to be a glorified crapshoot for even the most proficient of players. Nevertheless, she continued to play violin through graduate school at SUNY Buffalo as well as with the Amherst Community Orchestra, and finally moved to San Diego to pursue employment opportunities in 2002. Ohki now works in the gene regulation division at the Invitrogen Corporation.
By the time she met and befriended Schiele through a mutual acquaintance at an Ocean Beach bar, Ohki had all but abandoned the violin. The plot gradually thickened, however, as Schiele discovered and slowly drew out Ohki's musicality. They began their collaboration in 2003, and the result was a creative detour for Ohki's classically trained hands, which, although still well regimented, were liberated by their first foray into contemporary music.
The two outspoken, yet also somehow reserved, upstate New Yorkers fell into (and still enjoy) an older-brother/younger-sister kind of rapport, full of acerbic yet lighthearted jabs, quips, and jovial razzing. The male Grams will be the first to tell you that Ohki is the band's barometer of relative goodness, as she is blunt in her views and deft with the power of veto when it comes to such things as new song choices, stage volume, and the length of her husband's solos. The sardonic twist to the “Sweet Elise” nickname is that she is decidedly curt and brusque with her opinions and judgments, though not maliciously so. The fact that she is more often astute in these observations and conclusions than not lends a paradoxically endearing puerility to her general countenance.
Ohki and her violin provide the group with a connection to both old and new musical idioms. The lyricism of her neoclassical violin melodies provide a traditionally fresh counterpoint to Schiele's lead vocals, and the modern “fiddle” context of the instrument itself connects the Grams with a more contemporary folk and bluegrass tradition. When she's not recapitulating vocal melodies or introducing new motifs, she's adding staccato and sustained pedal tone textures underneath Schiele's vocal expositions. The occasional addition of her own mezzo-soprano voice at the top of three-part group harmonies rounds out her contributions to the Grams' sound.
Ohki was eventually drawn into the overlapping spheres of Schiele's myriad musical connections, and it didn't take long for her own circle to expand and create the perfect conditions for a fateful meeting with Craig Yerkes. Brother to fellow San Diego musician Marcia Claire of the Citizen Band and the Cathryn Beeks Ordeal, Yerkes had known Schiele for some time and traveled in the same circles. The pieces slowly fell into place and by the end of 2003 the Grams had become a band. Yerkes and Ohki would eventually marry in July of 2004, and it is a point of pride for Schiele that he not only got them together but also brought them both out of semi-retirement.
Yerkes is the only California native of the three, having spent most of his life in San Diego County. He got an early start and was playing guitar in a touring teenybopper group with his sister by age 12. He also played in his high school and college jazz bands until he realized he was “a rock guitarist doing a bad imitation of a jazz guitarist,” as he self-deprecatingly put it. “I was really into the chops thing to a fault when I was younger,” Yerkes continues. “I just wanted to keep getting faster due to influences like Al DiMeola and Steve Morse. Now it's all about the solo singing its own song, whether I'm playing one note or 100.”
After a brief, failed stint as a guitarist with two Grammy-winning gospel artists, Yerkes decided to downgrade his musical pursuits to hobby status. He had only occasionally picked up the guitar during the previous 12 years when Schiele came calling.
Yerkes is a lead guitarist in the old tradition of axe men who don't always double the rhythm part under the vocals but add another complimentary texture or melody to the underlying work. Yerkes' leads are concise, rich in tone, and wildly entertaining. When the gig is long and space needs filling, Yerkes is the Gram who is most ready, willing, and able to step in and fill it. He has the chops and exploratory mindset to improvise lengthy, interesting solos within the live milieu, and the restraint to compose ingenious countermelodies and instrumental harmonies for him and Ohki live and in the studio. His curtailed jazz aspirations led him to an ideal grotto where the wild, histrionic waterfall of technique met the pool of mature melodic restraint.
Yerkes adds his clear, crisp tenor to the Grams' vocal palette, performing close harmonies with Schiele and even singing lead on “Poor Little Rich Girl” from the recently completed, eponymous debut album (reviewed on page 13). The general gist is that Yerkes may be singing more songs in the future. For now, though, he is content with his predominantly supportive role in the band.
While we've been talking in the studio, Joanna has been occasionally popping in and out with updates on the sumptuous meal she is preparing. A few minutes pass after one such visit when we collectively realize that Joanna is as much a part of what goes on behind the scenes at Grams Central as her husband. Yerkes and Ohki are as anxious to hear our new pertinent subject's story as I am, for they are equally as uneducated as to exactly what it is she does on behalf of the Grams.
Joanna also grew up in New York and cut her music, marketing, and networking teeth at Manhattan Design, the same company that was responsible for the MTV logo among many other pertinent icons of pop culture and music. She brings these years of big-city marketing experience (not to mention her own history of singing in bands-she lent background vocals to some of the songs on the record) to what she does administratively for the Grams. Her understanding of both sides of the commercialization of art sums up her contribution to the trio's behind-the-scenes machine.
Schiele had already become quite proficient at executing the administrative functions that most musicians bemoan and are poorly suited for when Joanna came into his life. Now they are virtually as unstoppable as they are thorough in their combination of complementary attributes. They work together in the conjoined pair of bedrooms on the house's second floor, unearthing predominantly Internet-based marketing opportunities for the Grams, and shouting updates back and forth to streamline their efforts.
“With Joanna coming into my life, things have only gotten better and healthier, including music matters,” Schiele says. “We work together very closely, and I am astonished by what happens when we combine our strengths to fix on and obtain our goal. We are furthering our involvements to include the movie industry as well as alternative markets and distribution. We're also big on serving our community and go so far as to get them involved. We've grown so fast that we're in the process of reorganizing and building our team.”
We wrap up the interview and head inside, where Joanna's delectable dinner awaits us. We watch something about the end of days on the History channel while we eat and drink wine and revel in the sense of unity and nourishment we've established throughout the day. Then the time comes for them to do the fun part of their work and, after changing into their performance attire, the Grams disappear into the inviting night to show a new audience the weight of the soul.
The Grams will hold their CD Release Concert at the Belly Up on March 15, 8pm. www.theGrams.net
The Grams CD Review
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This music drifts in like a nag champa haze over the appalachian range, leaving a rarified mist of j...This music drifts in like a nag champa haze over the appalachian range, leaving a rarified mist of joi de vivre in its wake. the Grams start with a compelling admixture of east-meets-west aesthetics; then they add superlative old-school songwriting and vocal harmonies, and pound in the final nail with a prodigious lineup of multifaceted musicians.
Chuck Schiele (vocals, guitar and chief songwriter) has corralled ten songs that combine old-world eastern sounds and western musical forms into an aurally inspiring pastiche of intermingling cultures and textures."Sixteen Seconds," "Joujouka," and "21g" practically throb with with Indian and Asian modality and groove as exotic percussions blend together with an often alternately tuned guitar, dobro, e-bow, occasional bass, and violin. "Crabbuckit" blows it wide open with Cajun rhythmic attack and a group sung chorus punctuated by shiele's animated yelps, which help cultivate a spontanious vibe on other songs, as well. "You" might initially seem like just another love song, but you'll be amazed at how this tune actually makes you feel like you're in love. And the acoustic folk pop melodies of "The Secret, " "Perfect World," and "Poor Little Rich Girl" will stay in your head for days.
The husband and wife team of Craig Yerkes (lead guitars, vocals) and Elise Ohki (violin, vocals) put the meat on these songs' bones. When not trading virtuostic leads and filling space with sublime melodies on their respective instruments, they're adding their vocals to Schiele's for tight two-and three-part harmonies. Yerkes leads are crisp and wonderfully restrained; the dobro on "Joujouka" is akin to the outstandingly nuanced, sitar-esque solo on Steely Dan's "Do it Again." And Yerkes' lucid tenor is the yin to Schiele's raw yang, especially during his lead vocal turn on "Poor Little Rich Girl."
Although some songs beg further instrumentation, The Grams still manage to strike a good balance between embellishment and restraint with the help of co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Berkley, whose percussion prowess did unobtrusive service to the music.
Whether they're pumping you up, or chilling you out, the Grams will no doubt leave youwith the impression that they've made a life-affirming acoustic record worthy of your attention.
Get uplifted soon at theGrams.net, and at the official CD release party on March 15, 8pm, at the Belly Up.
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"If Emeril was going to cook up an acoustic rock group he'd begin with Chuck Schiele and Craig Yerke..."If Emeril was going to cook up an acoustic rock group he'd begin with Chuck Schiele and Craig Yerkes...then he'd "kick it up a notch" with Sweet Elise because she brings such a delicious flavor to this trio that you just want to sit back and taste it. Her classical violin training and angelic vocals bring a groovy, soft edge to The Grams----its all about the yin and the yang and its really, really good."
- Joan Rubin, DJ
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"Schiele is one of those musicians that wield a guitar so masterfully that one could be content to l..."Schiele is one of those musicians that wield a guitar so masterfully that one could be content to listen to an entire album of his acoustic pickings... gentle rock and roll with an exotic flavor and a high level of spirituality. Based on his experiences traveling the world, he draws upon many styles and sings about "God, sex, and politics," placing a great deal of emphasis on substance as well as sound."
~ IMPACT MAGAZINE
The Grams CD Review
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Billed right on the cover of their new album as acoustic rock, that assessment of The Grams sound is...Billed right on the cover of their new album as acoustic rock, that assessment of The Grams sound is right on the money. Basically a showcase for Schieles well-written material, the recording is completely unplugged, taking in elements from the singer-songwriter and rock genres. The disc features Chuck Schiele (vocals, guitar), Sweet Elise Ohki (violin, vocals) and Craig Yerkes (guitars, vocals), layering their instruments and harmonies, with occasional percussive touches from producer Jeff Berkley. Schiele also penned nearly all of the songs and takes the lions share of the vocals, though to be fair, the groups defining element is Ohkis violin.
The best tunes here have a strong pop element, while the arranging of the instruments is superb, giving most of the tracks a lush and intricate sound.
Separating the album a little from the pack of acoustic acts making the rounds these days is its interesting hodgepodge of influences. There is definitely a smattering of prog-rock in some of the guitar runs. Check out the song One Thing to Say just before the last round of choruses, to cite just one example. That three-second guitar riff could pass for Yes guitarist Steve Howe or Mike Oldfield.
Hip-hop also makes an appearance in the form of a cover of Crabbuckit a song by Canadian artist K-OS. Transformed into a sunny, folk sing-a-long with attitude, the tune is easily one of the albums best cuts. Other highlights include Poor Little Rich Girl, which has echoes of Paul Simon and Van Morrison at their 1972 best, while Perfect World could be garage-rock if electrified.
This album is a solid debut, well worth searching for anyone who is looking for acoustic music thats a cut above the typical coffeehouse fare.
- Bart Mendoza
The Grams CD Review
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The Grams, Gramusic. San Diego's The Grams play an edgy, experimental folk music ---- think of it ...The Grams, Gramusic.
San Diego's The Grams play an edgy, experimental folk music ---- think of it as acid folk. Built around the stellar musicianship of the trio's members (Chuck Schiele, guitars, vocals and percussion; Craig Yerkes, guitars; vocals, Sweet Elise Ohki, violin, backing vocals), the band takes its collective virtuosity and puts it to a pretty stiff test on nearly every song. On their new self-titled CD, those tests come in the form of arrangements that bring in everything from Indian raga to Spanish flamenco to entirely new forms springing from the muses of the band. With just two guitars and a violin on most tracks, the ethereal sounds they create are downright amazing. The playing is just so darn good and makes for fun listening. The Grams' CD is available at thegrams.net.
- Jim Trageser
The Grams: Already in Progress
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April, 2008 The Grams: Already in Progress Written by Simeon Flick Progress seems to be the buz...April, 2008
The Grams: Already in Progress
Written by Simeon Flick
Progress seems to be the buzzword of the moment for the Grams these days; it's embodied in the extensive string of upgrades and improvements and benchmarks of achievement amassed during their four-year career. They've certainly been busy since their February 2006 front-page feature in this publication; said issue also heralded the arrival and review of their eponymous debut album and announced its presentation to the world at-large by plugging the subsequent CD release show at the Belly Up Tavern (which boasted what may very well have been the largest crowd ever for a San Diego-based independent acoustic act at the Solana Beach live music mecca). The first CD has since garnered the group airplay in far-flung places like Japan and New York as well as here in the Nation's Finest City.
Then there was the slew of well-attended high-profile performances at events like Artwalk and self-produced Beach Music Mafia happenings like Cash Only, Petty Fest, Diva Nova, and the OB Street Fair, culminating in the group making good on their 2005 nomination with back-to-back wins at the 2006 and 2007 San Diego Music Awards. Now they're on the verge of releasing their second album Love Factory (which drops at Anthology on April 16) to fans of good acoustic-Americana-world-rock music everywhere.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves – introductions must first be made for the benefit of the uninitiated. Here is a brief recap in case you, dear readers, are not yet familiar with the story of the Grams already in progress.
Upstate New York transplant Chuck Schiele had been a singer/songwriter in San Diego for a good while by the time he met semi-retired local guitar shredder Craig "Craigness" Yerkes, younger brother of ubiquitous multi-instrumentalist Marcia Claire. Chuck had also met classically trained violinist "Sweet" Elise Ohki by then (another upstate New York transplant) and the three began their collaboration as the Grams shortly thereafter (the moniker was originally 21 Grams, after the movie of the same name, which refers to the approximate mass a human body instantly loses upon dying, and ergo the supposed weight of the soul). Sparks flew between Craig and Elise and they soon began a collaboration of their own, tying the knot in 2004. Chuck also got married – to Joanna Seetoo in 2005 – and Joanna began to help out on the managerial side of things. These events certainly started the group ruminating about love, which ultimately factored in to future matters.
For a while the Grams performed a wide-ranging selection of originals and covers as a versatile trio, with Chuck acting as lead vocalist and rhythm section and Craig and Elise as soloists and backup singers (with Craig occasionally appearing in the lead vocal spotlight). Then they slowly started to expand the lineup, adding a percussionist or two here and a bass player there in the ongoing process of looking for the right fit (so far, only the three original members make up the permanent core). The rhythm section currently consists of Bill Coomes from Deadline Friday on percussion and vocals, Tony Sandoval on bass, and will probably be expanded for April 16th's CD release show...
...Which is the biggest thing on the band's mind these days. Love Factory was recorded at the nascent StudiOB production facility in the Ocean Beach domicile where Chuck and Joanna reside. Although the band very much enjoyed recording with and appreciated the production contributions of Jeff Berkeley at Miracle Studios the first time around (and may go into another studio again for a future recording), the clarity of the band's vision demanded the freedom of not having to watch the clock while paying for studio time and potentially distracting external input. The band needed the liberation of the creative impetus and the carte blanche to record unconventionally, and whenever the mood struck, so as not to force the process on bad days (the usage of the Ableton Live recording platform for Mac aided this process immensely). According to Schiele in a recent interview for Scott Zensen's MyWeek Magazine, every recorded moment on Love Factory was intuitively generated from a spirit of unencumbered fun and enjoyment of the process, and with an openness to good ideas regardless of their source.
The first thing you'll notice when holding your own copy of Love Factory in your hands sometime after April 16 (or if you catch a glimpse of the promo materials presently making the rounds) is how professional the album looks; the highly polished graphics and streamlined design are in total harmony with the album concept. Three pristine-looking gear cogs intermesh into the distance behind the band's elegantly scripted name on the front cover; the back panel is completely white save for the track listing and a small hexagonal bolt harmoniously joined with a congruent nut. It looks as though a major label with a huge budget could've footed the bill; in fact the sartorial visual aura is completely attributable to Chuck's professional graphic designing alter-ego, Charles Schiele Creative.
There are no photos to be found of the band members themselves (except for a Hard Day's Night style pastiche of headshots on the innermost panel, which features each member mugging it up in a white hard hat). The overall design defers to the mystique created by the imagery, putting the vital emphasis on the music contained within, transforming the band and its music into a symbol that transcends the individual parts.
Unlike the first record, with its predominantly black hue and its particular focus on the band in its developing stages, Love Factory is mostly white, which lends itself to the exploration of the purity of love as a universal concept. The paradoxical idea of a "Love Factory" came about before any of the songs were written and served as a creative launching pad to explore how the perception of love has changed through the ages. At the root of the band's capricious thematic exploration is the quizzical notion that the modern age has managed to turn even something as intangible as love into a commodity. The theme also has a literal application to the recording process, essentially the transmutation of music (which can be seen as having the same origins as love, or as being love itself) into an electronic sound recording and eventually into a consumable compact disc.
Put the disc in your CD player (if you still own one) and you'll hear the progression of the band's sound amidst the recognizable elements from the first album. Chuck's husky vocals, acoustic rhythms, and wildly ardent songs, Craig and Elise's crisp guitar and violin leads, melodies and vocal harmonizing are all still present, but the general sound palate has expanded. A full drum kit now occasionally shares the rhythmic continuum with the usual squadron of hand-wielded percussions; Craig actually throws down an unprecedented electric guitar solo; Elise's violin is lavishly reverbed, delayed, and sometimes electronically harmonized; and virtually every track is exuberantly awash in a swarm of luminary San Diegan vocal and instrumental cameos.
The multitude of guest performers illuminates the Grams' consistent focus on being a world-class act that admires and supports San Diego music, musicians, and businesses (every Love Factory contributor is name-dropped in the liner notes). They could've gone with a number of mastering houses in L.A., for instance, but they opted to roll with equally proficient San Diego competitor Paul Abbott of Zen Mastering, thereby keeping as much of the business as possible in their own backyard without any loss of quality.
As of this writing, the Grams have returned from participating in South By Southwest and other music-related activities that transpired in and around Austin, Texas. From here on out they will be preparing to promote the new album over the course of the next several months, beginning with intensive rehearsals for the Anthology show, as well as Artwalk, the OB Street Fair, and much more. Most of the songs on Love Factory were created in the studio, so they will be enjoying the humorously counter-intuitive process of learning their own songs and figuring out how to perform them live.
No matter what the future has in store for the Grams, you can rest assured that more progress will most certainly be made. Stay tuned.
CD Review "Love Factory"
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The Grams Love Factory Website: http://www.thegrams.net Written by Mike Alvarez The Grams se...The Grams
Written by Mike Alvarez
The Grams serve up yet another helping of catchy, smart acoustic rock on their new disc Love Factory. Driven by upbeat rhythms, appealing melodies, and interesting lyrics, this album is instantly likeable and becomes even more so with repeated spins. Frontman, guitarist, and principal songwriter Chuck Schiele has an interesting voice that is sometimes reminiscent of Peter Gabriel or Roger McGuinn. It's a warm, textured instrument that is very much at home in the various stylistic genres the band explores on this album.
A song simply titled "Love" sets the tone for this disc with its wall of acoustic guitars and violin licks. Schiele sings its slightly silly lyrics with conviction, taking point as the Grams work their way through its numerous musical changes. "Little Do They Know" is a spirited romp through country-rock territory that tells a tale of self-deception as it bumps along. One of my favorite tracks is the Craig Yerkes-penned instrumental "Via Katalin" that prominently showcases a tasty unison guitar and violin melody over an interesting 7/8 world-beat rhythm.
Also of note is "Goin' Down," a psychedelic-flavored jam that fools you into thinking it's going to be an instrumental until about two-thirds of the way in when the vocals kick in. "Heads Above Water" is a charming Byrds-style tune with a lot of lyrical references to local music icons like Cindy Lee Berryhill, Jeff Berkley, and Michael Tiernan. Scoring a coup of epic proportions, the Grams got the latter two to sing backup on this song (the roster of guest musicians on this album is a veritable who's who of San Diego talent). The Grams' classic rock, world beat, folk, and country influences are joined by some blues ("Big Dangerous," "Perfume") and old-time rock'n'roll ("Cinderella"), resulting in a varied, original, and satisfying sound.
The arrangements are deep and complex, comprised as they are of multiple layers of guitars, vocals, and percussion. There's a lot going on, but it's all designed to drive the songs forward. The overall sound is well-balanced and immaculate. All of the parts are mixed and panned to maximize their musical impact. They can each be heard distinctly, yet they also work as parts of a greater whole. Often leading the charge is Sweet Elise Ohki's tastefully nimble violin leads. Whether she's playing single lines or multi-tracked orchestrations, her contributions perfectly complement the tunes without ever overpowering them. She takes charge when the occasion calls for it but also holds back where necessary. As with every element of Love Factory, it's apparent that much thought went into finding her place in the Grams' sound. The guitarists have ample opportunity to solo too. Electric and acoustic leads punctuate many of the songs to great effect. Schiele, Yerkes, and Ohki are fantastic musicians who clearly relish the chance to strut their stuff in this collection of great tunes. This will surely be considered a major release in the San Diego music scene this year.
Grab a fresh copy hot off the press at the Grams' CD release, April 16, at Anthology. More details are at www.thegrams.net
CD reviews for April 10
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LOCAL Grade: "A" "Love Factory" The Grams Self-released Augmented to a full five-piece ...LOCAL
Augmented to a full five-piece since they issued their self-titled alt-acoustic debut as a trio two years ago, the Grams' follow-up disc displays not only the fuller sound a larger combo provides, but tighter playing and growth in their songwriting. And winning San Diego Music Awards in each of the past two years has no doubt contributed to the band's increased confidence.
It all adds up to a sophomore effort that is markedly improved over what was a very good debut. Guitarists Chuck Schiele and Craig Yerkes and violinist Sweet Elise Ohio could always flat-out play, and they remain virtuosic on "Love Factory." What is added to that mix are arrangements that highlight each player's strengths, and that put Schiele's singing in complementary surroundings. Having Tony Sandoval (bass) and Bill Coomes (drums) flesh out the band's sound adds a new dynamic. (Schiele dubbed in bass and drum tracks on the first album.)
It all comes together on "Heads Above Water," a gorgeous little nugget of pop-music goodness. With a nod to local music icon Cindy Lee Berryhill in the opening stanza followed by some wonderful wordplay, and with Ohki's delicate violin lines dancing above Schiele's vocals, it's a near-perfect song.
The Grams play Wednesday at Anthology in San Diego.
---- Jim Trageser
PLEASE SIGN THE LIABILITY RELEASE FORM BEFORE YOU TOUR 'LOVE FACTORY'
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April 10, 2008 by George Varga The Grams have won Best Americana honors at each of the two most...April 10, 2008
by George Varga
The Grams have won Best Americana honors at each of the two most recent San Diego Music Awards. The accolade is deserved, even if Americana is just one musical facet of this eclectic San Diego band, which performs a CD release concert Wednesday at Anthology in Little Italy.
The show celebrates The Grams' second album, “Love Factory.” Its title may suggest The B-52's, but the album thankfully eschews the latter group's retro-kitsch-pop approach for something that is both more earthy and more exotic.
Recently expanded from a trio to a quintet with the addition of bassist Tony Sandoval and drummer-vocalist Bill Coomes, Grams co-founders Chuck Schiele, Elise Ohki and Craig Yerkes are skilled musicians who realize that achieving a cohesive group sound is more important than individual showboating.
Drawing from rock, country, blues, flamenco, Celtic, Indian ragas and more, the members of The Grams mix and match styles to fit each song. A highlight is “Via Katalin,” the new album's sole instrumental, which begins as a mournful ballad before assuming a faster tempo and a Moorish flavor created by Ohki and Yerkes' sparkling unison lines.
Too short at three minutes, “Via Katalin” may well be the most arresting instrumental number by a (non-jazz) San Diego band since Nickel Creek's “Smoothie Song” in 2002. Not all the vocal numbers rise as high, although “Goin' Down” and the rockabilly-flavored “Yummy” come close. Kudos, too, for Schiele's incisive lyrics on “Little Do They Know,” which contains such choice couplets as: They've got one thing in common / Two different points of view and Three strikes coming / Four more lies to tell.
The Grams play original and cover music.
Original Gram Music
Little Do They Know
Heads Above Water
Poor Little Rich Girl
One Thing to Say
Hey Little Girl
Thank You (led zeppelin)
The Way (fastball)
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (paul simon)
Watching the Detectives (elvis costello)
Five O'Clock World/I Feel Free (the vogues/cream)
Mary Jane's Last Dance (tom petty)
Star of Bethlehem (neil young)
Pride & Joy (stevie ray vaughan)
Good Riddance (green day)
What Its Like (everlast)
The Man's Too Strong (dire straits)
Folsom Prison Blues (johnny cash)
and song from our favorite San Diego artists.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.