The Grams / Chuck Schiele
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The Grams / Chuck Schiele


Band Rock Acoustic


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"The Grams Weigh In The Anatomy of a Modern Working Band by Simeon Flick"

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 - San Diego Troubadour: cover story Feb.2006

"The Grams CD Review"

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, and at the official CD release party on March 15, 8pm, at the Belly Up.

- San Diego Troubadour: Feb.2006

"KKSM Radio"

"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 - KKSM Radio, San Marcos, CA


"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."

"The Grams: Already in Progress"

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 bud - San Diego Troubadour

"CD Review "Love Factory""

The Grams
Love Factory

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
- San Diego Troubadour

"CD reviews for April 10"


Grade: "A"
"Love Factory"
The Grams


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

Staff writer
- The North County Times


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 Union Tribune

"The Grams CD Review"

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 - San Diego Music Matters

"The Grams CD Review"

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
- Jim Trageser - North County Times


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

- 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



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, �when he sings about soul, you know he has one."� 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. "Hitting� 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 �world-famous� 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.

Other information....

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.

Chuck Schiele owns and operates StudiOB, a full-service recording studio, in Ocean Beach, California.

Feel free to contact us for bookings, press and more information!
Joanna Schiele: