Grubstake
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Grubstake

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"Ghosts of Arkadelphia review"

We’ve all pretty much played the grooves off that White Stripes record by now, and if you’re like me, you’ve been itching for a new rock and roll fix to equal the rush of the first time you spun White Blood Cells. The answer to your prayers, friends, is Ghosts of Arkadelphia, the storming new CD from Boston’s Grubstake, who may not have that smokin’ hot chick behind the drum kit, but otherwise they’ve got the bluesy stripped-lean rock thing down pat. How Detroit failed to produce these guys is beyond me.

Seriously, you’ll have trouble listening to the second half of the album, because you won’t want to stop playing the second track, “Recession Blues 2001,” over and over again. Spare and ruthless and just a minute-and-a-half long, it runs over you like an old steam engine, but you’re going to have to pry your hand away from the repeat button long enough to get to the CD’s later songs, which are even better. Starting with “Familiar Ring,” which shuffles along like a Rufus Wainwright tune done up mean in a smoky biker bar, the band starts layering in accordion sounds, giving the songs a rich, swampy stomp. Lead singer Pat McHugh’s voice turns a little arch, and his guitar lines get a little more fluid, just as Rocket1000’s percussion tightens up even further around him, and Ghosts of Arkadelphia turns downright sweeping.

It closes with an astonishing tour through the possibilities of blues rock, from the gritty punk of “Ballad of Sharon de Paygne” through the crooning Prince-like come-ons of “Bimbo Akimbo,” and into a spooky, glockenspiel-haunted closing meditation called “CVS HQ.” The record is a little tough to find in stores, but you can order it through the band’s website, www.grubbies.net. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A
– Steven Hanna - Campus Circle Magazine, LA, CA


"Dynamite & Other Inventions Review"

Boston’s "purveyors of gutbucket swamp blues" have some new designs for third LP. For old fans, the crotchety, diseased blues of 1999’s out of print Farm Use and 2001’s Ghosts of Arkadelphia reappear on such tunes as "Alligator Blues", where even an accordion sounds mean and scab-red. But Dynamite goes easier on the hard stuff and indulges their equally diseased folk-blues side. Pat McHugh is one of those naturally weird people who makes everything seem psychotic and strange (like on "Meteor Shower", as he tries to distinguish between meteor and satellite, or when he starts feeling like an alligator) as he plumbs 70-year-old riffs from the Mississippi Delta and inverts them into something dark and disturbing. Maybe he made the same bargain with the devil as Robert Johnson. But we find the dark side tempting, don’t we?
-Jack Rabid - The Big Takeover, #56, June ’05


"Interview with the Noise"

You may not know of Grubstake. You may not have caught their opening stints for their female counterparts in stripped down blues, Mr. Airplane Man, or local troublemakers The Takers -- but chances are, you'd dig 'em. Like Andy Warhol attempting an Impresisonist portrait of Elvis, Grubstake manages to mix the humor of Ween, Richard Hell's punk snickers and the "dropout blues" of early Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band with charm, skill, and reckless abandon. Two things that Grubstake has over Warhol in this department, however, are a toy piano and an accordion. While this may cause some to label the group as being "quirky" (tantamount to instant death in "respectable" indie rock circles), their odd instrumental arrangements only seem to add a sense of originality and rustic charm in the era of manufactured (and downloaded) music. The trio, composed of Pat McHugh (guitars, vocals), Rocket 1000 (drums) and John Buczkowski (accordion, bass) share a sense of sly wit and creative tale telling that would make Col. Parker blush. Grubstak (noun): 1: supplies or funds furnished a mining prospector on promise of a share in his discoveries. 2: material assistance (as a loan) provided for launching an enterprise or for a person in difficult circumstances.

Noise: So, how would you describe your sound?

Rocket 1000: There's a trend where people don't know what to make of us. I actually take it as a compliment... (but) the fact is, it's not any weirder than any other shit that's out there.

Pat McHugh: Dropout blues... a sound that came from years of noise experimentation and home recording. The songs are more folkie than rock tunes. There's a lot of space for other instruments to come in.

John Buczkowski: Swampy blues. Traditional more than folkie.

Pat: We've found a really nice critical mass between instruments.

Rocket: Some people don't get the accordion.

Pat: It's not jarring, "Hey, lookit our accordion!"

John: I don't know know if you can tell on some of the songs if it's an accordion or an organ. (I) try not to oompah; try to make it trippy.

Pat: We were really lucky to find John and have an accordionist so willing to try unusual music. I think musicians appreciate what we do.

The recently released Ghosts of Arkadelphia on Nine Mile Records (Rocket runs the label, by the way) os Grubstake's second full-length album. There was quite a cushy period of time in between this and their last release, Farm Use. What gives?

Pat: We (he and Rocket) both have been doing what you might call home recording for a long time. I was an avid 4-tracker.

Rocket: It takes about two and a half years to do an album. We do it all ourselves... on 8 track.

Pat: You couldn't get that Grubstake sound on a 4-track. Too rich. (But) I think that the Moldy Peaches might be a 4-track band.

Rocket: They're not one of those bands that just records in really nice studios but...

Pat:...makes it sound like crap? I don't think so. I've heard a lot of bad recordings, and I think that's genuine crap.

Noise: Uh huh...

Pat (getting back to his music): We wanted this album to have the feel of a good mix tape, where anything could be up next but everything is unified by a certain sound. The sounds we've built combine elements of traditional blues and folk with minimalist punk. The Blues Brothers was definately a film that was very influential on our musical development. It made me want to play any place -- a church, Bob's Country Bunker, the middle of the street in front of a fried chicken place...

Noise: Where's the strangest place you've ever played?

Pat: We played a graduation party in Worchester.

Rocket: In the rain.

Pat: It wasn't that weird. It just sounds weird. There was a 200-pound pig named Runt there. I actually went into his lair and visited.

Noise: Where is Arkadelphia? Is that a real place?

Pat: It's kind of fairy-tale sounding, yet it's a real city in the Deep South.

Rocket: It's in Arkansas. I was driving through Arkansas on my way to Texas and saw the name of the town and thought it was cool.

Pat: The funny thing, (is)my neighbor, completely randomly, is from Arkansas, from the same side of the state as Arkadelphia. It kind of drove him crazy.

Rocket: The entire state of Arkansas is like Area 51... Arkadelphia (as a title) doesn't mean anything (though).

Pat: It sounds like Philadelphia.

Rocket: I figure that's where Grubstake's sound is -- somewhere between Philadelphia and Arkansas.

Noise: I really love "2001 Recession Blues". That's based on real events, right?

Pat: It's a very non-fictional song. It's a true story. I know a lot fo people who've suffered from that general malady.

Noise: Tell me about Nine Mile Records.

Rocket: Nine Mile Records is something i started a few years ago to put out albums by a previous band. We just stuck with it. I don't know if you can actually call it a label. I think labels are supposed to make money.

Pat: They - The Noise Magazine 2003


Discography

2000 - Farm Use LP
2002 - Ghosts of Arkadelphia LP
2004 - Dynamite & Other Inventions LP
2007 - The Bestest

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Bio

Grubstake's ethos is simple: keep it dirty, sing about zombies, paranoia (sometimes in the same song), and don't be afraid to use unusual instruments - from accordions to toy pianos to kazoos. For the past 5 years that's what they've been doing in clubs all over The Northeast. Critics have noticed:

The Noise magazine calls Grubstake "Indie rock at it's best" and Amanda Nichols of the Weekly Dig says, "Like Andy Warhol attempting an Impressionist portrait of Elvis, Grubstake manages to mix the humor of Ween, Richard Hell's punk snickers and the 'dropout blues' of early Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band with charm, skill, and reckless abandon."

Since their inception, Grubstake has taken on many appearances, from two-man blues boogey, to five-piece sonic assault. They've been compared to a diverse cadre of bands, from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to T-rex, to Calexico. At the center of it all, however, is mastermind Pat McHugh. It's McHugh's Travis Bean guitar sound that gives Grubstake their trademark "underground swamp rock" sound, and it's McHugh's skewed vision that holds the whole combustible enterprise together. Add to this vision Rocket1000's swirling drums and John Buczkowski's thumping bass and delicate accordion, and prepare yerself…