SOFT REEDS
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SOFT REEDS

Kansas City, Missouri, United States | INDIE

Kansas City, Missouri, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Rock

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This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Dec
17
SOFT REEDS @ Spike Hill

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Dec
16
SOFT REEDS @ Pianos

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Nov
24
SOFT REEDS @ the brick

Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Music

Press


As many stories go, Ben Grimes was once in a band with some of his closest friends, only to see success eat away at their relationships and ultimately destroy the foundation of the band. The Golden Republic released only one album on Astralwerks but managed to tour with some big names like Nada Surf and Sondre Lerche before calling it quits in 2006. Grimes, disheartened by the deterioration of The Golden Republic left Kansas City for Nashville in an attempt to leave the music in the past. Fortunately, Nashville’s immense music culture revitalized his passion, and Grimes began work on a new project. Leaving Nashville to return to his former home of Kansas City, he rejoined the music scene and assembled his new band, Soft Reeds. Influenced more by Talking Heads than the massive blues rock of Zeppelin that inspired The Golden Republic, Soft Reeds’ Soft Reeds Are Bastards is one of the finest debuts of 2010.

In anticipation of their first shows in New York next week during CMJ, I spoke with been about the formation of Soft Reeds as well as life in the “3rd Most Dangerous City in The US.”
Why do you make music?

Music is kind of what I’ve always done. My mother had me singing at nursing homes when I was 3, and I just never stopped. I’m not really very good at much else, so here I stay.
Where are you from originally?

I’m a Chicago boy
Was there a music scene there that would influence your tastes early on?

Growing up in Chicago, I was around loads of punk and hip hop, so those scenes have always been important to my development. But as I developed musically there stopped being any specific scene or era that I felt I completely related to. Even being involved all these years in the Kansas City scene, it’s been easy at times to feel stylistically like an outsider.
Kansas City’s music scene is very untapped. Who should people check out?

There are some really wonderful things happening there right now. Off the top of my head, I think the Republic Tigers, Be/Non, Saharan Gazelle Boy, Capybara, and Cowboy Indian Bear are top of the heap.
Do you feel like the middle of the country gets overlooked by the music media?

Yeah, I think so. Markets like Chicago and Austin obviously don’t have as much trouble, but I think Kansas City has a reputation on the coasts of being a cow town, and therefore, even locally, fails to get the attention it deserves.
After Golden Republic broke up, you left Kansas City for Nashville with little intention for making new music. What caused this feeling of a need to escape from music?

It was just a really painful experience breaking up that band, and we had a terrible falling out. Having that feeling that my best friends had become my enemies is really what made me feel the need for a fresh start.
What brought you back?

Well, Nashville reawakened my love for music in a really beautiful way, but I knew I didn’t want to be involved in that scene. I had friends in KC that wanted to work with me on the record, so I made my way back again.
Would you ever work with another major label?

Really really really really depends on the situation and the people involved. I really had an excellent relationship with our team at EMI, and still love them to death. I think the only real difficulty was our own inexperience as writers and performers at that time. We didn’t know how to deal with the kind of pressure that came with that deal, and it ultimately destroyed us. And let’s face it, the music industry is a very different mechanism now.
Are you on good terms with your former bandmates?

I’m very glad to say that we’re all close friends again.
Soft Reeds definitely has a different sound than Golden Republic. What were some new influences driving this new sound?

I think the main difference is that I’ve been able to focus on what I want our direction to be, as opposed to a more democratic approach. I’m very informed these days by Eno, T Rex, Sonic Youth and David Byrne.
Kansas City was just named the “3rd Most Dangerous City in America.” Does it really feel that unsafe?

Yes. It does. We don’t really go out late much anymore because of it. I have so many friends who’ve been shot or robbed at gunpoint or whatever. The violence sort of touches everybody.
How did you settle on the name Soft Reeds?

Well it’s sort of a double homage. My first instrument was saxophone, so I was always at Pierce Music in Chicago looking at hard and soft reeds. But the name came to me one night when I had an ipod on shuffle and it played ‘Underwater Moonlight’ by Soft Boys, followed by ‘Vicious’ by Lou Reed.
You’re coming to NYC for CMJ. What else do you plan on doing in the city?

Going to shows and seeing lots of friends. It’s been too long since I’ve spent any real time there. - Mecca Lecca


Led by former Gold Republic front man Ben Grimes, the debut single by Soft Reeds is well-crafted art rock a la Talking Heads and Wire. Vocally, Grimes sounds similar to Sunset Rubdown's Spencer Krug, though a bit less weird. Much like Sunset Rubdown and Frog Eyes, Soft Reeds' songs on Soft Reeds Are Bastards are loaded with an often challenging tension that forces attention out of a listener. - jonnyleather.com


When he returns to Kansas City for the first time in nearly a year, Ben Grimes will reacquaint himself with more than just old friends. He'll also revisit some familiar songs, including one that's getting some local radio airplay.

Grimes is a former member of the Golden Republic. Since that band broke up nearly two years ago, its former members have landed in various music ventures. Grimes has moved to a town outside of Nashville; his songwriting partner in Golden Republic, Kenn Jankowski, launched the Republic Tigers, who released the full-length "Keep Color" in May.

The first single off that album was "Buildings and Mountains," which the band performed on the David Letterman show and which has been in rotation on local radio station KRBZ – "The Buzz -- (96.5 FM).

Tonight (Nov. 26), Grimes' new band, the Soft Reeds, will headline a show at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road, and it will revisit some of the songs Grimes wrote for the Golden Republic, including "Buildings and Mountains." (Hear the Soft Reeds version and other songs here.)

He's doing that for a couple of reasons, Grimes said. One, the gig at RecordBar unexpectedly turned into a headlining gig after the orignal headliners canceled; and two, his new band doesn't have enough material to fill a headlining set.

"When I came back to Kansas City, I pointedly did not want a headlining show," he said recently from his home in Nashville. "But it turned into one. So we've rehearsed some Golden Republic songs, and we'll do a few. I'm not sure which ones at this point, but one of them will be 'Buildings and Mountains.'"

Grimes co-wrote the song with Jankowski, and he has fond memories of both the process and the results. "For me, it's a pretty sentimental song," he said. "Part of it had to do with me getting married and getting into that way of life and other things. It was one of those monumental moments, and it became one of those songs that came from a moment of complete clarity.

"So when I wrote it, it really meant something to me. It's very personal and an important part of my repertoire. Hearing someone else sing it is kind of a strange experience, but at the same time I'm also glad for what it's been through with the Republic Tigers.

"For Kenn and I, I think it was the pinnacle of our collaboration. That song inspired us: 'We gotta make the Golden Republic thing work. We have good chemistry.' It wasn't as easy to make it work like it did on that song. "At that point, Kenn was very prolific writing songs on his own and my life was changing in ways that were taking me away from doing it as well. So to me, that song is also like a beautiful swan song for that time."

Grimes said he still looks back on those days both fondly and sadly. The Golden Republic had high hopes for success, especially after signing a deal with Astralwerks. The breakup severed relationships, including one with his cousin, Ryan Shank, the band's drummer.

Back in August, Grimes told The Star: "It was an amazing experience. In ways, it's still hard to talk about. It sort of was like the decline and fall of my three best friendships. … I think I learned a lot from my end. I mistreated my band mates and I felt mistreated, too. I've since learned to love people for who they are and what you know them to be."

Last week, he said: "I still reminisce a lot. I miss the times we had. Any time a band breaks up there are difficult changes in relationships. I regret we aren't as close as we used to be. We had amazing times together. Harry (Anderson) and I are still in pretty close communication. But everyone else – there's not a lot of contact. We've all sort of moved on."

In November 2007, Grimes and his wife, Katie, moved to Tennessee to start over and be near her family. They have a 17-month-old son, Alistair, and are expecting a daughter in April. His plans when he moved did not include music.

"I was so burned form the whole Golden Republic experience – I love music but at that point it was too painful," he said. "There were too many wounded friendships and the record label thing was so messed up and complicated.

"But after a while, I started getting some opportunities thrown at me and I kind of re-developed that child-like sense of awe and rebellion about being a musician."
He expects the Reeds to issue an album in early 2009. The songs, he said, will be influenced by his affection for several different flavors of music.

"I've been burned out on indie rock; I've fallen into the arms of world music, instrumental music," he said. "I've been listening to Django Reinhardt and Can for a while. I've also been working with this guy who's an amazing musician, writer and composer. After Thanksgiving, we'll be moving into preproduction. I 've been taking my sweet time with this record, but I hope to have it a lot done by early January."
- The Kansas City Star/Back to Rockville


As former frontman of the now-defunct Golden Republic, Ben Grimes found his niche as a talented songwriter. Grimes moved on to Soft Reeds, and in the Kansas City band’s new full-length album, Soft Reeds are Bastards, Grimes takes the glam-rock blueprint of The Golden Republic and masterfully merges it with a folksy, indie-pop backdrop.

Most of Soft Reeds are Bastards’ 10 quick tracks blend ’80s glam/Britpop with modern, mellow indie pop. “This Affair” evokes Depeche Mode in its electronic experimentation and in Grimes’ dark yet sincere tone a la Dave Gahan. Throughout the album, Grimes paints songs with this mood while maintaining a confident quality.

Soft Reeds are Bastards packs experimental techniques into otherwise basic pop tunes. Showy instrumentation over a solid pop structure can be overkill for some bands. Here, the veteran songwriter beautifully weaves intricate pieces with foundational melodies and makes it work, for the most part.

“The City & the Stars” seems straightforward on the surface, but a generous sprinkling of ambient keyboards permeates the album, filling it with more immediacy and validity. In “Thick of Thin Things” Grimes again shows his knack for writing multilayered songs. He builds an atmosphere around the mix of a whirring synthesizer, sparing guitar riffs and a low but commanding vocal presence that channels David Bowie.

At times Soft Reeds’ musical experimentation misses the mark. “Hemel Dalingen,” a former Golden Republic song, adds a more guitar-driven, Britpop/alt-rock sensibility. The instrumental breakdown goes awry when it crams in saxophones and guitars that all vie for the listener’s attention and ultimately turn into a traffic jam. Likewise, the screaming guitar on intro track “Brave New World” attempts to reach ethereal heights, but the dissonance proves too overpowering for the song’s easygoing nature.

On the whole, though, Grimes finds that perfect balance between structured songwriting and ambient material on Soft Reeds are Bastards. That intelligent interplay coupled with Grimes’ smooth and haunting voice makes for an album that’s sure to be another success for the talented musician. - Ink Magazine


To state the obvious: Writing a catchy song isn't as easy as it looks. Dumping a bucket of glittering noise over solid pop-song structure doesn't obscure Soft Reeds' talent for churning out foot-tapping hooks; the local act just makes those hooks a bit more interesting. On Soft Reeds Are Bastards, the follow-up to last year's three-song EP, frontman Ben Grimes' stark, trembling vocals hover over the band's rich orchestrations. Fizzy bubbles of harmony and dissonance float within summery rock riffs and rickety folk ballads. The band edges a sneakered toe into punk guitar noodling and hints at glam, and a raucous howl isn't out of place on harder-hitting tracks like "The Sirens of Titan." But bittersweet sensitivity is Soft Reeds' strong suit, and Bastards' intricate, tightly wound melodies don't stray far from crystalline indie pop. - The Pitch Weekly


Soft Reeds Are Bastards is a daring, arresting rock record, and it should be — it took Ben Grimes 12 frustrating years to make it.

Grimes, Soft Reeds' founder, has deep roots in Kansas City's music scene. His first band took off when he was 21, after cousin Ryan Shank asked him to play music while he was in film school at the University of Kansas.

"I dropped all my classes and moved to Springfield, Missouri, and started a band," Grimes says. "And then, boom, the next 12 years of my life are gone."

That band was called the Golden Republic, and it kick-started Grimes' trip along a fast-burning track from obscurity to fame. "When we started, I wanted to be young punks, like 'fuck it!'" he says. "I wanted to be strong and bold and brash and mean." That was in 1999. By the time the band had recorded an album, signed to Astralwerks records and finished 18 months of touring, things had changed. Radically.

"It wasn't fun anymore," Grimes recalls. "There was all this tension, and everybody hated each other." The Golden Republic split in 2006, with several members going on to form the chart toppers known as the Republic Tigers.

Grimes moved to Nashville the following year. He didn't tell many people that he and his wife were skipping town. "After the Golden Republic broke up, I was burned," he says. He even considered selling his equipment. "At the time, I was like, 'I'm done!'"

His wife, Katie Dupre, knew better. "She's like, 'Well, let's hang on to it. Your amp is old. It's an investment. Let's wait a few more years. It'll be worth more.' Smart chick, that girl." She was right, of course. "Something about the spirit of it [Nashville] just pulled that music thing back out of me."

Country music's cradle inspired Grimes at first, but he was ultimately disappointed by it. "People act as though they are extremely liberal, but if you have an actual conversation, they are the most conservative, repressed, narrow-minded [people]," he says.

Soft Reeds, his current project, started as an outlet for his frustration. "Nashville made me want to rebel again — which, for a guy who's 30-ish to rebel, that's a stretch," Grimes says. "Initially, I was trying to be weird as I could be. I was trying to sound like Kate Bush meets Syd Barrett meets the Clash, all this bizarre stuff that doesn't really work together." Those jarring demos eventually fused into the songs on Bastards.

"The way that I came up with the name Soft Reeds was that I was listening to my iTunes on shuffle, and 'I Want to Destroy You' by the Soft Boys came on. And then 'Vicious' by Lou Reed came on. I always go back to '77 Berlin: Brian Eno, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop."

Grimes had trouble capturing that sound with his Nashville peers. "If you're referencing Lou Reed, they're like, 'Oh, like a "Walk on the Wild Side" kind of thing?' And you're like, 'No, not like that at all, actually.'"

Several attempts to fill out Soft Reeds' lineup with Nashville musicians failed. Grimes and his family moved back to Kansas City after a visit, during which he happened upon a few locals with whom he finally meshed. "I knew that I could put a band together [in Kansas City] and make a record," he says. "It was kind of magical. They just got it."

Grimes and his new collaborators recorded Bastards in an art space in the Crossroads, close to West 18th Street. "One of the guys that helped us on the record commented that it [the studio] looked like one of the rooms in Saw — this horrible torture chamber," Grimes jokes. They laid out the tracks between late-night coffee sessions at Y.J.'s Snack Bar. Then Grimes chose a local label to put out the new band's debut.

"That was my big rule: I needed to have people on board who were passionate about it," Grimes says. The Record Machine gives Bastards its first official release this week. "These guys could live anywhere. But with Nathan [Reusch, of the Record Machine], I have history. He lives five blocks from my house, so if I need to talk to my record label, I just drive down the block. Having friends involved and people I have history with and trust — it's so different. Having a relationship with people that are passionate about your project — there's nothing more that you can ask for than that."

This time, Grimes is keeping his expectations realistic. "I'm getting older," he says. "I guess I feel a lot older and wiser. Unless I'm extremely fortunate, I'm not going to keep doing this forever. I want my kids to grow up having a role model that is pursuing passions and dreams and doing what they really want to be doing, money be damned." - The Pitch Weekly


Soft Reeds Are Bastards is a daring, arresting rock record, and it should be — it took Ben Grimes 12 frustrating years to make it.

Grimes, Soft Reeds' founder, has deep roots in Kansas City's music scene. His first band took off when he was 21, after cousin Ryan Shank asked him to play music while he was in film school at the University of Kansas.

"I dropped all my classes and moved to Springfield, Missouri, and started a band," Grimes says. "And then, boom, the next 12 years of my life are gone."

That band was called the Golden Republic, and it kick-started Grimes' trip along a fast-burning track from obscurity to fame. "When we started, I wanted to be young punks, like 'fuck it!'" he says. "I wanted to be strong and bold and brash and mean." That was in 1999. By the time the band had recorded an album, signed to Astralwerks records and finished 18 months of touring, things had changed. Radically.

"It wasn't fun anymore," Grimes recalls. "There was all this tension, and everybody hated each other." The Golden Republic split in 2006, with several members going on to form the chart toppers known as the Republic Tigers.

Grimes moved to Nashville the following year. He didn't tell many people that he and his wife were skipping town. "After the Golden Republic broke up, I was burned," he says. He even considered selling his equipment. "At the time, I was like, 'I'm done!'"

His wife, Katie Dupre, knew better. "She's like, 'Well, let's hang on to it. Your amp is old. It's an investment. Let's wait a few more years. It'll be worth more.' Smart chick, that girl." She was right, of course. "Something about the spirit of it [Nashville] just pulled that music thing back out of me."

Country music's cradle inspired Grimes at first, but he was ultimately disappointed by it. "People act as though they are extremely liberal, but if you have an actual conversation, they are the most conservative, repressed, narrow-minded [people]," he says.

Soft Reeds, his current project, started as an outlet for his frustration. "Nashville made me want to rebel again — which, for a guy who's 30-ish to rebel, that's a stretch," Grimes says. "Initially, I was trying to be weird as I could be. I was trying to sound like Kate Bush meets Syd Barrett meets the Clash, all this bizarre stuff that doesn't really work together." Those jarring demos eventually fused into the songs on Bastards.

"The way that I came up with the name Soft Reeds was that I was listening to my iTunes on shuffle, and 'I Want to Destroy You' by the Soft Boys came on. And then 'Vicious' by Lou Reed came on. I always go back to '77 Berlin: Brian Eno, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop."

Grimes had trouble capturing that sound with his Nashville peers. "If you're referencing Lou Reed, they're like, 'Oh, like a "Walk on the Wild Side" kind of thing?' And you're like, 'No, not like that at all, actually.'"

Several attempts to fill out Soft Reeds' lineup with Nashville musicians failed. Grimes and his family moved back to Kansas City after a visit, during which he happened upon a few locals with whom he finally meshed. "I knew that I could put a band together [in Kansas City] and make a record," he says. "It was kind of magical. They just got it."

Grimes and his new collaborators recorded Bastards in an art space in the Crossroads, close to West 18th Street. "One of the guys that helped us on the record commented that it [the studio] looked like one of the rooms in Saw — this horrible torture chamber," Grimes jokes. They laid out the tracks between late-night coffee sessions at Y.J.'s Snack Bar. Then Grimes chose a local label to put out the new band's debut.

"That was my big rule: I needed to have people on board who were passionate about it," Grimes says. The Record Machine gives Bastards its first official release this week. "These guys could live anywhere. But with Nathan [Reusch, of the Record Machine], I have history. He lives five blocks from my house, so if I need to talk to my record label, I just drive down the block. Having friends involved and people I have history with and trust — it's so different. Having a relationship with people that are passionate about your project — there's nothing more that you can ask for than that."

This time, Grimes is keeping his expectations realistic. "I'm getting older," he says. "I guess I feel a lot older and wiser. Unless I'm extremely fortunate, I'm not going to keep doing this forever. I want my kids to grow up having a role model that is pursuing passions and dreams and doing what they really want to be doing, money be damned." - The Pitch Weekly


Discography

"Blank City" full length album. Due out Feb 2013.

"Funky Friends Breathe, OK?" 7" single. Record Store Day 2012

"Magic" 7" single. Released Apr 2011.

"Soft Reeds Are Bastards" full length album. Released July 2010.

"This Affair" single, from the album "Soft Reeds Are Bastards". Released May 2010.

"Three Songs By Soft Reeds" EP. Released May 2009.

Photos

Bio

Soft Reeds is the brainchild of Ben Grimes (formerly of Astralwerks' The Golden Republic), a Chicago native whose influences are rooted firmly in the ’77 Berlin sounds of Brian Eno, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, but embrace the ethos and attack of early English indie rock and post-punk. Originally started as Grimes' post-TGR solo project, Soft Reeds became a full band in late 2009, and the critically acclaimed 'Soft Reeds are Bastards' was released the following year.
The band features a diverse group of players, anchored by the rhythm section of drummer Josh Wiedenfeld, an Austin, TX native who also moonlights as a producer and arranger, and bassist Beckie Trost, a fellow Chicagoan and childhood friend of Grimes. Filling out their sound are Kansas City natives John Mitchell on guitar and saxophone and Jeffrey Harvey on keys and percussion. Together, they fashion a wall of sound that resonates behind Grimes’ signature vocals, which might be compared to the likes of Bryan Ferry and David Byrne, yet manage to stand uniquely apart.
Soft Reeds continue to reap the benefits of Kansas City’s tight-knit music community, while building an impressive national and international reputation following high-profile appearances at SXSW and CMJ, buzzworthy headlining shows in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and several major television placements. With a new album in the works for early 2013, they continue to forge ahead with their nervy, glammy post-punk sound, relying on their strength of collaboration, a unique sonic vision, and a shared interest in the roots of art and popular music to find new and beautiful ways to bring you aural delight.