t. griffin coraline

t. griffin coraline


Hushed, intense duo that wraps wheezing keyboards, spaghetti guitars, hand-stitched loops, bent beats and acoustic instruments around Griffin's haunted songs. We call it porch techno.


Based in Brooklyn – not the encroaching Brooklyn of million dollar apartments and chain stores but the Brooklyn that can still be found on forgotten piers and under highways – the T. Griffin Coraline is a collaboration between songwriter T. Griffin and violinist/singer Catherine McRae. It’s a hushed, intense duo of twin lead vocals, junk-store samples and acoustic instruments that expands at times to include a ghostly orchestra of strings, horns and bowed percussion featuring members of Lambchop, godspeed you! black emperor, Melomane and Zaftig.

Fans of those bands or of Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits or Daniel Johnston take note.

T. Griffin’s star has been burning under the radar since 2000’s Tortuga garnered rave reviews and a small but passionate following for his haunted narratives and the estate-sale electronic folk that he dubbed “porch techno.” In August of 2001, Light in the Aisles was released to an initial flurry of raves, but touring and promotion for the record were cut short by world events occurring in his front yard that fall.

Says Griffin: “I was supposed to go on tour that fall, but like a lot of New Yorkers, I didn’t feel like travelling, so I didn’t go. I read a lot of newspapers. I did some soundtrack work. I didn’t write songs for a long time, but when I did I guess I still had newsprint on my fingers.”

Those songs became REDBIRDS.

REDBIRDS was recorded in a basement that had last been used as an illegal $50-a-month apartment for Latvian sailors working in nearby Red Hook. The sink and hand-made medicine cabinet are still there, stocked with the medicines and shaving equipment of the last occupant. His pictures are still on the wall. The makeshift shower he used serves as the vocal booth.

REDBIRDS is full of ghosts of the sea and reverberations of unnamed catastrophes, and it’s not hard to imagine that the dreams of the sailors who lived in the aparment-turned-studio have soaked their way into the songs, and into the sound of the record itself.

For example, the lyrics of the opening track, Broken Bird:

she said: “the pictures of the sailors trapped in their submarine
and the notes that they wrote from the engineroom airpocket
have haunted my kitchen TV
it cries all day on the countertop, and screams when I try to turn it off.”
I’d tell her to come over here to stay, but mine’s the same way.

(check the audio page to hear the full song.)

Work on REDBIRDS was interspersed with a series of projects that would end up bringing McRae and Griffin together to finish the record as a duo. When Griffin was commissioned by downtown theater group HERE to compose a live score for a radical reworking of Ibsen’s The Master Builder to be performed in an abandoned spice factory on the Brooklyn waterfront, he invited Catherine McRae to help him perform the score. Every night for 6 weeks they were hunched over a battery of toy keyboards, samplers and odd acoustic to create the otherworldly sounds that filled the enormous makeshift auditorium. Through that experience they developed the magnetic chemistry that they brought into the studio to create Redbirds. They also developed the magical ballet of acoustic instruments and live looping that has become their live show.

Says McRae: “We want to bring some of the texture and ambience that we work so hard on in recordings to our shows, but we didn’t want any of it to be canned. People should see the sounds being created. It keeps that connection to the acoustic music which we love and that immediacy in performance. So we use toy samplers, walkmen, loopers, whatever we can to kick up the sonic dust.”

Redbirds will be released in the fall of 2004 and The T. Griffin Coraline will bring their space-age Carter Family live show and the songs that they honed in that Brooklyn basement to the rest of America. And it's hard not imagine that some of the dreams left behind by the sailors living in a Brooklyn basement that soaked into REDBIRDS will find their way out into the radio stations, CD players and iPods of America and beyond.


Between them Griffin and McRae have worked with diverse artists such as Vic Chesnutt, Patti Smith, Nick Tosches, godspeed you! black emperor, filmmakers Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen, theater directors Richard Maxwell and Anne Bogart and photographer Michael Ackerman. Most recently they put together and led the 9 piece band that backed Vic Chesnutt for a three night stand in New York.


broken bird

Written By: t. griffin

i lost my rings in the sand
but i wish that i lost my hands
cause i came back to the crushed parking garage
the burning attendant and all the ghost cars
now everything tastes like metal
the wind sounds like a machine
and the blood that's filling our mouths
is mine this time, mine

i saw a little broken bird
on the sidewalk today
and i didn't say anything
no, i didn't say a word

she says the pictures of the sailors
trapped in their submarines
and the notes that they wrote
from the engine-room airpocket
have haunted her kitchen TV
it cries all day on the countertop
and it screams when she tries to
turn it off
i'd tell her to come over here to stay
but mines the same way

Ghost Parking

Written By: t. griffin

'i didn't want to wake you'
she woke me up to say
the sky is filled with voices
i was lying here and they
called my through the window
so i climbed outside to look
the streets were alive in a swarm of lights
so i came back for you and my boots

lets go ghost parking
they're all across the river
going ghost parking
we'll join in the parade

now the girl they found in the meadow
and the sailors lost in the sea
dive from the roofs of the warehouse
while the kids from the burn unit cheer
and the drug mules and the suicides
climb the cables of the bridge
when the sun says "go to sleep"
the moon says "climb on in"
and go ghost parking...

the sea (won't take long)

Written By: t. griffin

she went in with her cigarette still lit
left me and her shoes on the pier
waiting for the splash
and the cruel laugh
but when I opened my eyes
it was still

when I'm president
I'd like to teach the world a song
'don't you worry baby
the sea won't take long'

she liked to drink by the water
and end up doubled over
she hated to see the city this way
they turn a beautiful car crash
into a tourist pompeii

when i'm president
i'll have the megaphone
and they'll all sing with me
'the sea won't take long'

she's gone to live in the redbirds
where the sailors play cards
in the drowned subway cars
she's gone to talk to the passengers
from the airplanes that fell
cause nobody tells
but they're still down there
with slow-motion hair
and seatbelts that won't let them rise

and when i'm president
i'd like to teach the world a song
'the only mercy is
the sea won't take long'


REDBIRDS (forthcoming)
"Missouri" played on KEXP, Seattle

T. Griffin solo recordings:

Light in the Aisles (2001)
Tortuga (1999)

Set List

Sets can be from 40 minutes to 90 minutes drawn from 40 songs.

A typical set:

Summer Dress
Nellie Bly
Broken Bird
If You Lived Here
The Sea (Won't Take Long)
Jesus on the Radio
The Dishwasher's Song


Everybody's Crying Mercy (Mose Allison)
Devil Got My Woman (Skip James)
Books About UFOs (Husker Du)
Nebraska (Bruce Springsteen)