Interviews
Motorcycles and Motorhead – A Grizzlies Double Feature

By Jordan Mooney

Before we head into the second day of our Whitby Goth Weekend review, we’ve got another eclectic little group of rockers due any moment now.

Any moment…

 

Ah, here they are.

Today’s group is The Grizzlies, formed in 2012 and Built up of Rob Tee (Robert Topulos) on Vocals and Guitar, French Oli (Olivier Guillon) on lead guitars, Paul Magnenat (bass) and Nicholas Badel (drums), this quartet have ultimately raised a grand furry beast from the forest, cleaned it up a bit, given his coat a perm, covered its bikini area and stuck it on stage.

The result is a hefty paced, catchy group of riffs and drumbeats. High octane and with a rather nice bite, not to mention a great growl – to match their namesake, this group have built up a small but dedicated following, and it’s no wonder as to why people stand by the group so happily.

They’re also the first Swiss group we’ve featured on COTW to my knowledge. A tip of the hat is in order there!

A0Their newly released EP is a great showcase of what the band are capable of, and it’s particularly egged on by the fact the group doesn’t tailor, or try to chain itself down by a single idea or theme. The Grizzlies are basically what they want to be – indefinable, no chains, no rules – They decide how to sound and they work with it. A true punk outlook.

The liberation in the Grizzlies’ music means they don’t try to imitate established bands nor try to emulate what’s popular – they work on their own terms, and while the result may not be the most advanced or complex in the world, the lack of restriction brings a very casual nature to their music – and makes for surprisingly easy listening.

The music is in a pleasant midline between your softer, more generic hard rock, and the sharp bite you can expect from a young punk group.

It’s always a great experience for us at Cat on the Wall when we get debut releases popping in here and there, because it means we get to see a group grow and evolve, and, hopefully, stay in contact with them throughout. We try to bring you the best we that we’re given, and I’m quite comfortable that the Grizzlies are very much at home here.

This is a perfect piece of old fashioned independent music, the sort you’d expect to see performing in a traditional venue pub in the United Kingdom, to a small crowd, perhaps, but a crowd that’ll leave talking about how bloody good it was, each one clutching a copy of an EP and a T-shirt. That’s what music is really about – sod your big multi-million record labels and perfume lines!

This is an EP with teeth, and is more than worth the £3.95 it’ll set you back on iTunes. A good, strong debut from a good, strong outfit. It’s all good here, ladies and gentlemen.

We were lucky enough to coax Rob Tee, chief growler and alpha male of Switzerland’s rock scene, onto Cat on the Wall with some honey, berries and a nice, fresh salmon.A3

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Cat On The World: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall!

Rob Tee: Cheers dude! Thank you for having us on your webzine, we really appreciate it!

 

COTW: Please, introduce yourself – and your band – to the readers!

RT: Well, my name is Rob Tee, I’m the composer and guitarist. My friend French Oli is another composer and guitarist! We live in Switzerland and we formed The Grizzlies about a year and a half ago. Both of us grew up listening to a lot of rock and punk rock music. The result is rock, with a few punk subtleties. A Swiss national radio station described our music as being the missing key between Motörhead and NoFx. We rather agree with that one!

 

COTW: For the uninitiated…how would you describe your band in a single paragraph?

RT: Our point of view tends to be related to something theatrical. It’s all about nightmares, dreams or memories, some of which are real, some of which aren’t. My aim, as the composer, is try and write down all of my thoughts into lyrics, and then, with French Oli, we work it into music. We want to create an atmosphere in which we can collectively carry the same emotions, through which the public can live theirs, and interpret them themselves. Our music is quite dark, so perhaps it takes a bit of time to appreciate it, and get inside of our universe, but when you do, everything we talk about becomes really clear. So…I suppose the best way is still to listen to our songs! 😉

 

COTW: The Grizzlies are a fairly new arrival, having formed from your friendship in 2012. What made you all decide ‘We’re going to make a band’?

RT: Well, actually, we had a couple of bands before The Grizzlies, but nothing really serious. I mean, in the sense of “we’re playing in a band, we invest a lot of time in a project”..that was still how we took the habit of playing live, though! Recently, we had the pleasure to be joined by Paul Magnenat as our bass player.

And to answer your question, at the very beginning, we formed the band because, in Switzerland, you can count all the existing bands on your fingers, and they’ve been the same for 15 years! Especially the French part of Switzerland. So, we were just bored of seeing bands performing live, being convinced that we could do so much better musically than what everyone seems to do here. But the fact is that there’s practically no public, and no scenes, for rock or punk rock music here. Perhaps there are a few more in the German part of Switzerland, but it’s like nothing really… moves.

 

COTW: We rarely have any Swiss bands arrive in our inbox! What’s the rock and punk scene like over there?

RT: As a matter of fact, there’s no scene, no squats, no punks, no nothing.. only bankers and rich people! 😀

There’s not even a rock community. I could say that everything works from aesthetics. There’s no value for the authenticity of punk rock…Punk rock isn’t about wearing a Ramones T-shirt, having both your arms tattooed, and then, when the week starts, you dress back with your suit and tie, and work for the government or for the banks!

Just as an example: Last year, we had Jello Biafra on stage here, there were something like 30 people having fun, and a hundred staying at the back talking to each other during the show. I’m sure that this could never happen anywhere else. That’s enough to describe the Rock’n’Roll movement here.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s quite understandable. There’s no independent radio, there’s no underground scene, most of the people simply listen to what they’re given. It’s been 15 years of people hearing the same bands playing on stage and there’re maybe something like 3 radios with rock music. And of course, we are all lazy… but there’s a difference between being lazy in a country where you have a lot of choices in terms of radio-stations, music and scenes, and being lazy in a country like ours.

Many people base their musical tastes on these 3 stations, and, the fact is, these radio-stations haven’t got an objective positioning. They select a certain kind of music, and keep broadcasting the same shitty songs and bands which all sound the same. Unfortunately, most of the bands act the same way, too, creating some kind of shitty happiness music and sweet, sugary melodies, just to get broadcast on the radio. But we can also blame all venues and promoters, who keep booking the same kind of bands – so similar that they’re nearly impossible to differentiate. The reality is that they don’t really care about the music, nor the public. There are many bands hidden in the mountains for sure, so, isn’t it their duty to bring new things to the public? We need somebody to act like Hilly Kristal all those years ago.

 

COTW: Is the above a contributing factor to you relocating to the United Kingdom?

RT: For sure. Even for the recording, we went through London at the Bowerman Studios to work with Erik Mikalsen. We were convinced that in a country with such a strong musical culture, we could only be in the right place, and we were right! So, we decided to move at the end of the year..! It’s also about the quality of the bands – it’s clearly not the same approach to music as it is in our country. There’s some real diversity in rock, which makes really us wanna play some gigs with other bands and discover their music!

 

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COTW: Speaking of your move…does that mean we can expect a UK tour..?!

RT: Definitely!! For the moment, we’re busy working on our first music video, which will be online between June and July. We’re also working on the second part of our EP, which we’ll be recording this summer. But once we arrive over there, the first thing we wanna do, is to bring our guitars and our motorcycles and ride through the UK playing everywhere we can!

 

COTW: What bands do you feel provide the biggest inspiration to The Grizzlies? Would you say any band has particularly influenced your sound, or is it all your own?

RT: I would say that there’s a lot of different music that influences me. It depends on the day.. sometimes I’ll listen to Philip Glass and continue the day with The Dead Boys. The following day, I’ll be surfing on the web, looking for new bands. The other day I bought The Black Tibetans‘ album, they’re a great rock’n’roll band from L.A. But one of my biggest inspirations would be The Stooges. French Oli is influenced by bands like AC/DC, ZZ Top or The Strokes. His biggest inspiration is John Frusciente.

 

COTW: How did you find working in a studio environment? Would you say it’s an experience you prefer to playing in front of a crowd, or a touch more restrictive?

RT: We’ve already been in studio environments with our past bands a few years ago, but this time with The Grizzlies, we knew our songs much better, so the recording was a pretty quick process. The only thing which took us a few months was the mixing and mastering part. At the end, though, we had exactly what we were looking for. Sometimes it’s good to be patient.

For the next EP, that we are about to record, we’re going to stay a bit longer at the studio and take time to record some different sounds, try a few different approaches.

On stage, it’s different, but both of these settings are necessary. As for me, I feel at home when I’m in front of a crowd singing our songs. It’s just like getting overwhelmed again, by what I wrote about, repeatedly, but with different feelings and impressions arising at the exact moment I’m singing about it. It’s just like living all my nightmares again, but having them all in my control.

 

COTW: And, finally, what’s in the future for you?

RT: Time only knows! Right now, we’re fighting to get some gigs here and around.. but we’re also thinking about Germany, Spain or Poland where there’s a lot of great venues we’d love to perform at. And, of course, we’re looking for venues in the UK, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re a promoter, or even if you’re playing in a band, and you’d like to organize some gigs with us, that would be great!!

 

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The Grizzlies’ Self Titled debut is now available on both Amazon and Itunes for peanuts. If you’re not quite sure it’s your thing, it’s available on Soundcloud and bandcamp for a leisurely – and, of course, free – listen.

The Grizzlies have also mastered the art of the social network – why not join their little furry clique?

http://www.facebook.com/thegrizzlies

http://wearethegrizzlies.tumblr.com/

About the author

Compulsive hat wearer, eccentric, fan of all things audio-visual, part time Goth, historian, and railway enthusiast, Jordan is the closest you can get to everybody's weird uncle. Except he's less than 60 years old.

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