For the past few years Philadelphia’s Grimace Federation has had a distinctly post-rock vibe. Lots of percussion instruments, prominent vibraphones, meandering yet modulating melodies and swirling rhythms have earned them repeated references to post-jazz legends Tortoise. They recorded an album nearly two years ago and are planning on its imminent release, but they’ve already abandoned Tortoise in favor of Tool.
“I hate to say it, but I bow down to those guys,” guitarist and songwriter Wes Schwartz says. Since Schwartz and drummer Chris Wood began the band almost 10 years ago, they’ve made it a point to continually evolve. They’ve gone from drum ’n’ bass to jam band, from post-rock to metal.
”It was kind of intentional, but was also just Wes getting really into that,” says Wood of the change.
“I don’t think I really ever paid attention to Black Sabbath, and then I got their first couple albums, and then [percussionist Zack Zweig] gave me all these Hum records and then I saw Tool play,” Schwartz explains.“I went to 10 metal shows in a row.”
He adds with a laugh, “Explosions in the Sky, Tortoise, Medeski or whatever doesn’t hold up to the Tool concert.”
Though Grimace Federation makes it a point to constantly evolve, their music retains a common identity. “I think there are chord progressions in all of our music, and I always pat us on the back for that,” Schwartz says.
“That’s one thing a lot of instrumental groups are not doing,” explains Wood. “They kind of vamp in one key, and the fact that we’re doing these progressions ... some people are like, how can you do a progression and not have vocals?”
“The progression is interesting enough to hold everything,” Zweig says. “I think each chord has its own mood, so a [chord] progression is like a whole progression of different moods.” ■
Fri., Dec. 18, 9pm. $12-$15. With Toubab Krewe. North Star Bar, 27th and Poplar sts. 215.787.0488. northstarbar.com
PW's Music Issue 2014