“It is weird to say that my rock band is the most stable thing in my life right now.”
Nick Grieco is the guitarist for Boston-based rock band The Field Effect. He is a classically trained cellist yet he calls A.F.I.’s Sing the Sorrow, “Probably one of the most important albums of all time.” I had a chance to speak with Nick about his band, his musical upbringing, and got his thoughts on the current state of the music industry. Check it out.
- Do you consider yourself an “indie” band?
o I hate the term “Indie band” because it really stands for independent, not overly contrived or over-produced. I think as a band we are not trying to fight for any genre. We tell people we are a rock band, which is a vague thing to call ourselves, but that is what we are.
- Is it fair to say live performance is where it’s at for you?
o We love playing live—all four of us—we are performers. We are all of involved in other things in the world of music, but when it comes down to it we’ve all been on tour before. If we can make it happen again as regularly as possible, we would love to. The live element is something we cannot get on a record. We can’t get that feeling either sitting at home. It’s as much for us as it is for our fans. We enjoy playing together. All four of us are original members, I don’t think that will ever change as long as the band is a band. We are all best friends, and that was because the band started.
- What drew you all together?
o We all met at Berklee. Long after we had left, Doug moved back from New Jersey to Boston and hit up me and Annie, our bassist. He said, “Hey, I want to start a band, you guys are free agents, you are cool people, let’s do this.” We weren’t all great friends in college, it was Doug having an idea of what kind of band he wanted. When it came time to lock down a drummer, Annie brought along her boyfriend and that’s how we found Adam.
- How long did it take to click as a band? Was there immediate chemistry?
o We are all pretty active song-writers, and some of us have production experience as well. We have all been in that situation so many times, that when the four of us sat down it was effortless. It only took one rehearsal of the four of us for it to really make sense. Over the next six months we were just playing. We didn’t have a band name and we didn’t have any shows, we just were playing. After choosing a band name, and having it become an entity it lit a fire under our asses, and ever since our songwriting has been maturing. While the fire was always there, it took that first six months to fall into the genre we are now playing, as well as to get an understanding for each other’s strengths.
- You have some late-90s tendencies—the catchy choruses, introspective lyrics, distorted guitars—do you trace your roots to any groups?
o All four of us have very different original inspirations. If you drew a Venn Diagram of all of our music choices, there would be a spot in the middle where late-90s Emo and Pop-Punk and Rock live. The bands that we consistently get compared to are Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday. At the same time, Doug is obsessed with Wilco and Butch Walker. Annie is obsessed with Tegan and Sara. Adam is obsessed with Steely Dan. I am obsessed with A.F.I. Everybody is all over the place musically.
- Some of your songs are anthemesque, some are more sentimental; everything is rock, but you span the gamut. Can you talk about the difference between those different tendencies?
o I can sum up all of that by talking about every member’s quest for energy within music. Whether it is the dynamic flow of a record or a live performance set, we are always going to write songs that are going to make us move and hopefully make the audience move. You can do that with a quiet song, or a really big pop-rock anthem. It always comes down to energy. If we don’t personally vibe with a song, we are just going to put it on the back burner until it goes.
- Does this mean music is more of an emotional endeavor or an intellectual one for you guys?
o It is definitely emotional for Doug because he is behind the lyrics. For the rest of us, as instrumentalists, we get off on songs that are written really well. We strive to amplify the stuff we appreciate in the bands that we love and we try to channel that. The intellectual side of it powers me emotionally and vice versa.
- Where did music start for you personally?
o I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Straight out of the womb I was born and bred a musician. My mom’s side of the family is musically inclined, and my dad and his brother are both musically inclined. He was a jazz drummer, and there are pictures of me at 6 years old sitting behind a drum kit. When I was four I decided I wanted to play the cello, thus spawning my musical cello career that got me into Berklee. I have since put that on the back burner. Growing up, I picked up the guitar and started playing in punk bands. I went to Berklee because I knew I didn’t want to be a classical performer for the rest of my life. I’ve always been a composer and a writer of music, and there is no room for that in the world of classical music; so if I wanted to continue with that, I would have to become a contemporary musician.
- With your diverse background classically, that must inform what you do with The Field Effect. How much of that bleeds into what you do now?
o All of it. I taught myself to play guitar. When I picked up my first guitar I tuned it like a cello, just to get used to it. Now I play in Drop C-Sharp tuning and all of my voicings are based on classical voicings. I don’t know how to play any blues guitar or any standard tunings. Everything I do as a guitarist is totally classical. I recently played a song for one of my friends and he remarked that it sounded like something I would write. He pointed out that I was using very classical chords. I hadn’t thought very much about having my own style.
- What is your songwriting process like?
o It is all very much a collaborative thing, and it has become more so as we have matured as a band. There are multiple songs that have had multiple directions. It could be me bringing a riff and playing it over and over again that eventually morphs into a song, or if it’s Doug having just gone through a breakup coming to rehearsal with a verse/chorus that we eventually turn into full song. Originally that’s how the band started. Doug was a solo artist, but he got sick of it. He brought some of the most recent songs he had written and brought it to us and said, “Let’s rip these apart and rebuild them.” Being in a band is like being a relationship with four people. Our relationship is incredibly comfortable. Obviously there are speed bumps and things that cause tension, but we work really well together. The important thing is that we all value each other’s opinion. It is weird to say that my rock band is the most stable thing in my life right now.
- You’ve played South by Southwest, Rock n Rumble, and other festivals, and you are certainly a band that plays out. What are you focusing on now?
o We loved playing the Rumble, it’s such a fixture in the Boston music culture. We have dialed down things with the band because everyone has gone through some crazy transitions. We are really trying to focus on our next record and get back into the groove of playing out—not necessarily in Boston, but elsewhere. One thing people always tell us is that we look like we love what we are doing on stage, and we do. That positive energy speaks volumes for people that want to communicate to us. We make a big effort to be open to fans. If someone reaches out to us, we try hard to get back to them and welcome them into our community.
- Part of getting yourself out there now involves the world of Spotify and Bandcamp. Do you have any thoughts on the digital life of musicians?
o Personally it all sucks, a lot. I haven’t had much luck at all with music discovery or being able to support an artist since maybe MySpace in 2005. The best thing is Bandcamp because they keep themselves out of it for the most part. It is sad that the industry has come to this. The most important and highest functioning website is one that is barely there. Spotify is music access, and that is it. I personally can’t wait until it implodes and disappears; but it is a necessary evil. It is access, a lot of people have come to shows after listening to us on those sites. I was just reading an article about how all of the best bands in the UK have other jobs outside of music. They are saying that being in a touring band doesn’t pay the bills. At this point—and this is one thing I agree with Taylor Swift on [laughs]—and that is this whole thing is a big experiment right now, and nobody knows what is working. It is our obligation to our fans and ourselves to keep trying to put music out there. We are in a dark age where anything goes. If you’re not working your ass off to make more of a statement than just getting signed by a record label, it’s not going to be worth it in the end.
- Where do you see yourself progressing at the moment?
o In the end I’ll always have an entrepreneurial mindset about the music industry because I am passionate about progressing it, but at the moment I’m sort of gun shy. Right now I want to get this album going. Everything that I personally invested in disappeared for a reason. We have half of the new record done and we are trying to work out some touring. We have been talking with another Boston band, The Color and Sound, that we have become really good friends with, and they want to take us along for a week in February.