Dead. The Grave Blankets are. A lot of modern music sounds like it is. But not the Grave Blankets. Theirs is (was) the sound of life after death. Posthumous rock. Exciting, like bolts of lightning shooting through the dark damp earth and creating life anew. Living just for dying...dying just for...This interview was a long time in coming. Back when Columbus was first enjoying its resurgence a couple of years ago thanks to Tom Lax and some like-minded music dudes, I just wasn't really feeling it. I won't say Times New Viking or Psychedelic Horseshit are terrible bands, but I just didn't see anything special in it. The Feelers, now that was a newer Columbus band I could get behind. Or Vegetative State. And then I heard Grave Blankets. What a band. They couldn't be musically further from the "shitgaze" others in their city were peddling. It was music full of heart and jagged edges and dark and sharp emotions. Evocative of the dingy swamp-blues lineage that connect The Scientists to Chrome Cranks. And the fact there was a couple behind it lent the songs an extra resonance, made them feel that much more real. Sadly, the Grave Blankets weren't destined to be long for this mortal coil. The corpse was slightly warm by the time I finally finished this interview. Nick and Lula are continuing on as Fey Gods, who I think we'll be hearing a lot from in the next year. Consider this interview a eulogy for a band I wish had made more records and wish had received some more accolades during it's life. Rest in peace. We'll always have your records, Grave Blankets.
TB: So how long have you guys been together as a couple and as a band?
Nick: We’ve been together as a couple for nine years, but didn’t start Grave Blankets until the end of 2005. We played with a couple drummers before that point, with songs that would eventually become early Grave Blankets songs. One of those pre-Grave Blankets drummers was Mike Doskocil from Drunks with Guns, which was a strange beginning.
Lula: As a couple, Nick originally won me over by playing me the Bassholes’ "Secret Strength of Depression". On one of our first dates we went to see the Bassholes and Cheater Slicks for the very first time. Dana Hatch scared the shit out of me, and the Shannon brothers blew me away with their whole mutually-possessed guitar-interplaying. That was about the time Nick taught me how to play bass. I had only played keys and clarinet before that, in church and in my bedroom. At this time I also lived in a haunted studio apartment above a severely mentally challenged couple. We could hear everything they did and said through the heating vents. Nick didn't like to leave me there by myself, because the guy would come up the fire escape and look in all my windows, or knock on the door and ask to borrow money for things like cigarettes or toilet paper. So he moved in. I'd say those stunted and disturbing conversations we overheard, the apparitions, Cheater Slicks records, and later, Mikey's DwG stories, are all of equal value to our personal history.
TB: How did you hook up with Doskocil?! That's really funny, I had no idea. How did that version of the band go and why did it end?
Lula: I can't remember for sure, I think we might've posted an ad somewhere? I'm guessing, because I've never ran into him outside of his house. We basically just hung out in his basement for a couple months and played music and talked about music. He's an intense character. I think mostly it was just too many egos and too many conflicting ideas in a room. I don't think Mikey is made to come into a band that already has definite ideas formed, he's an idea man. He needs to control it. I need to control it. Nick needs to control it. Nick and I can work it out between ourselves. That give and take didn't exist. He rules, though.
Nick: He’s a great drummer. He even knew how to incorporate a china cymbal perfectly.
TB: Any idea where he and what he's doing these days?
Lula: I’m pretty sure he still lives in Columbus. I don’t think he’s been in a band for a long while. He set up a Drunks With Guns web site a while back.
TB: Care to share a personal favorite Mike/DwG story?
Lula: Probably hearing any of the stories that have floated around from the man himself. Also, if anyone can go on a rant, it’s Mikey.. You should ask him to write for Terminal Boredom!
Nick: His stories about his dead, junkie first wife, and how she broke up the band. Once he says, “Hey, I have a picture of her around here somewhere.” He searched around for a while until he found it. She was completely naked and spread eagle. I wish we still hung out with him.
TB: A Slicks/Bassholes show for a first date sounds charming. Of all the great Columbus bands, those are obviously the ones that Grave Blankets remind me of most in spirit. How much of the Slicks and Bassholes went into Grave Blankets sound?
Lula: I wouldn’t say it was intentional, but those two bands have always been in heavy rotation in our house, and it was probably inevitable. Also, Don Howland’s 'Land Beyond the Mountains' LP. Totally epic. That record always feels very perfect to me. But, really, Nick will tell you that the first time he heard Cheater Slicks was backing Andre Williams. It was a roundabout way to hear a band living in the same town as us. We do everything backwards. I’d say both bands are more inspirational for consistently putting out amazing records that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
TB: Are/were Grave Blankets your first band? Or what bands were you in before?
Nick: Grave Blankets was our first band. I have been playing guitar and writing songs since I was thirteen, but I had never played any of my songs in front of anyone, and probably still wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t met Lula.
Lula: We realized one day that we had a ton of songs we had been playing with various friends, and we had finally moved into a house and could play them whenever we wanted to. We found Metzger pretty quickly after that, he was a noise-rock guitarist learning how to play drums, so it seemed right. Sunshine/Moonshine Room is another band that has been going on since before Grave Blankets, but we didn't play a show or have a name until quite some time after Grave Blankets was going on. And we only ever recorded our first practice, put it on a CDr and gave it away to our friends.
TB: What was the difference between Sunshine/Moonshine Room and Grave Blankets? Did songs carry over between bands?
Lula: There were a few songs that carried over to Grave Blankets, maybe for the first few shows, and then reverted to SMR because they didn't really work out. SMR was more psych-noise-folk influenced. A wah pedal was involved, in all seriousness, and lots of acoustic guitar. We all wrote songs and switched instruments throughout, whereas, with GB, Nick had written most of the songs at that point.
TB: How many drummers/line-ups have Grave Blankets gone through?
Lula: Metzger, Jason, and Ethan lasted the longest as far as our drummers go, and went on tours with us, they're the ones I count. Randy didn’t want to be in a band, but he helped us out between drummers with shows and recording, and played on the HoZac single. Our friend Brad played drums on the very first recordings we ever did, but lived too far away to be in the band. We played with one guy after Ethan left, but he continuously got lost driving to our house for practice. Otherwise, it was always the two of us. The first three drummers have all moved out of the state. Not sure what that says about us. Several changes, though.
Nick: At the end of last year we started working on what would turn into Fey Gods, out of the frustration of having to get our shit together with yet another drummer. We had already recorded a couple songs, written a few more, and Lula had been doing these solo recordings she called Shark Pie, so when the last guy caused us to cancel a US tour, we decided to call off Grave Blankets and figure out a way to do everything ourselves.
TB: So is the revolving drum stool why the band didn't tour or play outside Columbus much?
Lula: We did one pretty long Eastern tour that took us up to Boston and down to New Orleans. That was awesome. We did several long weekend tours. Job and money and revolving lineup bullshit kept us close to home. The first time we played outside of Ohio we had a really good time in Chicago and Milwaukee, and have spent the most time in that area. Kalamazoo. The Midwest is Best.
TB: So are Grave Blankets now officially defunct then?
Lula: I wouldn’t say defunct, so much as on hold indefinitely. Replacing drummers got to be a drag. Everything felt very stagnant. Living where we do makes it difficult to get together with other people and play music. We’re moving back into the city. That may change things.
TB: Explain the change from GB to Fey Gods a bit more...Differences? Will Fey Gods play Grave Blankets songs?
Lula: We had started writing all these new songs, in between Grave Blankets drummers. I’d say we were probably anticipating having to go it alone. We bought an old drum machine and a sequencer, and our songs developed so much differently once we started using them. When we finally gave up on finding another drummer, it was clear the music wasn’t really Grave Blankets anymore. It seemed wrong to keep the name.
Nick: We have fewer preconceptions with Fey Gods. It’s also more of an equal collaboration between the two of us. We don’t play any Grave Blankets songs as Fey Gods. Not yet, at least.
TB: Are there recordings left for future Grave Blankets releases?
Lula: We have a ton of four track cassettes, most were haphazardly recorded during practice. There’s some salvageable material. Mostly it’s shit. There are no plans to release any of it, but we’re slowly working on the songs to see what we come up with.
TB: Have you two always lived in Columbus?
Nick: I grew up outside of Gallipolis, Ohio, which is on the Ohio River. I lived on a dirt road and couldn’t see my neighbors’ houses on either side. It seemed anyone who could play an instrument wanted to do Ozzy covers (not Sabbath). I would just write songs and forget about them and write some more. I never had an interest in writing songs that sounded like another band, so I sat alone in my room and played what I wanted to play, or played with our friend Brad (the rest of Sunshine/Moonshine Room) who also wrote songs and played guitar. We would play in the shed in front of his trailer, which means I only played my songs to light traffic and passersby.
Lula: I’ve always lived here. I grew up within walking distance of Cafe Bourbon Street and Used Kids Records, two Columbus institutions, and just north of OSU. But I had, quite possibly, the most restrictive parents ever, and missed out on almost everything. Probably as much as Nick did.
TB: I obviously have to ask the question about how living in such a musically rich location as Columbus has influenced your songwriting and band. Is it hard to be a band in a city where there are so many good ones? It seems like you would almost have to try and not be influnced by local stuff since there is so much of it. And I think you sound very distinct from the contemporary Columbus bands happening...
Nick: A lot of people in Columbus seem to have been in bands with each other in the past or are in multiple bands currently, and we were never really a part of that. I don’t think they affect our songwriting at all. What I love about Columbus is when it comes time to book a show and you want someone else good to play, there are so many choices! But to a certain extent I still feel like we’re outsiders here. I feel like we’re the foreign exchange students crashing the party sometimes. We kind of came out of nowhere and were a good band without a context to a lot of people who had been here forever. We used to go to shows where everyone else would know each other and we wouldn’t know anyone...It’s still strange to me to go to shows and to know half the people there.
Lula: Yes, Columbus is very incestuous, and Nick and I are very reclusive. We have lived on the outskirts of town for five years, and we kind of write songs in a vacuum. That said, when we first started GB and we didn’t know anyone in this town, we received a much warmer welcome than we ever expected. Most of the crossover with the bands I love only makes me happy. There are so many people writing music worth listening to here, it’s difficult to even keep up with it all.
TB: Were there any other bands/records that had a direct impact/influence on what you were doing with GBs? I always felt some sort of bluesy/swampy Australian vibe, but maybe that's just me.
Lula: Oddly enough, we didn’t really listen to very much from Australia until we started hearing these comparisons. We bought a Scientists record, I think it was 'Blood Red River', and we were all “hold the phone!” And we bought more Scientists records. I definitely agree with the comparison, and wish we had heard this stuff earlier. Some other comparisons have been made, like Jesus and Mary Chain and Gun Club, that I would say are pretty valid. The years pass and your focus changes, but I would also include Royal Trux and Dead Moon. Nick would say Swans and Bob Dylan.
Nick: When I was a kid I listened to a lot of early blues recordings and then a diverse selection of others that I found somehow or another and latched onto: Bob Dylan, Swans, Germs...I imagine people like Kim Salmon or Jeffrey Lee Pierce probably were obsessed with the Blues at a young age also, and it became part of their psyche as to what music is, so even when you create something completely different from traditional blues music, it’s in there somewhere. That’s how I feel about it anyway, and why I think we get compared to those bands.
TB: What led you guys to release the first record yoursleves? Did you have any help?
Lula: It was all very poorly planned. I was helping the Red Rockets (UT) book a tour, and they asked if we wanted to go along for some of it, which ended up being stretched to three weeks or something. We wanted to have it done before we left. The Record Time! label was born because we had always wanted to release our own records, and there was no way another label would get it done in time. We recorded practically every song we had ever written in one day, all live, no overdubs. Our friend and occasional drummer, Randy, recorded and mixed everything.
Nick: We picked the four best-sounding songs from that day and put them on the first one-and-a-half singles. The timeline was cut excruciatingly close. It was maybe eight weeks from the day we recorded to the day we left on tour. We had no idea what we were doing, but we fortunately live in the same town as the Musicol pressing plant, and they made sure it was done in time.
TB: Tell us about writing "Your Injured Ways"...
Lula: I wrote the lyrics to this song years ago, before any band was formed. It’s about having a history of drug abuse, being confronted about drug abuse, being institutionalized for drug abuse. I made Nick sing it because I never had any intention of singing.
TB: "You'll Know Everything"
Nick: Both songs (on the B-Side of the single) are love songs, and not completely demented love songs, so they’re kind of rare for me. Lula had fallen asleep next to me on the couch and I wrote this one to her while she was sleeping. This song was completely different with each drummer. Always a new song.
TB: "Something You Say"
Nick: This song came from setting levels to record, it was just a test that ended up sounding better than most of our other recordings. Jason was fairly new to the band and some of these songs were really new to him and even pretty new to us so I think it came off nice and fresh sounding. This song is like my “Wonderful Tonight”.
TB: How about "Foreword" from the split...
Nick: I wrote this song while I was alone in a hotel room in Seattle and it was just one of those times when you’re alone and feeling empty and thinking about death. This song changed a lot after we recorded it, so it’s strange to listen to it at this stage. We added dual vocals and synth. I mostly just liked the way my lead sounded on this recording.
TB: How did you guys hook up with Touch-Me-Nots? Double date?
Lula: The internet, of course, years ago, before Grave Blankets played any shows, but after our inception. I loved the song “Hey, Television” from their Myspace page. I think Andy thinks of me as a somewhat sketchy and irresponsible little sister he has to look out for all the time. We started trading music and short stories and equipment and other nerdy stuff. We once had a plan for the four of us to start a band together, and Andy named us “The Other Couples”, which is a reference to the TV show “You Bet Your Life”. He’s not kidding about loving TV. They’re the best.
TB: "Our Love Is Real" from the HozAc single...
Nick: In the past, the lines of reality haven’t always been as stationary as they are these days. So, I’m not sure at this point if I was obsessed with someone on TV or if I thought someone I was obsessed with should be on TV. It’s best not to dwell. This was a four-track recording from the first time we all ever played it together. Metzger stopped improvising – the whole orgasm solo - after hearing it recorded, so it lost that almost immediately. After Metzger left the band that song never seemed right to me. I remember when I wrote it there were three vocal parts that I had for each of us to sing, but once we actually played it that all went to hell and everyone just kind of fell into the way you hear it on the 7”.
TB: "Trip Wire"
Nick: This song was one of my attempts to get Lula singing. I was always writing songs with dual vocals to get her to sing. This was my first eight-track recording that’s made it to vinyl and I’m proud of it. I don’t know if I’d ever want anyone else to record us ever again. I don’t like having to count on someone else to try to capture what I hear in my head, even if I have to worry about all the technical shit at the same time as I have to focus on playing the song.
TB: You guys sound meaner on this one....any reason? Nick's vocals sound particularly guttural, are there effects on them or did he just drink and smoke a lot the night before?
Nick: The only effect on my shredded vocal chords was reverb, so it wouldn’t sound so guttural. I recorded and mixed both songs on this single and I think it’s a better representation of what we sounded like. We were a mean sounding band and if I had recorded the first four songs, they probably would’ve sounded more like this.
TB: So what is coming up for Fey Gods? Releases/tours?
Nick: HoZac is releasing a 7” soon, with the first two songs we recorded as Fey Gods. We also recently finished recording an LP and several more songs that we are condensing for an EP called 'Be the Big Blow', both of which we may release ourselves. We have no prospects, just daydreams. We are heading to Miami in June to play the So Raw Festival, and a tour of sorts is in the works surrounding that trip.