Related Articles: Music, All

Grandaddy - The Boys of Mo-town

Drive an hour and a half East of San Francisco and the urban sprawl shifts to a golden farming landscape. The temperature rises 10 degrees and the Sierra Nevada foothills create a varied backdrop for geometric configurations of farms and fields. Quaint antique shops line the streets of the town you've come upon and the diners are run by locals who know the names of all their regulars. The thrift stores still contain 99 cent vintage treasures. There is a noticeable increase in the number of pickup trucks and leafy trees frame the slow-paced roads. This is Modesto, a sleepy, somewhat antiquated suburb that feels more than a tad like the Heartland.

In the indie music scene, it's a town that has spawned its own sound. Dreamy, atmospheric rock, keyboards and lo-fi loops, a dash of country and an overlying pop sensibility shape the Modesto sound. Though bands such as Built Like Alaska, who also originated in this agricultural suburb, are pushing these sonic elements, Grandaddy is the band at the forefront of this sub-genre. It is Grandaddy who can be credited as the reason why any scenester will nod their head in recognition when asked if they've heard of a town called Modesto.

Looking at the bearded, unassuming members of Grandaddy, frontman Jason Lytle, lead guitarist Jim Fairchild, bassist Kevin Garcia, keyboardist Tim Dryden and drummer Aaron Burtch, you'd never guess they just released their third full-length recording- Sumday, a highly anticipated and well-received album. Their trucker hats and thrift store threads might scream "slacker", but "rockstar"? Far from it.

Grandaddy formed in the early 90's when a half-pipe mishap abruptly ended Lytle's road to pro-skateboarding. A musician since he was a kid banging on a drum set, Lytle turned from nose grinds and ollies to making music with some friends he met at a skate park. They put their brand of lo-fi, noise pop to tape and called it Complex Party Come Along Theories. The cassette made its way into the hands of an A&R rep and before they could say "pass me a Bud", Grandaddy found themselves signed to V2 records.

Their first album, Under the Western Freeway, hit the scene in 1997 and garnered an impressive buzz, as well as comparisons to Pavement and Giant Sand. 2000's The Sophtware Slump cemented Grandaddy's status as a band to watch; its anti-technology themes and sweeping, glitchy space-pop inspired many Radiohead references. Taking into account that OK Computer is one of the most monumental pop albums released in the past decade, any comparison to the band that created it is a critical pat on the back- even if the mention includes the word derivative. Grandaddy touted Slump with an opening slot on Elliot Smith's tour and most recently finished up a tour as the opening act for singer/songwriter/heartthrob Pete Yorn. June's Sumday is their most accessible album to date, recorded almost entirely in Lytle's living room studio. Leaning heavily on their pop tendencies and lightening the technological doomsday depression of Slump to a more Flaming Lips sort of irreverence, Grandaddy has created an easily likeable collection of wistful, fuzzy, melodic pop.

Modesto may be an unlikely breeding ground for indie rock superstars, but even with overwhelming expectations to meet and atmospheric pop masterpieces already under their belt, these boys have yet to disappoint.