THE GRIS GRIS: I’M WANTING A KISS
The Gris Gris were voted San Francisco’s Best Psychedelic Band and received an all-expenses-paid trip to 1967 as their prize. Their new album For The Season (on Birdman) was recorded through custom-built Altoids mint boxes. Singer/guitarist Greg Ashley speaks through a hangover on the day before his birthday.
Was the new album recorded in a basement again?
We ended up recording it in the living room of this cabin I grew up in, it’s in central Texas–a town called Kosse. It’s in the middle of nowhere, in the center of 80 acres of land, surrounded by a forest, a pond, five or six cows, maybe a couple of horses. Mushrooms grow naturally in Texas amidst the cowshit. It was cold at that point so they weren’t in full bloom, but we had a free supply of psychedelic drugs at our disposal.
So you were loaded for the whole recording.
No, mostly we sat around the porch and drank beer.
Will the Gris Gris ever record in an actual studio?
Lo-fi for life.
The cabin was perfect as it was three months of isolation. Bob and I would wake up around nine every morning; Bob doing yoga and shit. Oscar spent the whole time cooking for all of us. Lars would start every day by killing flies for a hour, then go off and chop wood, make a fire, and not talk to us all day. I remember when I was a kid building a tree house about 15 feet up into a tree that’s still there now, in the middle of a triangle of trees. I started recording myself up there when I was 13 on a little tape recorder. When we went out to the cabin to record, the tree house was gone, but a platform I built on a tree near the pond was still there and I wrote ‘Pick Up Your Raygun’ on it.
What’s the story on your band photo?
We played in New York City and one of Oscar’s friends showed up and ended up buying him shots all night until he passed out on his back on top of one of the tables. I was sitting at the bar with Lars when this guy comes in in a pink leotard with a wand along with a girl dressed up as Cinderella. He sits next to me at the bar and introduces himself as the Gay Fairy. We had a few drinks together until the bartender told us that we had to get our friend out of there. A month later, Matthew from Birdman got an email from the Gay Fairy and Cinderella with photos of them molesting Oscar, sitting on top of him and touching him and stuff. Which ended up becoming our most-used band photo.
Are there any influences from various cultures in your song writing?
About five years ago I started getting into some Brazilian psych records when I wrote ‘Me Queda Um Bejou.’ I was trying to write a bossa nova song, even though it ended up not being anything like a bossa nova song. I tried to write ‘I’m wanting a kiss’ in Portuguese which I figured out how to say from lyrics from Os Mutantes records, since they have parts of them written in both languages. So I took that and tried to make that into the chorus of the song.
Is ‘Down With Jesus’ based on your religious upbringing?
I was raised Catholic but it wasn’t very strict. I would have to go to church with my dad every Sunday but after that we wouldn’t talk about it for the rest of the week. My mother would never go as she thought the Catholic church was sexist. The title of that song could be taken in two ways: as if you’re a Christian hip-hop band, or you could take it as down with Christianity and religion.
I’m leaning towards the hip-hop one.
You may never know.
THIS INTERVIEW BY KYLE DAVIS