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Oct 09th
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Shock and Claw

mus grmlnSanta Cruz expat Yoodoo Park reduces indie-pop to its essence in GRMLN

The first GRMLN EP Explore is really short—like 16 minutes long—and that includes seven songs, with each tune coming in at about the two-minute mark. Santa Cruz expat Yoodoo Park, the lone figure behind GRMLN, actually recorded a bunch more songs, but paired it down to what he felt was the most interesting material, both in terms of the amount of songs and the length of each individual song.

The EP was a surprise hit via the Internet in 2012. Music bloggers picked up on it. Carpark Records reached out to Park to issue it on vinyl. The music is an odd take on garage-rock, with clean channel guitars, stiff drums, and dreamy, muddled vocals, with everything recorded really rough around the edges. But at its core, it’s a short, concise, and catchy pop record.

“I want to make music that’s poppy sounding, but I still want to make music that is a little bit grungy. It’s like a mixture of both—not completely just pop,” says the 21-year-old Park.

But there was no intention for the songs to make it on any album. Park recorded the music in his bedroom—some songs while still in high school, some while in college—and uploaded it onto Bandcamp with no thought that anyone would even hear it. But it caught on.
“It wasn’t even a side thing,” says Park. “It was just for me, experimenting, that kind of stuff.”

Though Park currently resides in Southern California, he’s jumped around to San Francisco—and, for a couple of years during college, Santa Cruz.

After Carpark released the album, Park assembled a band so he could start playing shows. By that time, he had new material for a follow-up record. He used his band to record the songs, rather than 4-track everything himself again. The album, Empire, was released last year, and is heavier and faster, with an almost pop-punk flair to it.

“I changed the musical direction pretty often,” Park says. “I get bored of doing one thing. Within the next year I’ll probably change again. It’s more natural for me to keep changing.”

The songs and the overall album length are still short, clocking in at 24 minutes. And just like with Explore, Park cut any song he didn’t think was up to par, and melted each down to its most fundamental pop essence.

“The way I make songs is I make a catchy melody, or catchy chorus, or a catchy guitar riff,” he says. “We create out of that. I was trying to get to the point. I wasn’t really thinking about anything,”

This Sunday, GRMLN hits Santa Cruz on what is the band’s first official headlining tour, having played a handful of tours in the main support slot. GRMLN comes to town with a lot of new material, and an album is expected out this September called Soon Away. Judging from the couple of songs that have already been released, Soon Away should sound musically like Empire, but with longer, more complex arrangements. Plus, Park says the lyrics and sound are darker. 

“I feel like it’s moody. That’s just the way that I see it, the way I interpret my own music,” he says. “It’s darker, in general—lyrically for sure, and sonically as well. There’s definitely been a lot of life changes for me, for sure. I think there’s a lot of dark stuff because there’s a lot of weird stuff that’s happened to me. When the lyrics are like that, it’s easier for the music to be darker as well.”

Park says that he’s already working on newer material.

“When Empire was released, we already started playing newer songs that hadn’t been released,” Park says. “We get bored of playing the same songs over and over again.”

GRMLN will perform at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 27. The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.

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