The Griswolds talk Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jamie Lee Curis, and Tim’s Last Show [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Images courtesy of Nikolai Puc

Exactly three years ago, I premiered “Beware The Dog” by The Griswolds, and I’ve felt a kinship with these Aussies ever since. Their infectious energy is felt throughout both their recorded music and live performances. I don’t need to tell you that, though. Just head out to one of their shows and try jockeying for position amongst throngs of relentless fans who have patiently waited outside the venues on hours on end, awaiting that precious spot at the front of the stage.

In March, we had the pleasure of catching up with bassist Tim John and frontman Chris Whitehall at Denver’s charmingly divey Marquee Theater, where the group closed out their U.S. High Times for Low Lives album tour. Our lighthearted chat was pleasant – as it always is with these consummate professionals and all-around good guys — but the room felt heavy with the anticipation of what would be a momentous show in the band’s history: Tim, the band’s original bassist, was about to play his last gig in America, and after a few more shows overseas, he would retire from the Griswolds.

“It’s the final show of the tour. We’re all pretty excited to go out with a bang,” said Chris. And they did — the show later that evening was an unforgettable, emphatic display of raw energy and emotion, adding a touching depth to the band’s already consistently outstanding, enthusiastic and crowd-pleasing performance style.

The emotions didn’t reach a rolling boil until the very end, but the passion was very much there throughout. Chris worked the crowd as only he can, interjecting his wit in between songs. Classics like “Out of My Head” and “Down and Out” had the crowd in a unified sway bouncing up and down in perfect rhythm. In fact, on multiple occasions, I caught myself in a state of disbelief and utter awe watching how engaged the crowd was. Every lyric was belted from the mass with unbridled enthusiasm, showcasing just how dedicated this fanbase was.

Towards the end of the set, after some well-applauded political commentary, they announced that this was Tim’s last U.S. show. Tears streamed. Hugs were given. The crowd knew that they were a part of Griswolds’ history, and so did I.

It was a beautiful struggle —— equal parts appreciative that we were all a part of it, yet sad that that era had come to an end.

Before I dive into the interview, I, of course, have to wish Tim all the best in his future endeavors. If he happens to be reading this, thank you for being a part of something so many of us have held near and dear to our hearts for the past few years.

We’ll kick this off mid-conversation, where I began the conversation talking about a shared favorite ——Curb Your Enthusiasm.

TMN: Do you have a favorite episode?

Tim: Which one did I watch the other day. “Black Swan”? The Golf Course? That one is fucking funny. Or the Rosie O’Donnell episode.

Chris: “The Crying Jesus.”

TMN: Funny story. I was in LA visiting a friend, and I walked by a Pink Berry and saw Larry David. I felt kind of bad. I don’t normally approach celebrities, but this was the one exception.

Tim: He is everyone’s exception, I reckon. He’s the one where you say, “I cannot not say hello to this guy.” For me, I couldn’t bother no one. But him?

Chris: I could care less about meeting huge musicians. But, yeah. Him.

TMN: I asked him if he wanted to wait behind me while I tried a bunch of samples, and he looked me up and down, nodding, and said, “Ok. Ok.”

Tim: (Laughing) No better encounter!

TMN: How has the tour been going so far?

Tim: It’s gone well past our expectations.

Chris: It’s probably been our funnest tour, so far. It’s only our second headline tour so far, and I guess we’re a little more developed now than our last one. Everything has gone really well and it’s been a lot of fun. There’s been a shit ton of sold-out shows.

TMN: And you had the appearance on Good Morning America?

Tim: Actually, that was a promo tour before this tour. That was a little while back, but it was cool. Jamie Lee Curtis yelled at us.

TMN: For what??

Chris: Not standing up straight.

Tim: We had a gig the night before and we didn’t go to bed. It was a 4am meet up at the van. We looked terrible and she told us we need to sit up straight and be positive. She had a point.

TMN: Was she producing the show? Or, just a guest?

Tim: She was a guest. She was promoting a children’s book. She was giving us tips on how to be on TV. And, who knows — it went well, and maybe that was thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis.

TMN: Any stops on the tour stand out?

Chris: Kansas City the other night was just crazy. The fans were louder than I’ve ever heard. They were just screaming. The decibels were just insane. It took me back. I had to stop for a minute and absorb this. It was amazing. Chicago was great. LA. New York. There’s been so many good shows. Every one is just amazing.

TMN: I’m sure they’re all unique in their own right. So, we premiered “Beware the Dog” three years ago. How is that track for you guys now? Are you sick of it at all?

Chris: It’s still the funnest track to play. As much as we’re not gonna go home and listen to it on our fucking iPhone, or anything like that, when we play it live, the fans go nuts.

Tim: The crowds flip!

Chris: We can’t argue with that.

TMN: I was going to guess that it illicits the largest response from the crowd.

Chris: I would say so.

Tim: That, and “16 Years.” There’s a few that stand out.

Chris: There’s probably like 6 or 7 tracks where I could pull off the mic and let the crowd sing it. They would just take it, if I wanted to. It’s a really cool feeling.

TMN: Have you been surprised by any of the tracks that they gravitate to?

Chris: Great question.

Tim: I can’t stop hearing about “16 Years.” It’s funny because we did this tour with Walk The Moon. Everyone had to be in that age range and it just struck a chord. Something about that title and the lyrics–yeah.

Chris: Maybe off the first album–“Live This Nightmare.” It’s one that people seem to really love. There are B-sides on that album that people really get into.

TMN: Do you guys still get people that tweet you about singing “Beware the Dog” to your ex? I know we talked about that a bit last time.

Tim: It turned into a bit of a breakup song! It’s very much not a breakup song.

Chris: That and “Out of My Head,” which is a breakup song. People are always talking about how it got them through a breakup.

TMN: How are your nieces and nephews that sang on the first album doing?

Chris: They’re great. I don’t get to see them that much anymore because I live in California, but every time I go back to Australia, I stay with my family, and they’re doing awesome.

TMN: That has to be a cool tidbit in their personal history.

Chris: They love it. It’s still one of their favorite experiences, to sing on their uncle’s album. I tell them all the time that we tour in America and when we play those songs, their voices are being heard all over the world.

TMN: Let’s talk about the new album a little bit. What was it like working with Andre — knowing him, who he’s worked with, and his past.

Chris: It was kind of freaky. It always is, especially when you don’t know someone or how they work. This guy is a Grammy award winning hip-hop and R&B producer. There’s the little old Griwolds from Australia. We got in and he’s really just a big doofus.

Tim: He was a big kid and all these instruments and samples were his toys. It was great because we thought he was going to be “my way or the highway.” But he was super collaborative.

Chris: He has a very free style of producing.

Tim: Best idea wins. He was great.

TMN: Listeners really felt a lot of that creative exploration in this album. It’s still very much you, but it does feel like a natural evolution where you’re exploring.

Chris: Absolutely. There was a lot of freedom from the very beginning. Not that there wasn’t the first time, but I guess we learned so much more. We learned that we can do whatever the hell we want. Maybe people won’t buy it, maybe people will, but that’s not really the issue. It’s all about creating things and having fun while you do it.

Tim: The whole game plan was to get out of this little indie world we’re in. Well–not get out of it. But, not to write an album with a bunch of “woo-hoos” and “whoa-hoas”. It was like–go deeper and break out of the bubble a little bit.

TMN: There were quite a few influences on this one. Tame Impala, which definitely comes through.

Chris: Definitely. That’s the album I’ve officially listened to more than anything, ever.

Tim: Lyrically, it’s the most influential for us, you especially. We all listened to it relentlessly. He did exactly what he wanted to do.

TMN: How important was it for you guys in working was it for you, working with the label and the producer, to have the ultimate creativity–or right–to what you wanted to do.

Chris: It’s important for us, as a band, to have our brand on the way we write. We like to keep the label pretty far out of it. I know that sounds rude, but we’re the band and we’ll take it where it needs to go. But, when we work with a producer, we like to be creative with the producer. Like they’re a fifth band member. We’re all working together.

TMN: That had to be interesting to have that much of an extension of your brand.

Chris: We did the same thing with the first album. It was very similar in that regard.

Tim: Those guys know way more than any of us.

TMN: I always find it funny, being in the blogging world, that an album released in November is ancient history by the time March rolls around. But, for the band, it’s very much a piece of the album. Right now, tonight, is a piece of that. So, are you fully engrossed with this right now, or are you looking ahead to the future?

Tim: It’s too hard to write on the road.

Chris: Some bands can do it, but we’ve never nailed it that much. I’ve pulled out my laptop once or twice to work on music. I need to have a chill space to turn touring off and songwriting on. The wheels are always turning, though.

TMN: It’s an interesting part of the fan’s experience–not realizing that this is all an extension of the album. You can’t just start recording again and have another album in six months.

Tim: This has been cool–learning how to play them live. It gives the fans a better appreciation. The album is very produced, so learning how to play them live has been a part of that. It’s been really exciting.

TMN: What does tonight mean for you?

Chris: It’s the final show of the tour. We’re all pretty excited to go out with a bang.

TMN: Where do you go after this?

Tim: We go to Australia.

TMN: Take some time off?

Chris: Well, not really. We do a college tour right after this. We have five days off in LA, then the college tour, then the Australia tour. If we do get time off this year, it will be past those.

TMN: No rest.

Chris: No rest for the dickhead.

TMN: Did you just say “no rest for the dickhead?”

Chris: (Laughs) yes.

Tim: We are a bunch of dickheads.

TMN: Since we had a little fun with the last interview, I figured I would ask some non-business questions. What’s the one thing you most look forward to when you tour through the states, understanding it’s a bit different now because you live in LA.

Chris: Food. I feel bad, because it should have been “fans.”

TMN: That’s a gimme though. Everyone knows you’re stoked about your fans.

Chris: The different amounts of food in America is great. The burgers. Pizza.

Tim: It sounds terrible, but when you’re sitting in a van for hours, you can’t wait to eat somewhere regionally. Deep dish in Chicago.

Chris: Gumbo in New Orleans. Jambalaya.

TMN: Have you done breakfast burritos with green chile here in Denver?

Chris: We have!

Tim: At Jelly.

Chris: We love that place. It’s a favorite of ours. We don’t have time to do touristy things, unfortunately. We’ve been all over America and we haven’t really seen it. I’d love to do hikes up in your mountains. That sounds amazing.

TMN: One thing I’m always curious about, what non-music things do you do when you’re not on the road. Stand-up? Podcasts?

Chris: Stand-up.

Tim: I don’t listen to music in the van anymore. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I need information!

Chris: Sleeping. It’s my #1 thing.

TMN: Just napping super hard?

Chris: Absolutely.

TMN: What are your favorite podcasts?

Tim: Our old tour manager just started doing one that’s really cool. He’s had some big name interviews. Tour Manager’s Guide. Marc Maron. Adam Corolla. Joe Rogan.