With their bubbly take on indie-pop and a host of influences that include Vampire Weekend and the Beach Boys, Australian band the Griswolds can sometimes sound as cute as koalas. But the young band also has a populist element to its music, and that combination is rapidly gaining attention outside their native Sydney.
It was just two years ago that the newly minted band won a contest to appear at Parklife, a huge Sydney music festival headlined by the Flaming Lips, De La Soul and Dizzee Rascal. It was a performance that helped make them a local sensation. Now they're on the road in America, supporting their full-length debut, Be Impressive, which will be officially released next Tuesday.
The Griswolds came into being as the result of a friendship between singer/guitarist Christopher Whitehall and lead guitarist Daniel Duque-Perez, who met over soccer as teens and struck up a friendship. "Their girlfriends at the time played in a women's soccer team," says drummer Chris Riley, "and they'd both go along, drink beers, and heckle and stare at the girls."
Shortly after Riley and bassist Tim John came onboard, the group released the four-song Heart of A Lion EP, highlighted by their islandy, Passion Pit-ish "Mississippi." The song's driven by its contagious chorus — "Here we go, walking down the Mississippi on our own" — over a figural slithering guitar line to a worldbeat rhythm accompanied by soulful coos. A quirky mix of anthemic pop and synthetic perk, the song found success right out of the chute.
"'Mississippi' was getting played on the radio in Australia, and we hadn't played a show before," says Riley, whose nickname Lucky could as easily apply to the whole band. "We had to pick up the pieces and put together a live show pretty quick. And our first couple shows were pretty awful, to be honest."
"Obviously we had never been to Mississippi," he adds. "We tried to actually replace it with a couple other words, but nothing sounded as good as that."
The song earned them a record deal with the New York City-based Wind-Up Records, whose most successful acts have included Creed and Evanescence. The Griswolds have already been to America five times, including tours in the past year around CMJ and SXSW.
Back in March, the Griswolds spent five weeks in the studio with producer Tony Hoffer (Foster the People, Beck) recording Be Impressive. They were initially a little intimidated by Hoffer's résumé, but he quickly put them at ease.
"We were completely star-struck, and by the first day of us hanging out together we realized he was just as messed up as we are," Riley laughs. "We connect over the same toxic jokes and pull pranks on each other. He's just a big kid. But when he gets down to business, he knows what he's doing."
What happens after the current tour is up in the air, but Riley feels confident that their label is behind them 100 percent. "It's not just 'We'll see how the band goes.' They really want to push us as much as we like to push ourselves."