Indie-rapper Grieves flexes muscle with Winter & The Wolve
By Tim Anderl
Photo: Grieves will perform in Cincinnati on May 21, and in Columbus on May 22; photo: Jenavieve Belair
Seattle rapper Benjamin Laub, aka Grieves, recently returned to deliver his fourth studio album, Winter & The Wolves, on Rhymesayers Entertainment.
Originally emerging in 2007, his independently released album, Irreversible, served as a platform for several years of touring with some of indie-rap’s finest: Atmosphere, Macklemore, T-Pain, Brother Ali and more. Although he didn’t achieve national acclaim until his debut on Rhymesayers in 2011 with the album Together/Apart, he hit No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseeker’s Chart and No. 106 on the overall Billboard Top 200 chart. Since then, he’s been touring non-stop, headlining multiple national tours with sold-out rooms across the country.
For his latest effort, the insatiable, devil-may-care MC continues his meticulous exploration of life, love and loss, through a unique medley of hip-hop and soulful music. Lyrically, the album is a reflection on growth, maturity, the instinctual fight for survival and carving out a new path for oneself in the world. Winter & the Wolves will be supported by full North American and European tours, with Grieves promising a re-developed live show, including expanded band and light performances.
Dayton City Paper caught up with Laub to discuss the record – this is what he told us while stranded in a children’s pizza arcade in Wyoming.
How are you doing?
I am currently sitting in a place called John’s Incredible Pizza Company. My van broke down and this is the only place around. It’s more a less a rip-off of Chuck E. Cheese’s and there are fat little kids running around screaming with pizza all over their chubby little faces while I sit here drinking a beer like a complete and utter creeper (laughs). – Grieves
Is breaking down one of the pitfalls of being a road warrior?
It is. You can’t choose where you break down, unfortunately, or I’d break down in Las Vegas every time. Wyoming has been my Bermuda Triangle throughout my touring career. – G
Have you found all the tourist spots in Wyoming then?
No (laughs). There is nothing in Wyoming. If you are from Wyoming, and you are reading this, and you are mad at what I’m saying, then you are crazy. – G
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
I sat down to write Winter & the Wolves in late 2012, but really didn’t hit my stride until 2013 when I finally had the time and the state of mind to write a record like this. I was writing and producing songs in Seattle and wasn’t really happy with how things were going until I met Brad “B.” Lewis. Once I started booking flights to San Jose and going out there to work with him is when things really started to fall into place. – G
So, you and B. Lewis co-produced the record then?
Yeah, I met Brad through one of my favorite bands, Bad Rabbits. They had worked with him on their new record American Love and had nothing but praise for him. I had never worked with a producer like Brad before. I’ve worked with beat makers, but I’ve never worked with someone who front to back will sit down with you and help you achieve a feeling and space for a whole entire record. I think this was the writing/recording experience I was looking for. I took a different approach to this record. Every song Brad and I did was made from scratch and molded as I wrote. By the time we had vocals, a song would have been transformed a hundred times over, but it wasn’t even in post-production. All these ideas and changes would happen as I was sitting on the couch behind him writing. It was a really cool process for me. I’ve never done that. – G
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
On this record I finally got to team up with my buddy Slug (from Atmosphere) on a song called “Astronauts.” We’ve been looking for the right song for a while, so it’s was really exciting to finally find the right match. As far as other musicians go, B. Lewis and I did a lot of the ground work for the record and then we had some piano and string players come in and add some extra wow to some of the tracks. – G
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Yeah, but I like to leave that open for interpretation as well. For me, this record is about endurance and overcoming. I’ve had a really rough past two years and when I sat down to write this record I wanted to touch base on the idea life doesn’t just get better because I get older. Happiness and calm water is something you have to reach for. It’s not gonna just fall in your lap cause you’re “grown.” That’s just me though. I’d love to see what others get from it. – G
There are a few hints about the theme in the video for the single “Shreds” though I think. Is the video inspired by the movie “The Grey”?
Totally. That was my number one thing with the director. I asked him, “Have you seen the movie? No? Then you are fucking up,” (laughs). I felt like we needed a more reluctant outcome than the movie though … sometimes it is the things you think are trying to kill you that show you the way. – G
Grieves performs on Wednesday, May 21 at 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Rd. in Cincinnati. Doors at 8 p.m. He will perform on Thursday, May 22 at The Basement, 391 Neil Ave. in Columbus, on. Doors at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit promowestlive.com.
Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine, and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.