Alex Jacobelli, guitarist for local hardcore foursome Griever, sums up his band in one simple sentence: I dont think well be anything other than a punk band.
To be sure, he walks the walk—as he states his case, hes drinking a Black Flag Imperial Stout at Blind Lady Ale House, and over the course of an hour, The Ramones come up in conversation numerous times. At first listen, however, Griever—Jacobelli, bassist / vocalist Brandt Burgess, guitarist Orly Ramirez and drummer Cory Groenenberg—sounds suspiciously like a metal band. Still, their uniquely heavy kind of sludge-metal destruction still has the stripped-down accessibility of punk rock.
Its this element of flexibility and ambiguity, as Jacobelli describes it, thats allowed Griever to share stages with bands as diverse as L.A. grindcore outfit Graf Orlock, Bay Area hardcore bruisers Loma Prieta and Washington black-metal innovators Wolves in the Throne Room, who they played with at Ché Café in January.
That show was fucking rad, Jacobelli recalls. I remember thinking it was a weird setting, the lights were all crazy.... And I wasnt sure if anyone would like us, but it almost didnt matter. You know that dream where youre naked and everyones looking at you? It was kind of like that. But it turned out to be really good.
Griever have evolved significantly from where they began. Jacobelli previously played with Groenenberg in thrashy hardcore act Lewd Acts, which called it quits in 2010. He sought a new project after having spent the better part of a year without playing any shows. As initially conceived, this new band was meant to be a slower, heavier, more depressing one-man metal project, influenced primarily by Justin Broadricks shoegazer-doom band Jesu. It didnt stay that way for long, however.
When some of Jacobellis friends organized a show and invited him to play, he saw it as an opportunity to turn Griever into a fully formed band. He had plenty of time on his hands, and Groenenberg, Burgess and Ramirez expressed interest in joining the band. Thus, Griever as it is now was born.
Its funny—it started out being slow, and kinda sad, almost ambient but with some shoegaze and industrial influence, Jacobelli says. But then I missed playing punk, so I thought, Im in a band. Weve got the same drummer. I know we can do this shit, so lets just do it again! I think Im better at writing rockers, anyway.
Inferior, the bands debut EP—a foursong 12-inch released last July via Los Angeles-based Vitriol Records—churns with sludgy heaviness and hardcore intensity. While highlights like The Forgetter have a visceral, throat-ripping drive, the EP likewise contains some of Jacobellis doom influence, as in the slow, massively bummed-out dirge Stag Hymn.
Griever have a series of 7-inch singles in the works, including one song that has a working title of Hot Snakes (Jacobelli professes to being a huge John Reis fan). After those come out in the next few months, they hope to begin working on their first full-length.
We have 1.35 million ideas, he says. And were slowly filtering through what we have. Its a wheat-from-chaff kind of thing. My biggest fear is, I dont want to make an hour-long record. Itll probably be half an hour. Even though our EP was 20 minutes, we have more rockers now that are a little shorter. So, there are bands that put out hour-long records, but unless youre Earth, Id recommend against it.
In the bands infancy, Jacobelli took on the responsibility of writing most of Grievers material. Yet as the group has grown and evolved, their process has become a lot more collaborative, which suits him just fine. It takes the pressure off from writing lyrics, his least favorite part, and keeps creativity from growing too one-sided.
Its become democratic, he says of the songwriting. I tend to be, I like to say, a benevolent dictator. But, as peoples work schedules have freed up, its become more inclusive of everyone in the band. Which is cool, because I like writing songs, but I dont want to be the guy in the band who shoots every idea down because its not his. Thats fucking stupid. I dont want to be that guy. I have a vision and things I want to do, but I dont want to be that guy. That guys an asshole.
As Grievers sound evolves—and whether or not doom, sludge or old-school punk win out—for Jacobelli, punk is an ideal rather than a style.
I was watching an interview with Ian McKaye, and he said punk isnt a sound, he says. It can be a guy playing an open-mic night at his local bar.
Punk isnt really a sound; its an idea, Jacobelli continues, so as long as youre pushing shit to being somewhat inventive, then thats punk to me.
Griever play with Enabler at Eleven on Thursday, May 10.