Premiere: "I'm Not Your Man", Grady Wenrich On His Solo Project And Talking Creative Risks with Mackenzie Howe
Interview by Grady Wenrich and Mackenzie Howe
Photo by Abby Bencie
Both Mackenzie and I have been in bands for over seven years now (The Lonely Biscuits and The Wild Reeds respectively), and this year I felt drawn towards starting a new project, partially to experiment with home recording, and partially because it’s healthy to not have all your eggs in one basket. I was pushed into committing to this adventure when I stumbled on a garage sale in Asbury Park, New Jersey and found the exact four track tape recorder that I had been looking for, all for fifteen dollars. I then found out that the recorder had belonged to Hilly Kristal, the late owner and founder of CBGB, and was used in the basement to record artists who played at the venue. Was it the ghost of punk rock who placed this machine in my path? Who knows, but I snagged the magic box and took it to Los Angeles where I spent the summer learning how to record with it and how to play all the parts on my own, with the help of Mackenzie. This single is the first attempt and here’s the story:
Grady Wenrich: So we met briefly on the road at a festival years back, but didn’t actually get to know each other until November 2017. I then sat quietly admiring you for a few months until finally in December, I gave in and told her she was a punk rock superstar and confessed my feelings. “I’m Not Your Man” is one of like seven songs that I wrote during those few months and this one kind of sums up best how I felt, while I waited with my fingers crossed.
Mackenzie Howe: You did, no joke, do all of the above, but I can honestly say how we got to know each other was through the process of you creating your zine Ordinary Thoughts. You asked me to submit poetry and art, resulting in me literally handing over my diary and weeks of back and forth communication, which was a vulnerable process. Fate then hooked it up and placed us in the same city for a few weeks and it was sort of just a perfect storm. We bonded over our mutual love of Weezer (shoutout to anyone at the zine release show who saw our ridiculous cover of “Crab”).
Grady: Oh yeah, I forgot after Wrenne’s art show it was me, you, Kole (of Okey Dokey) and Jonie (of The Wild Reeds) blasting the Blue and Green albums super freakin loud and screaming. That was a spiritual rock n’ roll experience.
Mackenzie: I gotta say our friend Wrenne Evans also played cupid, she deserves some cred for that.
Grady: I had never been with a really creative person before, or someone who’s making music and on a similar path. And that’s been the coolest part about our relationship—how much we believe in each other as artists. We're both genuine fans of each others’ work and that's been super important as we both try to fight off self doubt and blossom individually.
Mackenzie: Having someone around that reminds you that your work is of value is huge.
Grady: Yeah, you helped me with some of the lyrics and layout for this song, like most of the second verse was a collaboration because I was stuck. You helped me come up with “I’ll wait in a daydream till fate comes to save me from my heartsick bliss”, which ended up being my favorite line in the song because it described perfectly how I felt and it’s fucking sassy.
Mackenzie: You likes sassy stuff a lot.
Grady: Just having someone else to sing backups or come up with harmonies is so helpful. And more importantly you pushed me along daily, especially during the past months when I didn’t think I could get this project going on my own. Also, your roommate Whitney Skauge filmed the music video in their neighborhood of Echo Park and killed it. Working with her made the concept feel more like a real, finished project, and that kept me stoked. It’s so important to surround yourself with a community of like minded people who really believe in each other’s shit. All of your forces just keep doubling every time you team up with friends.
Mackenzie: You also just learn a lot about each other’s creative process when you work together. You have to learn how to struggle and get frustrated in front of each other. I remember when I decided I wanted to lay down bass on one of my songs and it was truly comical, but I proved to myself I could do it.
Grady: Yeah, there were a lot of snags with the janky recording situation. I’m so bad at playing drums but somehow after like eighty takes, managed to get the job done on a few songs. No AC on, middle of summer, sweating out my eyeballs. It’s so fun experimenting though. We used a dirt cheap Chinese, off brand, microphone that your aunt got at a garage sale for all the vocals and it ended up sounding super rad. Limiting yourself leads to lots of frustration but it also pushes you out of your comfort zone creatively and as a result, you end up making stuff in a way you didn’t know you could, or never would have thought of. That’s why I love recording to tape because you can’t just fix everything later, you have to make it cool in the first place. It’s about instinct and committing to your weird ideas.
Mackenzie: Watching you take on something entirely new that you’ve never attempted taught me so much. Aside from you recording some of my tunes this summer you also encouraged me to make my own zine, Small Dogs Go To Heaven, in my down time between touring and recording with The Wild Reeds. I had never really considered releasing writing or art like that before.
Grady: Yeah it’s important to tell your friends they rock. The music industry is so saturated now and it’s easy to wonder what the hell you’re doing it for. At this point it has to be for the love of the game.