- Photo by Brandon Tridle
Alex Jacobelli, guitarist for local hardcore foursome Griever, sums up his band in one simple sentence: “I don’t think we’ll be anything other than a punk band.”
To be sure, he walks the walk—as he states his case, he’s 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.
It’s this element of “flexibility and ambiguity,” as Jacobelli describes it, that’s 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 wasn’t sure if anyone would like us, but it almost didn’t matter. You know that dream where you’re naked and everyone’s 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 Broadrick’s shoegazer-doom band Jesu. It didn’t stay that way for long, however.
When some of Jacobelli’s 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.
“It’s 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, I’m in a band. We’ve got the same drummer. I know we can do this shit, so let’s just do it again! I think I’m better at writing rockers, anyway.”
Inferior, the band’s 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 Jacobelli’s 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 we’re slowly filtering through what we have. It’s a wheat-from-chaff kind of thing. My biggest fear is, I don’t want to make an hour-long record. It’ll 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 you’re Earth, I’d recommend against it.”
In the band’s infancy, Jacobelli took on the responsibility of writing most of Griever’s 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.
“It’s become democratic,” he says of the songwriting. “I tend to be, I like to say, a benevolent dictator. But, as people’s work schedules have freed up, it’s become more inclusive of everyone in the band. Which is cool, because I like writing songs, but I don’t want to be the guy in the band who shoots every idea down because it’s not his. That’s fucking stupid. I don’t want to be that guy. I have a vision and things I want to do, but I don’t want to be that guy. That guy’s an asshole.”
As Griever’s 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 isn’t a sound,” he says. “It can be a guy playing an open-mic night at his local bar.
“Punk isn’t really a sound; it’s an idea,” Jacobelli continues, “so as long as you’re pushing shit to being somewhat inventive, then that’s punk to me.”
Griever play with Enabler at Eleven on Thursday, May 10.