Device Grips uses what the universe gives them. They take diversity of music as a whole and spill it into jams, honing in on the grander scheme of things. It’s a wide open sound that beckons music festival season, growth, and changes while dancing under the summer stars.
They’ve recently opened for Rusted Root, have plans to release a new album, and are slated to perform at What The Festival. We sat down in a recording/hangout space dubbed “The Treehouse” with the band; Tyler (vox/guitar), Kyle (drums), Briton (bass), and Keefe (synths, trumpet, vox) to talk about dimensions, consciousness, and genre busting.
ELEVEN: Where does the name Device Grips come from?
Tyler: The name related to using a loop station and being a film grip. The idea of being an operator of a system.
11: How did you guys come together?
Tyler: I moved out here leaving a band of 9 years back home in Minneapolis called Parallax. It was a hip-hop band before hip-hop bands were known much, before Rhymesayers started touring with bands. Thats where A lot of EDM and electronic music is going. Even like Bassnectar. I wish we could go back to analog, to have that tension for live musical effect.
The only person I knew in Portland was Gavin Theory, who gave me my first show. I didnt know that he had terminal cancer, and he died two months after my show. That first show is where I met Briton and Kyle, and found my band.
Briton: Kyle and me, we had a history of playing in a psychedelic jam band, and we had always wanted a hip-hop driven thing with a live band. We wanted to absorb Tyler, and he was available. It was a beautiful thing.
Kyle: We started playing as a solid three piece as Device Grips with Worlds Finest at The White Eagle. We decided to make an album, and found Keefe at Audio Cinema, with our engineer Scotty.
Tyler: We realized that Keefe over-produced this record to the point where we knew we needed him on every live show. He plays anything synths and keys, trumpet since fourth grade. He’s a Viking martial artist on pretty much any instrument. Enter our fourth member.
An important part of this story, is that after Keefe joined the band, and I started taking guitar lessons from Chris at World’s Finest, like the very next day, I got robbed. I lost all my stuff. But it was actually the best thing that ever happened to us.
Keefe: He lost the loop pedal.
Kyle: And the drums got to be back to a natural tempo.
Tyler: We started playing it all how we wanted. From the second CD it was still transitional from loops back to a full band. But it got to a point of totally relying on my band. I relinquished some control. It was like “I’m with these dudes and we are a unit.” Most of this album, was written in practice as a group. All of the songs evolved, we worked them until they felt right.
11: What about the new album?
Kyle: So the conceptualization of Forth World is a collection a songs that we’ve put together specifically to describe the situations that we are in as human beings on this planet. We don’t agree with how we are going about dealing with crisis. We don’t necessarily need to create individual experiences, but a collective fourth dimensional reality. It’s the physical manifestation.
Keefe: No first world, no third world, let’s get everyone caught up… The Forth World.
11: What is Oden Punch about?
Keefe: That song delves into blues/rhythms but we took it up a notch with the backings, it kind of became this old school prog rock song. Layering things, doubling up guitar solos, blaring horns.
Kyle: It’s an amalgamation of gypsy psychedelic rock, and hip-hop.
Briton: We played in the Bay Area with a band called Diego’s Umbrella. They play a kind of Gogol Bordello-style gypsy rock, and they inspired us to come up with some heavy riffs on that song.
11: How do you go about with your song process? You all have your instrumental parts coming out of different places.
Briton: We have an even, open ended approach, and offer constructive criticism.
11: So you all bring ideas to the table?
Keefe: This record is the best example of that because 9/10 of these songs we wrote together in practice.
Tyler: It’s the gestalt imagery point of view, Bauhaus style. The sum of all parts are greater than the whole. This album shows how we approach having a vocally driven song versus an instrumental driven song. We can lead you through the story, verbally, and also have it climax through all of our instrumental parts.
Tyler: As far as my lyrics go, I tend to avoid love again and love loss, or money gain and money loss. We do write a few of them, though.
11: In the cinematic scope of your music, what is the sample in the beginning of “Last Days?”
Kyle: The sample is a quote from the 1976 film Shogun Assassin. The opening scene in the movie is a little girl explaining her life, and how her father has become the Shogun’s top assassin, and her older brother is being trained. He gets to the end of his training and realizes he doesn’t have a choice but to avenge the murder of his family.
Tyler: The song “Last Days” is in a serious context of not having a choice of what to do. That song is just the worst shit that humans have ever done to the earth and each other.
Keefe: All you are left with is what you can do, not what you wanna do. You don’t always get the option to thrive, just to survive.
Kyle: I also sampled a composer of the most famous records you have never heard of, Nino Rota. He composed The Godfather soundtrack, Goodfellas, old spaghetti westerns like a lot of old Clint Eastwood movies, and has done work with Quentin Tarantino.
11: You really seem to genre-bend your music.
Tyler: As far as genre busting goes, this album is really a transformative look as to how we transform our own music. To try to classify genre is more like a representation to be able to cover a whole vast complex experience. Music goes all over, it doesn’t just rock out, it’s not happy all the time. It can be anything.
Keefe: You can’t be scared to do it. Sometimes we are like “Is this gonna fly?” and then we are like…”Yeah it’s gonna fly.” It gets harder to make songs that tell people what’s wrong, what’s right, or what to do. I like telling a story, and getting a story across. The details in the story are the trick that comes out in the nature of storytelling. In order to expand the depth of the human experience, you have to approach other genres.
On components of art, you really have to realize that these are the tools that we are all working with. There are only twelve notes in the universe, especially in western thought. Everyones been making millions of different songs for thousands of years with these same notes.
Briton: It’s a common thread in all of humanity to create noise, it’s universal through every civilization and culture. Music. Speech. Percussion. Anthem. Every tribal culture bangs out a fourth world rhythm.
11: In the music world, what is Boomslang?
Tyler: Boomslang as it came, was the idea of getting rid of genre generalization that convolutes the music.
Briton: Actually, Tyler came over on Christmas and we watched Nature’s Deadliest.
Tyler: OK, Boomslang is the deadliest snake. Not because of its size, or it’s venom. It’s only motive is being protective of it’s family. Thats the only reason it ever attacks anything.
Keefe: Boomslang is like this jumble of things in it’s own essence. It’s a moniker, a new term. We can’t say we are one thing. We can’t be a jam band the whole time, we can’t be a hip-hop band all of the time.
11: What is your connection with the universe?
Kyle: We are conscious. We talk about energy and vibrations and moving forward consciously. Understanding the balance of systems. We have experienced a lot of celestial events together, coinciding with music events. Like the Symbiosis gathering during the full solar eclipse. We follow those kinds of things, the stars, the environment. It affects us.
11: Did you have fun at PDX Earth Day?
Kyle: We had a blast. Peter Clark invited us, and he works for Abstract Earth. He owns this company called Solamor Energy Solutions, that does all the electrical gridwork systems from Earth Day to Burning Man. What The Festival is his festival. He runs the majority of his gridwork, required to run these festivals, off of solar and wind power.
11: Are you excited to play What The Festival?
Kyle: I’ve worked the festival the last four years. It is one of the most Oregon music events. The festival grounds are built upon and get better every year. We are so happy to be playing there this year. »
– Brandy Crowe