Orange Pop: The Gromble finds its footing
One advantage to being a local band in Southern California is that if you’re good, you’re often afforded the opportunity to take up opening slots when national touring acts come through town. For Aliso Viejo pop/rock quintet the Gromble, supporting the Lemonheads on Friday at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano is just one of the personal milestones the group has achieved lately.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” vocalist and guitarist Spencer Askin says during a recent interview. “I would put the Lemonheads in my Top 5 bands of all time.
"I saw them once at the Troubadour about three years ago and it was probably my favorite show. The singer (Evan Dando) came out and he didn’t have a guitar pick, so I handed him mine. I felt like a little schoolgirl for the rest of the show. The Lemonheads are just nice power pop and the songs are catchy and fun.” (The group will perform its most popular album, 1992's It's a Shame about Ray, at the show, as it also will Thursday at L.A.'s El Rey Theatre.)
The Gromble – including bassist Trevin Eck, guitarist and vocalist Steven Lindenfelser, keyboardist and horn player Jonathan Wallace and drummer Stefan Macarewich (former keys man Michael Lee occasionally sits in on horns) – also has been busy preparing for its first Monday-night residency at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa next month. Coming off a similar residency at the city's La Cave earlier in summer, Askin says the band has worked up different material and well as some fun covers for its Detroit run. (Covers are one of their specialties, as most of the Gromble also play in a '90s cover band, Sega Genecide, which performs every Thursday night at the Fish Bucket in Dana Point.)
“It’s a lot of fun,” Askin says of his band’s alter ego. “On New Year’s Eve we kicked into some Chumbawamba ('Tubthumping') and sh** went off!”
Sega Genecide tackles everything from Britney Spears and any number of boy-band smashes to popular hip-hop and R&B cuts. Askin doesn’t want to give away which tracks will turn up during its residency, just in case they chicken out on a few, but he hints that they likely will touch on songs from Naughty by Nature, the Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer. He also comments that though he enjoys rock ’n’ roll, he definitely has a soft spot for ’90s hip-hop; at times the group's cover choices tend to surprise audiences.
“I really love the rap, but I look like I could be Rivers Cuomo’s child,” he says, referring to Weezer's frontman. “I drive a Saab station wagon and yet I’m going to come out singing ‘Gangsta’s Paradise.’”
Askin says that the Gromble’s La Cave residency went extremely well, which is why the band is amped about landing the locally coveted Detroit gig.
“We loved playing La Cave, but I’m surprised we haven’t been impaled by our instruments down there, it’s so tight. Angels must be watching over us.
“The shows were pretty crowded every night. The next step for us is doing it again at Detroit. I guess we’ve made it now – I guess we’re superstars. That’s it, we’ve done it. We don’t need to do anything else. We’re all really excited about it. We don’t take being able to do any of this for granted.”
The Gromble has only been with its current lineup for about a year, and Askin says they’ve been diligently working on their stage show, trying to translate the personality that can be heard on record into their sets.
“We definitely try to be fun and energetic on stage, but in terms of sarcasm and humor, we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” he admits. “During the residency we’re going to try to put on an actual stage show rather than just go up, play songs, get sweaty and leave. In real life we’re total goofballs. I guess some of that breaks into the music because it’s who we are – there are some quirky, wacky things in the lyrics.”
The band's name, taken from one of the main characters on the '90s Nickelodeon show Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, is just one sample of that sort of humor. Askin says each member was obsessed at one point with Nickelodeon programming; it reminds them of a simpler time in life.
“We love it and I’m sure there are a lot of people who are nostalgic for that stuff,” he says. “I have all of those Nickelodeon shows on DVD, and now it’s fun to go back and watch them sometimes.”
The Gromble wasn’t the first moniker the group came up with, however. The group went through several other Nickelodeon-themed options before settling on it.
“We came up with six names and we went with the one that sucked the least,” he says with a laugh. “The runner-up was one that was based on this show called Wild and Crazy Kids. The host’s name was Donnie Jeffcoat – and we almost went with the Jeffcoats.”
Earlier this year the Gromble signed with 37 Records, an indie label based in Westminster. Askin says they hope to release a full-length album via the company by February. The band was also part of this year's best live band showcases leading up to the annual OC Music Awards; they were also nominated in the best new artist category, something Askin considers a big honor for his little band.
“It was gigantic for us. We take so much pride in being involved in that. I can speak for the whole band when I say that it was important, especially in making a name for ourselves here. There are a bunch of great bands around and to be nominated for best new artist – that’s amazing and we were totally excited to be asked to play the showcases. It’s definitely flattering.”
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