Lytle steps after major band tragedy for Grandaddy frontman

Jason Lytle

Grandaddy were revelling in a full EU tour in spring 2017 to coincide with the release of a fifth studio album, Last Place. 

The cult Californian indie band had made an indelible mark in the late 1990s and early Noughties — ‘AM 180’ is the ultimate indie-disco jam — before splitting in 2006, reuniting briefly in 2012, and five years later being worshipped by new fans and ones who had been there from the start in 1992.

Jason Lytle, the band’s frontman who is about to tour Ireland, said he was enjoying the ride. 

That trip stopped abruptly, however, with the sudden death of bassist Kevin Garcia, due to a massive stroke at the age of 41.

Grandaddy have not played a show since. Indeed there’s hardly been a word from them, though a track from the Last Place sessions, ‘Bison on the Plain’, did surface late last year.

“It really just shut everything down on so many levels,” Lytle says of Garcia’s passing. 

“There was never that ‘Oh we gotta trudge on, he would want it that way’. We were just f**king devastated. 

"All we could do was just stop, grieve, and stare into space — and continue grieving. It’s still surreal to me.”

Grandaddy are known for their esoteric songs, lyrics invariably discussing alcoholic robots and lost kittens. 

A hiatus followed 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat, two Jason Lytle solo albums arriving in 2009 and 2012. 

He’s kept busy with production duties, and h says he’s looking forward to taking time to explore Ireland.

“I actually feel I’ve been kinda jipped on all of my (half a dozen?) trips to Ireland in terms of slowing down and venturing out and immersing myself in the culture and surroundings. 

"In the past it’s usually been ‘get in and get out’. I’ve made sure to pad in a lot of time to wander and take a slower pace.

“I’m an avid outdoors person and spend a lot of time at home on trails and in the mountains so I’m really looking forward to getting out and seeing some scenery and experiencing some Irish outskirts and nature in addition to the shows and the people themselves. 

I can be a bit of an introvert so I’m really gonna try and expand my ‘comfort zone’ a bit for the sake of a richer experience.

The gigs themselves are going to be ‘piano shows’, says Lytle, allowing him to experiment with a “more interesting ‘repackaging’ of my songs that has made it more engaging for me. 

"I was worried whether or not it would work but it seems to be working (knock on wood). It’s also a blend of what I do most naturally which is sit and home and play the piano for fun.”

He admits the shows aren’t part of any grand plan for future releases. 

“Although perhaps indirectly, some of the money I earn from the shows will help pay my rent at home which will allow me to continue working on a new Grandaddy LP that I have been chipping away at.”

A new Grandaddy album, eh? “I’m definitely working on (and will be for a while) a new LP with the intent on it being a very ‘all encompassing and full-colour offering’. 

"Whether or not a (Grandaddy) live show ever happens again is a mystery to me and remains to be seen.”

Lytle says that, despite it all, he still enjoys making music. 

“I’ve kept up with the technology too and am very involved in engineering and recording, so I’ve been able to get that excitement that comes from getting great sounds quickly and easy and knowing your equipment well so as to get nearly immediate results from your brain to the hard drive, which is crucial in capturing the essence of an idea, if you’re lucky.

“My studio situations have shifted considerably over the past 20 years but my current setup is the fastest, most efficient, and best sounding to date, therefore the songs come quicker and are truer. 

"All that being said it’s still torture and I dread it.”

Jayson Lytle plays at Coughlan’s, Cork City on Sunday; Cleeres, Kilkenny (May 6); De Barra’s, Clonakilty (May 9); Róisín Dubh, Galway (May 11)

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