Razor's edge

Pop

A bearded band of California mountain men, hailing from the unhappening town of Modesto? Yes, but Grandaddy also produce some of the grooviest pop music around. Tim Perry meets singer Jason Lytle

One of the few obvious things to be said about Grandaddy is that their name belies the ages of these heavy-set and bearded Californians, who are still in their early 20s. The man with the biggest chin-thatch of all, the sometimes falsetto-voiced singer, Jason Lytle, feels pretty good that "our whole introduction to this corporate thing had such organic beginnings".

He recalls the story of how he went to a Giant Sand gig with a package containing a tape, T-shirt and a little note that said "This is out of appreciation. I would sincerely like to say thanks for affecting our band and hopefully some day we can affect somebody as you have affected us." Lytle forgot to put a contact number on it, but Giant Sand loved what they heard and turned it over to their management.

The way in which Giant Sand have seemed to affect Grandaddy most is that they've got the confidence to pursue their own ideas. Their album, Under The Western Freeway, contains the anthemic pop burst of "Summer Here Kids", with its exuberant guitars, keyboards and layers of fuzzy noise. Elsewhere, it switches from melancholy to madness with no warning: there's early- Sixties surf pop that's been warped up, some twisted around high lonesome country, orchestral doodlings, West Coast psychedelia and samples of crickets and bees.

Though this is their first album, Grandaddy have been around since 1991. "It creates a bit of solidity. It helps being together for so long. It falls into that indescribable category," reckoned Lytle. They must know each other pretty well by now as they come from the unhappening town of Modesto.

"It's about 90 minutes inland from San Francisco. If California was Disneyland, then Modesto would be the employee break room. It's got a lot of agriculture and not a lot else going on, but it's a nice place to clear your head, gather your wits and just kinda come back down.

Everybody in the band spends a lot of time skateboarding but I also grew up listening to way too much ELO. I've gotten a little bit more secure about that over the years. It didn't rub with skateboarding culture at the time, though."

It seemed an appropriate moment to ask about the beard and whether Lytle is the first Amish rock star. "Err, it's not really Amish. It's more in terms of the whole function-before-fashion thing. I love those pictures of those old expeditioners and mountain men; it seemed the best they could do is crop their hair short and have a big old beard. I've had it a long time. It's not the most girl-getting thing but I like it. I'd love to make it sound as if there's more meaning behind it, but I'm just comfortable with it." Grandaddy play Backyard at the Water Rats, 328 Grays Inn Road, N1 (0171-580 8881) 10 Nov

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