Grieves & Budo Interview/Show Review 12/6/11

December 8, 2011 by Chris Grosso

It was a chilly and damp December evening as my friend Breeze and I made the trip up to Arch St Tavern in Hartford, CT where Grieves & Budo were scheduled to make one of the Northeast stops on their “On The Rocks Tour 2011”. On the way to the show, I checked in with their tour manager Colin to confirm our scheduled interview. He notified me they may be running a few minutes late as the venue was a different style they were accustomed to and they were trying to work out the logistics of the nights forthcoming show. Having never been to Arch St Tavern I wasn’t sure what to expect and after speaking with Colin I became a bit worried.

 We arrived at Arch St around 6:30 to find more of a restaurant than music venue. As we walked in I noticed the bar area was filled with middle aged white men and women in suits and other formal attire eating dinner along with cocktails. I surveyed the rest of the room and noticed a very out of place Grieves & Budo sitting in a booth eating dinner. Upon my second call to Colin, he said everything worked itself out and we were back on schedule for the interview. As he escorted us to the bus where we’d be conducting the interview, I casually said something to him along the lines of, “so this is an interesting venue for you guys” to which he could only reply, “um, yes”.

Colin brought us on board and made the very pleasant introductions to Ben (Grieves) & Josh (Budo). Immediately upon beginning the interview, I was impressed with Grieves and Budo’s honesty, openness and humility. They shared candidly with me about the stress of being on the road more days out of the year than not, being the young bucks on the Rhymesayers label, gangsta rap and much more.

While their personas were lighthearted for the majority of the interview, I did periodically notice what seemed to be a heaviness their hearts carried regarding the strain that incessant touring has brought them. As Grieves stated, “I love what I do, I love it more than anything and I wouldn’t trade it for anything but it is kind of fucking me up right now.”

After the interview, we took a little break sitting in the nifty blue Saab that got us to the show. We sat watching young folks in fitted caps pre-gaming with bottles of alcohol in their cars. Occasionally there’d be the rambunctious fan who’d walk by the tour bus yelling “we love you Grieves” and of course, there was the random Hartford citizen walking by who I’m sure had their own story to tell.

At 8:45, CT local Hip Hop artist Sketch Tha Cataclysm took the stage and got the show started. He had a great mix of ear catching beats and a solid conscious lyrical flow. The crowd was a bit scattered for his set but those paying attention seemed to catch what he was saying. It was at this time I also realized the venue wasn’t as bad as I’d previously thought it was going to be. The sound was actually pretty decent and it was an altogether cozy atmosphere complete with a nice little fireplace and poinsettias in the background. Sketch’s set ran approximately half an hour, the highlight of which for me was when the music dropped out and he ran a solo lyrical flow for possibly 16 or 24 bars…maybe more. Honestly, I lost count as I was just impressed with how well he kept rhythm.

Next up was K. Flay who I’m sorry to say I only caught the tail end of. I will say that what I saw was definitely impressive. She had a live drummer who was on point with his beats and she was full of energy. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit as after her set she was swarmed by a dozen or so young teenage girls asking for her autograph, so I assume she was doing something right, or maybe they were just being typical teenage girls. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt though.

And then it was time for Grieves & Budo. Let me start by simply stating that these two unequivocally killed it. The set was a little over an hour including fan favorites spanning their entire discography. Grieves was an excellent Emcee engaging the crowd with humor and participation in between every song, with one of the recurring themes being Bob Saget, yes, Bob Saget. We also learned about Grieves first Ford station wagon he aptly named, “The Kimmy Gibbler” as it was an “annoying piece of shit” as he put it. Budo was a little spitfire juggling duties on the keyboard, trumpet, guitar and tambourine, covering almost every inch of the stage throughout the set and hip hopping around as though every song was a shot of adrenaline for him.

Grieves played his role smooth. He moved around the stage with gentle soul as a fitting compliment to the music he & Budo offered the crowd. He even broke it down in the middle of the set putting the microphone down while the beat played on and encouraged the audience to just dance, and dance with him they did.

I have seen many Hip Hop shows in my day, some of which I found amazing, others disappointing, but on this night, Grieves & Budo quickly climbed the ranks to of one of the best Hip Hop shows I’ve ever seen. The sound was great, their energy was great, the set list was great, their crowd interaction was great, everything was just right for the two of them. The only thing I wished I’d seen more of were people there to support them. I do however have no doubt that the next time Grieves & Budo roll through town, that won’t be an issue.

*Thanks to Breeze Floyd/Trust The Air Productions for her photography & Chris @Biz3 Productions for helping set this up.

The Grieves & Budo Interview

TIS: First off, congratulations on signing with Rhymesayers for your Together/Apart release. How huge was that for you?

Grieves: Signing with Rhymesayers has been a blessing man. It’s a group full of like minded individuals who pool all their ideas and resources together to help one other out. It’s not like we’re all nipping at each other’s boot heals trying to get one piece of the pie. Everything is divided equally. It’s all fair shares. So especially in a music business type of situation that’s really hard to find. For us being independent musicians, that’s the most comfortable situation we can be in, without a contract and all that other stuff. It makes us feel like we’re a part of, instead of just something we’re with for 2 albums and then we’re on our own again. It’s a family and that’s cool.

TIS: Definitley. So you guys worked on the “Together/Apart” album for roughly two years. Can you tell me about the mental and emotional experience you went through during that?

Grieves:  The record was spawned from more or less living on the road.

Budo: Haha, yeah as I make coffee on our bus… (which he was literally doing.)

Grieves: Yeah. The only way we could support what we were doing was to be on the road constantly and the only way to get our name out there, at least in the way I believe in doing things is to be out on the road. I’m not the biggest fan of the internet, I never really understood the blog things. There’s these blog rappers that pop up and then they disappear. I grew up listening to and learning from the Rhymesayer’s guys and that’s always been my manager and I’s approach to how we wanted to put our foot in the door. So me and Budo were on the road for fucking ever. We had to stay out there to maintain this lifestyle more or less. It’s not the cheapest thing and we didn’t have time to get another job, so if we wanted to do this as a job we had to go all in and that took a lot for us. We had to sacrifice time, friends, family, loved ones. It wasn’t just like a month here or a month there of touring, our family and friends would maybe get a month here or a month there. We’ve done over 200 dates in 2011 and before that we were going just as hard.

Budo: And that doesn’t take into account the time included for traveling for videos and meetings and all the various other shit.

Grieves: Yeah one off’s etc.

Budo: At the end of the day, the time you’re gone trumps the time that you’re not, they don’t balance so the road becomes home, but a really weird version of home. I think that’s where the guiding energy for that record came from. This kind of weird tension between being gone, wanting to be gone, but also wanting to be home and struggling with that and the issues that come up as we’re gone for so long. This reality becomes very closed, you know? Communicating what’s going on here to people who aren’t in this is very challenging. It’s not like there’s anything crazy going on but the day to day of this is very different than the day to day of a 9-5 job and being home, so a division pops up between those of us who are here and know this world and those who don’t and that’s a tough thing. So even if you’re trying to communicate and stay in touch and shit it becomes very difficult. It’s hard to stay grounded with people who are not here.

Grieves: When you’re trying to tell someone you’re frustrated with the way you’re living right now, they’re like “fuck you, you’re living your dream and I’m working at Walmart” and it’s like yeah, but everybody can have something to complain about, no matter what you’re doing. I’m sure Donald Trump gets worried about money sometimes. Everybody can have something to complain about and just because it’s not your reality it doesn’t mean it’s not wearing on that person, but it’s hard to try to describe to someone else because they’re just like “fuck you, I don’t want to hear it” so well, alright then.

TIS: Hmm. Definitely sounds bittersweet.

Grieves: Yeah for sure.

TIS: So the track “Tragic” you did with Brother Ali on Together/Apart was one of my favorites. Can you tell me the story behind it?

Grieves: It was one of the later songs on the record. We had a lot of those darker, kind of heavy songs and we wanted to put some lighter shit on there and we’d just gotten done touring with Brother Ali overseas. We actually made that beat in Norway in the back of a fucking van.

Budo: Yeah we were driving from Oslo and we all thought we were gonna die. I mean Brother Ali was actually calling his family to tell them he loved them. We skidded into a fucking snow bank or something.

Grieves: Yeah, on a cliff.

Budo: Right the road just stopped. Then all of the sudden we saw a bunch of people skiing.

Grieves:  Yeah there was a summer route and a winter route and we took the summer route which turned into a cross country skiing trail so we had to drive back like three hours.

Budo: So in the middle of thinking we were gonna die and watching Norwegian people ski I made that beat. So there’s a cool story to that song just cause we were all in the same vehicle. I didn’t make that beat, and then turn to my left and ask Ali if he wanted to rap to it. I asked him later if he’d do it so it all came together in a dope way.

Grieves: And “tragic” also stems from what we were just talking about where you can’t really describe what you’re going through to people cause they don’t believe it, like “poor you, how tragic for you. It has to be awful doing what you’re doing”. So having a conversation with Brother Ali about that, being the young buck on the label and feeling overworked, he told me about having that equality in your life and how not having it can ruin people. Some people turn to drugs to counter balance shit and that’s what his verse is about. Mine is about how everything is building up and I’m sort of losing my shit. I mean I love what I do, I love it more than anything and I wouldn’t trade it for anything but it is kind of fucking me up right now and that’s kind of what that song is about. It was cool to get to do that with somebody I look up to and respect so much and to know I’m not alone in that feeling, it was cool.

TIS: Nice. So how does the Grieves/Budo collaborative process work?

Grieves: However you want it man.

Budo: It’s gloves off.

TIS: Right on. So there’s no specific formula you stick with?

Grieves: Nope.

TIS: Very cool.

Grieves: Yeah I don’t think there’s any point to that because both of us would be doing this no matter what, regardless of whether we were working together or apart. “Together/Apart” haha. So anyways, it’s important that we both maintain our own individual workflow and combine it, or get together and try something completely left of center and see if that works, or even try to force something on the person. Like Budo said, it’s gloves off, anything goes.

Budo: Yeah and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re obviously both dedicated to this so if something doesn’t work, it isn’t the end of the world for us.

Grieves: And if something doesn’t work for us, it may work for one another as individuals, as something we’re working on on our own, or collaborating on with someone else. Budo’s got beats sometimes I won’t touch but other people will do amazing things over, I just won’t touch them because I can tell they aren’t me or they aren’t us. And sometimes I’ll have versus or beats that won’t work for our project so they go on other things. I produce for other people too so sometimes I’ll toss them that way.

TIS: Nice. So switching gears a bit, you guys made it out of this summer’s Warped Tour alive.

Grieves: Haha, yeah.

TIS: How was that experience for you?

Budo: It’s funny because I have a bike with me on tour currently, which was also with me on the Warped Tour and I always ride it. So today I took it out again and was riding out by Trinity College and I remembered biking past it this summer on our CT stop of Warped Tour. It was weird to me that now I know Hartford based on my biking experience on Warped Tour. I remember specifically biking out of Warped Tour early that morning and seeing this line of kids marching down the street. There were people selling CD’s and bullhorns and it was really hot and it just transported me right back to that. A lot of the Warped Tour shows weren’t in cities, they were in parking lots and fields so Hartford was unique like that. So for the first time since then I had the feeling like I was back on Warped Tour and it was weird. So there’s a very long way of saying it was weird.

But it was amazing for so many reasons though it’s very hard to put my head back into that space because I think we just put our heads down and went through it in ways that were positive and definitely draining. At the end of the day though, for us to get in front of that audience, we never ever would have gotten in front of those kids in another way. We took a chance and didn’t know how it was going to work out. It could have been a disaster but it was definitely a vote in favor of kids actually being able to think for themselves, you know? It was really cool to see because you expect these little kids to be so locked into what the media is telling them to listen to that they’re not open to other ideas. And a lot of kids that morning probably would have woken up and said, “I hate Hip Hop” or “Fuck Hip Hop, it’s bullshit.” But then they come and hear it and they open up. Not all of them, but a lot of them, and that was awesome. It was something I didn’t necessarily expect and made me kind of check myself and my expectations of mainstream culture. It was really a cool thing and of great value for us.

TIS: Yeah I recently did an interview with Kimya Dawson and she said she had a very similar experience during her recent touring with Aesop Rock so that’s really cool to hear. 

Budo: Yeah, totally. Kids can be cooler than you think. Some of them are assholes, actually a lot of them are still assholes though.

Grieves: Yeah, there’s a lot of shitty kids out there.

Budo: Right, but a lot of adults are assholes too.

TIS: True enough. So what’s the first Hip Hop record you remember truly making an impact on you? Something that really floored you…

Grieves: I would say as far as creative sparks go, Overcast by Atmosphere. It was definitely huge for me because that defined something I wasn’t really familiar with at that point in my life. I was listening to a lot of Hip Hop. I’d found my way into the West Coast underground stuff like Souls Of Mischief and Hieroglyphics.

TIS: Classics for sure.

Grieves: Right, but when I found Overcast it was a wrap. That changed something in me for sure.

Budo: I have three. I had a similar experience with Lucy Ford, The Atmosphere E.P.’s.

Grieves: Oh yeah.

Budo: I came to that after two other records though. There was Like Water For Chocolate by Common. I come from a jazz kind of background and I found that record because Roy Hargrove plays on the intro track so that opened up a new world for me. As far as sampling and shit, I remember that Deltron record.

TIS: Right, 3030.

Budo: Yeah.

Grieves: The one with Prince Paul?

Budo: Yeah.

TIS: And Dan The Automator.

Budo: Right, exactly. That shit blew my mind. And it’s funny cause I don’t remember much of it except for the first three songs. I was smoking a lot of weed and would just listen to those three songs over and over again and holy shit they were incredible.

Grieves: The first time I tried to but that record I ended up buying the instrumental version by accident and I was like, “what the fuck is going on?” but then I ended up just snowboarding to those beats all winter and it was the shit.

Budo: Yeah, and that opened up a whole world of weird shit for me. Like DJ Shadow and Qbert, just all that weird shit. Those crazy, eccentric dudes with dope soundscapes.

TIS: Definitely. So I’d read somewhere a while back that you’re (Grieves) working on some gansta rap type beats.

Grieves: Yeah, I wanna produce for a gansta rapper. I got gansta beats. I got hood ass West Coast gangsta beats that I’m sitting on and I just need the right guy. Ideally, I’d love to produce for Freddie Gibbs. I think that dude is tight as shit, but yeah I got gangsta beats.

TIS: Ok, so in your opinion then, who’s the baddest Gangsta Rapper of all time and why?

Grieves: I mean I’m a big Ice Cube fan but it’s hard to say he’s a gangsta rapper now because he’s fucking…well he’s just not. That guy paved a lot of the way for a lot of that West Coast gangsta shit which in my eyes, for Hip Hop, the West Coast was more known for the gangsta stuff. But then you listen to the old East Coast stuff, the project music and that’s struggle music. Like “I grew up in the projects and there’ guns blasting and there’s crack being sold”, but it’s not necessarily “I’m a gangsta”. Gangsta was glorified through the West Coast thing in a different light.

Budo: Right, like Biggie and Big L started out the braggadocio type shit.

Grieves; Right, but it wasn’t the same. It was a different type of hood shit. That West Coast shit was just like, I mean, they were on the fucking news.

Budo: Yeah, it was real but it was also like theater.

Grieves: Yeah, you had people like Ice-T having the president boycott his fucking band Body Count shit for his Cop Killer song and then you had N.W.A basically inciting riots.

Budo: You ever watch any of those Beef DVD’s?

TIS: I saw the first one.

Grieves: I haven’t seen them.

Budo: Well I’m not sure if it’s the first one but there’s one where Method Man and Nate Dogg are chasing a dude through the golf course with a golf club…

Grieve: Oh right, the golf course. Yeah, haha, I’ve seen that.

Budo: That shit’s ridiculous, you know? But it did happen, haha. It’s ridiculous but it’s real and these dudes were living this shit so yeah.

Grieves: But Ice Cube was like, I wouldn’t say he’s the baddest gangsta but he was kind of the liaison to all that stuff. And I’m not a gangsta and I never tried to be, but that kind of stuff for me, he was kind of the ambassador to that world. But then I guess the hood dudes, all the bad ass gangster rappers, they’re probably in jail now because they’re not rappers really, they’re gangsters.

TIS: Haha, excellent point.

Grieves: They were rappers second. Like these rappers are gangsta second. The real gangsta rappers are either in jail or dead.

Budo: And on that note…

Grieves: Peace.

Visit Grieves & Budo Here!

Visit Breeze Floyd/Trust The Air Productions Here!

If You Liked This, You May Like These:

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Atmosphere

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Brother Ali

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Aesop Rock/Hail Mary Mallon

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Doomtree

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Blueprint

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • Digg
  • Tumblr
Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.