After nearly 6 long, empty months of quarantine, online learning, and suffering of boredom in good ol’ Staten Island, I have finally returned to the heart of it all, my cozy little dorm room at SUNY New Paltz. Both everything and nothing is the same; It’s nice to recognize the same faces I did last semester (even though it takes a minute because of the masks), and to hop right back into exploring the beautiful town and its surroundings. Obviously, a huge gaping hole in my sophomore year experience so far is the lack of house shows and live music events. There have been a couple of outdoor, socially-distanced concerts scattered throughout town, but it’s hard to have anything on campus without having to go through the 7 layers of Student Activities approval. Despite the depletion of live events, there are still local bands trying to put something out there for the community to grab onto.
Grampfather, to me, can’t be defined by one genre. They are punk, alternative, surf rock, and multiple variants of in-between titles. They are based out of Kingston, NY but have played a huge role in the New Paltz DIY community for the past year, playing at venues such as Crossroads and the Grove. The band consists of songwriter James Kwapisz, drummer Tony DiMauro, bassist Freddy Deltor, and guitarist Andrew Blot. Friday, September 4th, saw the release of their newest album, Magnum Grampus, after dropping two singles from it during the last 8 months. I’ve definitely witnessed Grampfather live a couple of times, and know friends that adore them and truly treasured their sets. After listening to MG, I can confirm my true hype for them, and the unique shadow they cast over the DIY scene.
The album kicks off with a strong, energized track with a storytelling tone and layered guitar solos. “Bad Taxidermy” reminded me of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard during their Nonagon Infinity era with its mythological and cryptic energy. The clash of the instruments; the drums with their brazing symbols, the undertoned bass lines, and even some synths sprinkled onto certain tracks, truly made for a complex and well-made and produced album. Once you get deep into your listen, you will truly understand why I say they are multi-genre. You will see a good mix of a punk attitude with hints of psychedelica and garage rock, along with a perfect blend of classic and modern metal themes. The shocking titles of songs may jump out at you (ex. “Eat Shit and Die”), but that’s part of the punky charm that Grampfather possesses. The tempos of the songs range from heavy and fast-paced to a more pop-punk type beat with upbeat rhythms. The bottom line, though: No song sounds the same.
Grampfather shows multitudes of talent at playing in multiple genres and styles -- with the way they play their instruments and even the way Kwapisz sings. There’s a good contrast of heavy and soft sounding songs, the switch from “Preorder” to upbeat “End Times (Major)” is impressive, and kept my first listen interesting. Out of all of the songs, I think my favorite is “Girtha.” I listened to it before I looked on their Instagram, so I wasn’t aware that there was a deeper meaning behind this pop-punk inspired banger. The song was inspired by an unfortunate experience Kwapisz had when he got arrested because a friend had parsley in his car. They had to do some community service at an adult day care center, and that is where he met the subject of the song. I loved the happy sound of the song, and it meant a lot more once I learned that it was inspired by bringing joy and dancing to the members of the center.
I was a big fan of this album. It had a strong beginning and ending track, which kept the hearty middle tracks in touch like a delicious, jammin’ sandwich. In the New Paltz DIY community, I feel like we have our distinct sounds. A lot of the bands up here are pop-punk focused, with indie rock and emo themes. Magnum Grampus had these elements, but the majority of the album was a never-heard-before sound for me. That’s why I wish everything was back to normal and shows were allowed to be held in person; Grampfather and their new album would be able to continue to take audiences by surprise. In the meantime, I think that everyone in the New Paltz community should listen to this album, because this is a work that shouldn’t be forgotten or swept under the rug because of the lack of house shows. We need to support our local artists more than ever during this time, because artists are still making music at home. You have to show up for them, even though you can’t get high in a basement to their music anymore.
Listening and getting the chance to review this album as the first article back at New Paltz has given me hope. I hope this amazing album can instill that same feeling of hope in you as well. Jam out, stay safe, and wear your mask when you’re around others on campus, please.
Listen to Magnum Grampus on Bandcamp, Spotify, and most streaming services! Special thank you to James for reaching out to me!
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