Grief Collector Interview

Petrichor Records

Minneapolis-based Grief Collector are a three-piece doom collective featuring vocalist Robert Lowe. Many of our readers will recognized the name from his work with Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. The group’s debut full-length is En Delirium. I spoke with drummer Brad Miller and vocalist Robert Lowe about the writing and recording the album.

Darren Cowan: How did Grief Collector form? How did you meet?
Brad Miller: After my last band had broken up, I was looking to still play music, but I didn’t want to start a whole band again because it’s a pain in the ass to get five or six guys in a room and try to get them to agree on stuff. I wanted to do something different than what I was doing before with a more sludgy band called Among The Serpents. I had the name for Grief Collector, and I gave Matt (Johnson) a call, who I’ve known for quite a few years, and asked him if he was interested in doing just a recording project. Nothing more than that. Just him and I. I would play drums and write the lyrics. He can play everything else.

By the time we got done finishing the music on the first album From Dissension to Avowal, we thought we had a pretty cool album. We were trying to think of vocalists. Were we going to have someone locally, what were we going to do? One day I noticed I was friends with Rob on Facebook, sent him a message and asked him if he were interested in listening to the music that we had. He said yeah, send it his way. About two weeks later I didn’t hear from him. I thought, “Man, we must really suck!” So, I sent him a message back and asked him if he checked out the songs. He pretty much said, “Yeah, let’s do it!” That’s kind of how it started.

Rob, are you still in Texas?
Robert Lowe: Currently, yes, I’m in North Texas.

How did you guys do this? Did you send stuff back and forth via the Internet?
Lowe: I was actually in Phoenix when we did the first project. I flew out to Minnesota and stayed out there about two weeks for the first project. I went out to Matt’s and kind of hunkered down, knocked it out, and then flew back to Phoenix. That’s it in a nutshell.

Are you still in Signs Of Reign and Among The Serpents or have those bands dissolved?
Miller: Signs of Reign is a power metal project that Matt has. He put out two albums, I think, with that project. I haven’t been in Among The Serpents ever since we formed Grief Collector. This has been my main focus.

Let’s talk a little bit about lyrics. Your lyrics reflect powerful emotions like depression and sadness. Is this a concept album or a collection of similar ideas?
Miller: The first album was more of a concept album. This album is more of a culmination of different things, but with one certain purpose. All the inspiration comes from all that I’ve listened to, and stuff we are part of. Everything that Rob has done in the past is very influential, lyrically. It’s very doom oriented. It’s something you can relate to. I think that’s the thing with doom. I think Rob can probably agree with that. It’s stuff with life experiences. Doom is that. I can’t imagine writing lyrics that weren’t doom related, especially with a lot of the experiences that go on with our “happy” lives.

Lowe: I would have to agree with Brad on this point. Like he said, along with my lyrics and his lyrics, which is why I love what we do, we don’t write about Dungeons & Dragons. As much as I love the fantasy world, I want to make something more personable and more real that each and everyone can experience from their own point and their own time, however or wherever they may be at that point in their life. That is something that doesn’t go away.

Was this album a collaboration on the lyrics?
Lowe: It was all Brad.

Miller: Rob and I had talked for the first album. He was in the middle of doing stuff for the Tyrant album, Hereafter during we had talked for starting the first album, From Dissension to Avowal. We had talked and I didn’t want to step on any toes, so I said, “Hey, do you want to write these lyrics for this album?” He was pretty open to the idea of having me do it. Like I said, he was doing the Tyrant thing, so he had a lot of stuff on his plate at the time. I knew what I was writing, and I knew Rob’s work very well, so I kind of write what I feel I would want to hear Rob sing or topics I’ve known Rob has touched on or if he is touching on. It will sound authentic. I’m not going to write about a sorcerer on a pegasaurus and expect it to sound…that’s not what we do. I think we have a very specific thing that we do. We’re not reinventing the wheel with what we’re doing, but I think it’s very true to what Rob knows and what we know as doom musicians. I think it’s very honest and real. This is stuff people deal with on a daily basis, and the struggles people find within themselves to try to get out of those dark holes, which I’ve been in and probably will be (laughs).

Lowe: And we all have. If that was the case with his lyrics, we wouldn’t be here right now. It’s real simple the struggles we all go through, each and every one one of us on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what it is. Had Brad sent me something about unicorns and farting rainbows, it wasn’t gonna happen.

Miller: (Laughs) that’s for another project we’re working on.

Lowe: Grief Collector 2.2.

Miller: It will be on the third disc. It will be hidden, though.

Is “Corridors,” the first song on the album, about losing your sanity?
Miller: Yeah, the whole album somewhat has a concept of that, but stretching out a little bit. It’s not very specific to one exact story. “Corridors” is one of the first songs I started writing for the new album. It’s pretty much about being in your head is sometimes not a good place to be. Then again, it can be a place that saves you. It all depends on the moment. It all depends on the situation. My own mind can be very dark and hard to get out of, sometimes those doors are locked and you gotta figure out how to get out. That’s kind of how it was, really.

Lowe: As far as I’m concerned, without sounding egotistical, every goddamn thing Brad has wrote is right up my alley. Like I said, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. The collaboration and the ability for three gentlemen from across the friggin U.S. to get it together and be able to this doesn’t happen everyday. This is something that did happen, and it works!

How does this album title fit in with these ideas?
Miller: In a roundabout way when Rob came up for the first album we had talked this was the first time I had ever met Rob, so we were kind of connecting on a musical level. I’ve been a fan for a long time, so I tried not to bust his ass about “remember this song?” I didn’t want to sound like a fan boy, so I was just trying to be a musician and not a fan. As we started hanging out, he hung out with me and we hit the bar and did our thing, we had a moment of clarity. It kind of popped into our heads. The word “delirium” came up some how, and we were like “That’s cool.” I said “In delirium” and Rob said “En Delirium,” the European version of it. It literally never changed again. That was the set title even before we even started working on any songs for the new album, actually.

Lowe: We already knew that was going to be it. When that happened, that moment of clarity, we knew that was it! I’ll stick by that title all day long.

Miller: We weren’t even finished with the first album, really. We were kind of in the midst of working on it.

Lowe: We hadn’t even started the first one (laughs).

Miller: I think Rob was off the plane in Minnesota for three hours and we came up with that title.

Lowe: It was 125 degrees when I left Phoenix.

Miller: When he came to Minnesota that January it was negative 32.

Lowe: I didn’t even have a coat.

Miller: It was a learning experience for all of us. That right there was delirium just in itself.

Lowe: I got lucky to be there during that winter snap. BAM! Here you go. We’re doing the album and there is like ten feet of snow in Matt’s backyard.

Miller: I think it really lent to the recording experience because it felt very somber. It felt very cold and isolated. I feel like it lent to the recording. If it was sunny and it was happy out, I think the album maybe wouldn’t have turned out like that. It’s funny, when Rob came out for the second album last June, he flew up and it was hot as hell. I think we were in the 90s at that time. The two times he came up it was one of the coldest we had and some of the hottest that we’ve had. We have 85 percent humidity.

Where did you record the album?
Lowe: We did it at Matt’s studio. I have to say, the guy’s phenomenal. I’ve got to give props to that dude, man. I’ve worked up here at Nomad’s. I’ve dealt with a lot of things in a lot of places, but Matt’s the shit!

Miller: We recorded both albums at Matt’s place in Mankato, Phantom Studios. It helps with the budget, obviously, to be able to have your own place to track the songs. Matt’s got a nice little setup in his basement. He’s got a nice system that he runs. The only thing that we didn’t do was the mastering for the first album. We sent out to Ireland to this guy that we know. This new album, En Delirium, was mastered at Toneshed in the Netherlands.

Are you a three-piece in the studio? How does that work playing live?
Miller: We’re hoping to actually make that happen. Ultimately, Grief Collector is three guys. It’s Matt, myself and Robert. We like how that works for us. I think, you know, two many cooks in the kitchen. That thing. Matt and I know what we want, and when we give it to Rob, he knows what he expects from us. Not to sound egotistical, either, but I think we know what we’re doing, and we know Rob will be on board with what we’re doing. The cool thing about this whole thing is it’s very spontaneous. Even for the first album. Me and Matt write the music. I write all the words and Rob comes in. It’s very organic when we’re in there. There are no pre-set vocal patterns, nothing like that. We are just three dudes in there, having beers and coming up with ideas on the spot. I think that feels really fresh. To be able to do that is amazing! It’s a very incredible scenario that I’m glad it happened.

Lowe: Brad touched on a subject that is important for what we do as Grief Collector. We have three professionals. You have three dudes that basically live all over the place because Matt lives in Mankato, which is like 16,000 miles away from Minneapolis or the Twin Cities. Then you got me flying in from wherever. Here’s the thing: You got three dudes, professional, we know what we want, we get in there and knock it out. Not only that we still have the…I don’t know if I want to say punk attitude, but it’s the ability to sit there with three dudes, in a room with a case of beer and say, “Hey man, let’s make this happen!” We’re not just pulling stuff out of our ass. Stuff that’s coming out of our ass is already there. It needs to be put down. It works and I like that. I like the ability to do that.

Miller: Ultimately, Grief Collector is us three. We do have a live bass player, Jaden (Adair) who was in Cold Colours. We did have Brian Huebner from Cold Colours, but Brian has decided to no longer be a part of music. He’s trying to focus on his family and moved out to Colorado, so when the time comes we will be looking for another live guitar player. But those guys will just be live players. That’s just how it is. I don’t know if we’ll ever add another member into the band. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think we are good where we are at. People do live players all the time. I don’t see it being a problem. That’s how it’s going to stay until something changes. I don’t see that happening.

Do you have anything you would like to add?
Miller: Officially, the album comes out June 11th on Petrichor Records. We also have Hammerheart, the sister company of Petrichor. Napalm Records is our distributor, which I am happy to be a part of. The album is out in the United States, I believe, on Spotify—the whole album. Recently, we saw a really cool dude out in Greece named Michael from Doomacracy just posted that he has the vinyl. He said, “This will probably be the doom album of 2021.” It’s out there and taking it’s time, but the official release will be June 11th, which we’re creeping up on pretty close. It’s been a long process. We’re finally getting it out there. There has been a lot of hiccups with things, but we’re just happy to finally get it out. Playing live is really something I want to do. You can do whatever you want in a studio, but being live in front of a crowd there is nothing like that to me.

(interview published June 10, 2021)

Watch Grief Collector – “Wintersick” Video

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