Bay Area punks Grumpster discuss the influences behind new album ‘Fever Dream’
For decades, musicians have relocated to big cities like New York, London, and Nashville for their internationally renowned music scenes and histories, but Grumpster vocalist/bassist Donnie Walsh (originally from Salem, Massachusetts) moved to the Bay Area to chase the melodic punk sounds that were bred at the DIY venue 924 Gilman. It was there that he met guitarist Lalo Gonzalez Deetz and drummer Noel Agtane, formed Grumpster, and put out a few early singles and a split before quickly catching the attention of the iconic Asian Man Records, whose founder Mike Park grew up going to shows at Gilman and has said Grumpster brings him right back to the classic Lookout! Records sound. They released their debut LP Underwhelmed with Asian Man in 2019, before signing to Pure Noise for its followup, Fever Dream, out today.
The album was produced by Anti-Flag bassist Chris #2, who told the band he wanted to work with them after they did a livestream with Anti-Flag during lockdown, and it picks right up where Underwhelmed left off, but finds the band sounding even sharper, tighter, and catchier. Like the debut, Fever Dream sits nicely next to early Green Day and Operation Ivy and The Mr. T Experience and others of that ilk, but it also has a fresh indie-punk vibe in the vein of more modern bands like Lemuria, Tigers Jaw, and Joyce Manor. It's a no-frills, hook-filled record, and if you like punk songs with good melodies, you should give this record a spin.
As much as Grumpster have always looked up to older Bay Area punk bands, those aren't their only influences. They spoke to us about nine specific artists/albums/songs that influenced Fever Dream, including Against Me!, Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World, Nirvana, and more. Read on for what they had to say and stream the new album...
INFLUENCES ON GRUMPSTER'S FEVER DREAM
If you’re in a punk band and play bass, chances are you know the bass legend himself, Chris #2. And I’m not just saying this cause he produced the record, but I’ve always been inspired by his bass playing. Fast and complicated basslines that not only stand out from others, but they really carry the songs and add a whole other element. As a bass player myself, I’ve always loved the challenge of writing crazier, not just the root notes basslines and Chris’ playing was the perfect example of the style I was going for.
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
While writing Fever Dream, I was really going through the process of self discovery and acceptance of myself as a trans man. Coming out to the world and being who you are can be a scary yet beautiful process and I really wanted to put what I was feeling into words. Hearing Laura’s songs about her own trans experience really inspired me to give it a shot myself, and I was able to write a couple songs about how I was feeling at the time. It was my first time ever writing about my dysphoria, which proved to be cathartic and I’m very glad to have captured those moments in a couple of these songs.
Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season
I am in love with this record. I had it on pretty heavy rotation while writing some of the songs for Fever Dream and I made it a goal to write a beautiful acoustic track. Something about acoustic guitar just gets to me and these songs are no different! Beautifully sad and sweet, I was really hoping to capture the feel of this album in a song, and that’s where the soft and sparkly inspiration for the sound of the song “Vicious” came from.
Bayside - "We’ll Be OK"
This song makes me want to break stuff in the best way possible. It’s equally sludgy and anthemic, and I HAD to make a song that captured this feeling. This song really influenced the sound and feel of “Enjoy It While It Lasts”, and I’m so happy with how it turned out! Big dramatic chorus, bouncy verses, all inspired by this song!
Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
Heading into recording and after all the songs are written I like to listen to songs / albums that I want a similar energy, tone or feel to bleed onto the record. In particular tracks like "Sweetness" and title track "Bleed American’ with their driving palm-muting and octaves flying all over those songs gave me the exact feeling I wanted on Fever Dream.
Green Day - "Panic Song"
I've always loved "Panic Song" off of Green Day’s Insomniac for its long stress-inducing instrumental “intro” followed by short but impactful vocals in the last minute or so of the song. Inspired by "Panic Song" I always wanted to be able to write an instrumental heavy song with a similar energy. So when writing "Mirrors" we were trying to figure out where to put vocals because there wasn't a natural spot for a melody over the parts we had and we said maybe let's just write an instrumental song for the middle of the album, and eventually tagged on some vocals at the end of the song once we got closer to recording and definitely has the exact feel I was hoping for.
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York
Nirvana's Unplugged album is one of my all time favorite collections of songs and when we were getting ready to record we were reworking and almost entirely re-writing the final track "Spiders" from a more upbeat track to a much slower tempo and I wanted a song that felt like you could slip it into Nirvana's Unplugged live album without anyone noticing. If you play spiders on an acoustic guitar it definitely has the feel of a song like "Dumb" and we even considered throwing some cello too, but decided against it in the end after the song took on its own feeling which was less acoustic and more electric guitar feel with its lead heavy ending.
Alkaline Trio - Crimson
When we were writing Fever Dream, I was listening to Crimson a lot. The album came out around the time I started playing music with my peers, and I wanted to get back to some early influences of mine. Those drum parts were written so tastefully, always adding to the song but never doing too much. To me it’s the perfect example of mindful drumming; there’s nothing overly complicated about the parts, and every fill, rest, and cymbal crash serve a purpose.
Growing up as a Filipino punk in the Bay Area, Asian Man Records was always an influential presence to my friends and me. Over the past few years Mike has been a great mentor to Grumpster, and the way he approaches things has been incredibly inspiring to me. Through him it’s been reiterated to me that as long as you're honest, kind, and having fun, things tend to work out. Keeping that in mind when writing the album eased some anxiety, and helped in letting the process flow freely.