Now/It's: An Interview with Graydon Wenrich of The Lonely Biscuits

Things have been a long time coming for Graydon Wenrich and The Lonely Biscuits. We've referenced the fact in interviews with the band's other two members - Nick Byrd and Sam Gidley - the trio has spent the past six years chipping away at the obsidian slab that is former perceptions of the band, and after the better part of a decade, the time may have finally come. And now we talk to Wenrich to complete the trinity. As the band's indomitable frontman, Wenrich represents the proverbial The Lonely Biscuits whipping boy - while old fans exit - as well as the figurehead of the new age - as new fans hop on board (hopefully for longer than one album cycle) - but for all the band's growing pains, thing seem to have finally come into focus (and more than deservedly so). The Lonely Biscuits newest (and most realized sounding) record, The San Francisco EP releases today. It goes without saying, that this iteration of The Lonely Biscuits is undoubtedly the one to stay. 

Now/It's met with Graydon Wenrich at Portland Brew, in the 12 South Neighborhood of Nashville.

N/I - How was your weekend?

Graydon - Good. We had a really funny story about the hotel. It was the worst hotel situation I’ve ever been in.

N/I - Oh yeah? You guys just got done playing out with Okey Dokey, right?

Graydon - Yeah. So we played the place where I saw Frankie Cosmos last year when we played that festival. It’s an upstair library. It’s kind of cool. The show had probably one hundred people, which was cool. But anyway, we went over to the Capitol Theatre, where we played the year before, and it was Chrome Pony, Twin Peaks, and White Denim, so we wound up staying there all day. So that was cool, hung out with Chrome Pony, and Twin Peaks were awesome - they’re a really great show and really nice - and then White Denim was fucking sick.

N/I - Oh yeah. They’re incredible.

Graydon - So intricate and so many time changes. We just stood there - Twin Peaks, Chrome Pony, and then us - everyone was just like “Holy fuck,” the whole set. So then we’re hanging out and get food - pizza - before we go back to the hotel - Johny [Fisher] got an Econo Lodge - which is sometimes cool...

N/I - But other times they’re not.

Graydon - Right. Because if you have a long tour, it really adds so much more ware when you’re staying in hit or miss places. It tires you out way quicker. But, this was one show, so it didn’t really matter. That being said, I think the fact that it was in Macon was what made it super fucked. Because Macon, Georgia is like…. Everything is really old and falling apart. Just some bad things going on. So, we show up at 4pm and get the key. We don’t come back until about 2am, we go to park the van behind the hotel, and there’s a line of seven cars with obvious prostitution going on. There’s prostitutes in all the cars, all dudes in there. Then there are dudes moseying around, and then there are dudes in other cars that are obviously making drug deals - cars pulling in and then leaving after coming up to this one guy - so we’re like, “Alright, they must live here.” Anyway, we park the van and then go around the corner, and I say to someone “I’m pretty sure we just saw every single sign to not leave your van somewhere.” It was in the woods almost, away from the road. You couldn’t see the road, so I’m like “We should probably move that,” and by the time I say that and we turn around to get back to it, there are five new people outside looking in the van.

N/I - Oh god.

Graydon - They weren’t even going to wait for us to check in before they stole our shit.

N/I - No kidding.

Graydon - So we decide we have to move it to the front. It’s me and Kole [Sharp, of Okey Dokey] moving it up front, and he says, “I’m going to go up to the front desk and ask them if we can back the van up against a brick wall so nobody can get in.” So while he’s in there, this couple comes up to us and is like “Yo, you have got to get out of here,” and we were like, “Why?” And they said “We checked in, left out bags for an hour to get dinner, came back, and our bags and our bed were filled with cockroaches.”

N/I - What?

Graydon - Yeah. So I walk over to tell Nick [Byrd] and Johny, and before I can even say anything, Nick says “Our walls and our beds are filled with cockroaches.” So it was like, “Damn.” Apparently, Johny took his pants off, jumped in bed, and then Nick saw something run across the bed, and then he saw like four more run across the floor. And then Johny yells “Look at the wall!” and there were twenty on the wall.

N/I - Oh my gosh.

Graydon - [Laughs] And Aaron [Martin] was the only one that was buzzed, so he’s passed out asleep with his bed with his clothes on, phone on his face, and I’m like “Aaron, you got to get out. There’s cockroaches all over the place,” and he’s like “Straight up?” and then he rolls out of bed. But then, we had to wait an hour, because they wouldn’t refund Johny. They refused to refund him.

N/I - Really?

Graydon - They said the only way you can get a refund is ten minutes after you checked in.

N/I - Only ten minutes? That sounds like a trap just waiting to happen.

Graydon - And we were like “We didn’t even go into our room until now.”

N/I - I guess they knew about the cockroaches, then.

Graydon - Yep. So then we got to a La Quinta by 3:30am. That was crazy. I’ve never had an experience like that.

N/I - I’d be surprised if you ever have another.

Graydon - I felt so itchy.

N/I - Just out of paranoia?

Graydon - Just knowing…. If we were all drunk, we would have left the car where it was, and woken up with cockroaches on us and all our shit gone.

N/I - Yeah. So the La Quinta was fine?

Graydon - It smelled really weird, but we got into that room and started cracking up because it was nothing compared to the Econo Lodge. It was fun. [Okey Dokey] are really fun dudes.

N/I - Well at least you know it could be worse.

Graydon - And I had an idea. I was talking to Jeremy [Clark] a lot - he’s just like a wizard with sound. He was talking about why this certain type of stuff was working. He was talking about Dr. Dre and when they came out and roll off certain low mids, which is why all of his stuff sounded so good on speakers. I don’t really know, but he had some new way of doing it, and he said that’s why Kevin Parker was such a phenomenon two years ago.

N/I - With Tame Impala?

Graydon - Yeah, because the way he mixed his drums and rolled off certain stuff - it’s super not normal - but it’s way better on speakers than anything else. But anyway, I was talking about already…. We have this new song that’s cool, but I wrote it on an acoustic, but I want keys and synth in the background, like PADI stuff. And then the chorus is this big chant thing, where we’ll record all the drums separately, where the snare and kick come in and then it’s a chant thing. I just got excited on the idea of tracking that with him.

N/I - With Jeremy?

Graydon - Yeah.  He was into it, and I think he’d do a really good job. All the Okey Dokey stuff has been really good, he does it at his house.

N/I - Well I’m glad to hear you made it back in one piece, with all your possessions, and even some good ideas. What festival was it, exactly?


Graydon - Bragg Jam. It’s pretty cool. It’s not like a huge thing.

N/I - I see. Who else was on it? Other than who you already mentioned.

Graydon - That was pretty much it. There was Becca Mancari, [Okey Dokey], I mean, there’s a lot of bands, but I didn’t know the majority. So it’s Becca Mancari, [Okey Dokey], Chrome Pony, White Denim, and Twin Peaks.

N/I - And it’s in Macon, Georgia.

Graydon - Yeah. So it’s been fun getting to hang out with [Okey Dokey], and just getting more involved with our friends. I feel like I haven’t done that since college, really - actually hanging out with people that are actually doing cool things outside of me, Nick, and Sam [Gidley]. We never used to spend quality time with anybody. But that was kind of woken up while [The Lonely Biscuits] were on tour with The Weeks.

N/I - How so?

Graydon - Just because I hadn’t hung out with another band that was going through similar things and had cool ideas about things. Just another band that was motivated to do stuff. We just didn’t really hang out with anybody the past few years. So then that tour kind of woke me up to how much more there is to take and give to the Nashville community. So then when I got home, I just wanted to hang out with people way more.

N/I - Well that’s good. You weren’t downtrodden or anything before that, were you?

Graydon - No.

N/I - It just reinvigorated you?

Graydon - Yeah. I just hadn’t talked to anyone about what we were doing, or heard what other people were doing and bounced ideas off other musicians since college. I guess it hasn’t been that way since we started hanging with Keeps. So that tour just got me excited, and the fact that we were a fan of them made it apparent that there were all these bands in Nashville that I like that also happen to be in similar spots, in their own way. They’re all doing super cool stuff, and I can take a lot from talking to them. So then I had the idea - when I got home, I started hanging out a lot with Cyle [Barnes, of The Weeks], and he wanted to borrow all my books. He didn’t have an Kurt Vonnegut books - and that’s all I have - so he wanted those and he wanted to show me more of Bukowski.

N/I - Alright. Between the two, Bukowski is my favorite.

Graydon - Yeah. For Cyle, he’s like….

N/I - His dude?

Graydon - Yeah. He’s got paintings all inspired by him. He’s got a big tattoo of his gravestone on the back of his calf. Anyway, he showed me bunch of stuff - there were a bunch of records with poems on them - and he showed me this one record called Style, and it messed me up. It was the coolest poem ever. But basically, I had an idea - Cyle writes a lot, writes a lot of poetry, paints a lot, and draws a lot, and it’s all just sitting in his room. And he doesn’t have an Instagram or anything, so nobody really knows he does it. So he was showing me this book of - The City Journal - it was this European publication that all these famous writers would submit to and they would just put it out whenever they made that quarter together.

N/I - Right. A bunch of creative quarterlies.

Graydon - Yeah. So I had the idea that we should totally do that here. Not necessarily just short stories or novels, or anything like that. I thought it would be cool, because I have all these friends in bands that do all of these other cool forms of art. It would be cool to put them all together, start them as a zine, and then maybe do the first four volumes into a book that eventually gets published, or whatever. So I got that idea from Cyle mainly because I thought it would be cool, and two, people need to see and hear that stuff, because it’s really good. His poetry is really good, and no one knows he does it. He has this big, beautiful, seven-foot painting of all these flowers, and this girl holding all of it on butcher paper, and he was just like “Yeah, I going to roll it up.” And I just thought, “Fuck.” So I wanted to put some of his art out there. And he was stoked on the idea of it, so I’ve been putting that together. It’s me - I wrote some poems, recently, so I’m going to do some poems, and then doodles - and then Cyle gave me a couple poems, and a painting. I think Cain [Barnes, of The Weeks] is going to give me some stuff, and Ian Bush [of Diarrhea Planet] just gave me all of his books and is letting me go and photocopy anything that I think is cool. And then Aaron Martin [of Okey Dokey] is sending me stuff. I was hanging out with Jon Childers [of Blank Range], and he was like, “You’ve got to hit up Grant [Gustafon, of Blank Range],” because apparently Grant writes tons of poetry, so he’s sending me poems. So, I’m going to just get everybody’s stuff, and then I’m going to figure out how to lay it out. I have to decide whether or not it’s going to be Cyle’s poem that matches well with this doodle from Aaron, or if it’s going to be like here’s Aaron’s three pages, here’s Cyle’s three pages. So I have to figure that out, and then I want to put it out hopefully near the end of September.

N/I - Oh, okay. So relatively soon?

Graydon - Yeah, because I have most of the people’s stuff, and I have to go and photocopy it soon, because I have all of their…. Babies.

N/I - All their original works that they may not necessarily have copies of. Well that’s super cool. That’s something that I’ve always been fascinated by, is the cultural movement - in cities, groups, what have you - like the expatriates - F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Dali, and everyone in between. And then you have the beat generation in New York, which is again, people working their way up there. So it’s interesting to me today to look at whether or not there’s something similar to those two movements happening anywhere. Because it’s almost like everything’s become too globalized, and in turn become somewhat ineffective from an artistic standpoint, i.e. YouTube. If you’re a famous YouTuber that sings songs, you’re almost always doing covers rather than original songs, and so that’s where I think things need to start on the micro level if there’s any hope of things making it to the macro level. Realistically, on the macro level, it will never reach that point until however many decades after the fact, because again, you look at Vonnegut and Bukowski and Thompson - they were all at the precipice of what would later become a celebrity driven artist world, but before that, the 20s and all the ex-pats, it wasn’t until a few years after their life’s works were completed that their legacies really began to take off. There are exceptions like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but still.

Graydon - Yeah. Totally. I think the Internet probably stops small scale community stuff like that from happening, at least in terms of small scale community stuff. Because, instead of saving some poetry and some things for stuff like this, most people just throw it on their Facebook or Instagram, or whatever. But I think the only reason I had the idea is because Nashville does still have this sort of small town community. Because Brooklyn and all of these places do have this big indie rock community, but it’s so big.

N/I - Right. I’ve pretty much brought this book up to everyone I’ve talked to as of late - but I just finished a book called Meet Me in the Bathroom.

Graydon - Oh yeah. I’ve heard of that.

N/I - Cool. It’s basically an oral history from late 90s, early 2000s, New York indie rock, garage rock scene up until about 2012 or so. It basically starts with Jonathan Fire*Eater, The Strokes, and what would become LCD Soundsystem. It shows how those three came to influence everyone from Ryan Adams to TV On the Radio to Vampire Weekend to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc. They basically all talk about how they’ve become too big, and a band like The National get clumped into that scene, but prefer to claim Cincinnati over Brooklyn at a certain point. It had become such a big thing that bands like The Killers and Kings of Leon were thrown in there as well, despite them be Las Vegas and Nashville, respectively. But because they spent three weeks at a time up there, they were part of the scene.

Graydon - Right. It’s just a mecca for that stuff. But it’s cool that Nashville bands have a super tight community combined with the fact that they’re a bunch of bands that I care about that I think adds to my inspiration. I can count them as probably less than fifteen bands.

N/I - Do you ever feel like because it’s so tight knit, and it’s not on the scale of a Brooklyn, do you feel like the viewpoints become homogenized or anything?

Graydon - Like everyone’s sort of doing the same thing?

N/I - Or everyone is writing for the same convictions.

Graydon - Honestly. I haven’t felt that yet, because like I said, I’ve only just in this past month started reconnecting with everyone. And there are similar goals we have, like we’re all going for similar tours or similar press, but I still feel pretty on my own in what I’m writing and what I’m going through. I don’t feel yet - maybe it’s because I haven’t gone to a million shows yet - I still feel like - I don’t want to say what I’m doing is unique….

N/I - Well it’s unique in and of yourself.

Graydon - Yeah. I still have a lot of inspirations coming in that I don’t share with those people, so that makes it more of my thing. And then there’s the other aspects where I do connect with them. So there are levels where what we feel and do is the same, and then there are others where the core or our bands and what we’re going through is totally different.

N/I - Sure. And I think to your point of Nashville being close knit - with the city growing exponentially, or so we’re told every single day - the art community, or more specifically, the musical community is still very segmented in a relatively healthy way. Does that make sense?

Graydon - Yeah.

N/I - It’s not like it’s you guys are doing outlaw country - that’s Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson’s territory - but if you go from there, there’s Teddy and the Rough Riders, or people taking a different version of that, or William Tyler, even. Then you go two or three channels over and there’s you guys, there’s Okey Dokey.

Graydon - And in between that is Blank Range.

N/I - Exactly. All the while, it maintains this - I don’t know what you would qualify as the Nashville “vibe” or “sensibility” -  and maybe that’s it, it’s just a very vague sensibility that everyone congeals upon that without any animosity.

Graydon - Totally. I think the big thing for me was that all these bands that aren’t really similar to us, we can still team up on a bunch of different stuff. We have a lot more in common than I thought. Like even just getting to hang out with Liz Cooper, obviously Okey Dokey, Blank Range, and all those guys - we can still play shows together and team up to do an awesome thing, or we can do the zine together. That’s what’s cool - the country people hang out with the rock people, and somehow it all makes sense. And it’s been cool to try and help those bands that I care about, it feels good where I can connect bands with people I might know that could help. It’s been a cool couple of months for that. Especially with Okey Dokey, because they have a unique thing going on and they’ve been good friends, but the main thing is you can tell that they really, really want it. Johny, Aaron, Kole, and Jeremy are putting pretty much everything into that right now, so if they’re putting out new songs like “Hometown,” I’m going to send it to people that might help build their team and music, because I know they’re not going to flake. So it’s cool to see bands doing that.

N/I - Sure. You’re investing social currency in them, sending feelers out on their behalf in order to help them. And it’s all not necessarily for a return in the way that a financial investor might approach such a scenario - it’s more altruistic than capitalistic.

Graydon - Yeah. So that’s been cool. I’ve just been doing that.

N/I - Do you know what you’re going to call it?


Graydon - The zine? I don’t know whether to put it in my perspective or the whole group’s perspective, but the working title as of now is I’m Sorry for Wasting All This Paper With My Ordinary Thoughts. Just because I was working on all this cool stuff and was like “Oh this is an awesome poem, this is an awesome doodle, Cyle’s poem is awesome,” and then I think I was just being weird and had a moment and was like “Well, it’s actually no different than everyone else. There’s people in other communities doing this exact same stuff, and there’s people reading Vonnegut who are writing poems that sound like Vonnegut, or it’s just life.” So I wrote that name. But it might end up being We’re Sorry For Wasting All This Paper With Our Ordinary Thoughts, because we were talking about community. So I think it’ll probably end up being that. It’ll be cool. The goal is to - I can’t tell what do yet - I can’t decide if I want to put them in coffee shops for free, or if I want to sell them. I don’t know. Because I definitely need to try and make my money back.

N/I - Sure. That is the grand dilemma for trying to do some sort of community oriented, altruistic project. You want it to benefit the greater good, but at the same time, you put x-amount of dollars into it. So whether it’s ingrained within us after taking a finance class or if it’s sort of just natural to look at something in terms of a return on investment.

Graydon - Yeah. I’m at a point right now where I totally would [put the zine out for free] if I could, but I just don’t have the disposable income to start a side project and not make my money back. So I’m excited about that, and then we’ve just been planning a lot for the fall. The band, that is. It took forever. As we were recording our album, we fired our management, this was early 2016. So then we went eight months trying to find the right team around us, and then end of December of last year going into this year, we found new management that we’re stoked on and then started the “Let’s start talking to partners.”

N/I - Partners as in…. I’m sorry, the language in that semantically is intriguing. I’m always interested when someone uses the term “partner,” mostly because it can mean a lot of different things. Is it an alternative to labels?

Graydon - Yeah. Well, we were going to sign with a label originally, but now we don’t have enough momentum for us to be able to have much say in what we do when working with a label.

N/I - As opposed to a 360 deal or something?

Graydon - Yeah, because we would get screwed. So we were looking at alternate partners, and we ended up finding Kobalt, who owns AWAL, and they can do label services, and AWAL is great with digital distribution, and they get really big into Spotify playlists and stuff, so we teamed with them. They wanted us to put out an EP before the album, so our first work with the new team was all or nothing debut record. So we’ve been waiting forever, but I’m excited to finally put new stuff out. It’s felt really weird for me, because our heads have changed. They’ve done a complete 180 since college.

N/I - Your heads?

Graydon - Just our new music and where our heads are at.

N/I - Oh. Headspace. I follow.

Graydon - Right. They’ve completely changed since what we used to make in college, and no one really knows that yet. They’ve gotten small tastes from our one song that’s out, but I’m ready to be like “This is what we sound like now. This is what we’re making.” So people can understand. It’s weird feeling like everyone is thinking of you based on who you were freshman year of college. Especially because I’m not super tied to that music, because we were messing around and didn’t really realize how long that stuff can last [laughs]. So we put a lot of it out - and we don’t regret it, I’m happy with everything that happened to it - but it wasn’t really what I wanted to be making forever, so we had to slow down and really make a decision that we were going to completely change genres, do we change our name, are we going to keep our name? We were really close to that a couple of times. So I’m really ready for people to think of The Lonely Biscuits as this type of music instead of Grady rapping about something that’s super not important [laughs].

N/I - Sure. There were a lot of songs about the ocean. Not that the ocean isn’t important, they were just a little vague.

Graydon - [Sarcastically] No screw the ocean man. Pollute it [laughs].

N/I - Hey, your words, not mine. And you didn’t say “off the record,” so that’s going in there.

Graydon - [Sarcastically] I don’t care. Keep it in. [Laughs] I’m kidding. I’m kidding.

N/I - It is funny seeing this whole transformative experience happen to you guys over the years - not in the “haha, what a bunch of losers sense.” I guess I shouldn’t say funny…. It’s intriguing and fascinating to me that when you guys put out a new video, or an old video pops up in my feed for whatever reason - I’ll scroll through the comments and read these takes that are 50/50 as far as people saying they’re glad you guys don’t sound like your old sound anymore and then the other half wishing you still did. The funny thing is that you guys are stuck between a rock and a hard place as far as getting with Kobalt and the EP finally coming out in September, because from that point on, that will be the new baseline.

Graydon - And people will know going on from there that we’ll only sound like that single from there on.

N/I - Exactly. And then from there, it will be almost instantaneous once people pick up on it, they’ll likely be like “Oh. Okay, I guess that’s it.” It’s just funny to me how that stuff happens so quickly. Not to sound like a super indie Stan, but another example of that in my mind is Bon Iver. After the first one, it’s very folky, the second one is still folky, but with a bigger band, and then the third one is this weird tonal shift, but it was really good. But that change immediately cut off a third of the fat - as far as listeners are concerned - and everyone left is totally on board with it. So it’s interesting to see the weird striations and transitions that lead to you guys finally reaching your most comfortable iteration.

Graydon - Definitely. And I relate more so to people when I watch interviews - it might be because I’m thinking about it every day, and it’s in my head - but my situation seems even more extreme to me, because we went through a genre change - which was so different. It’s almost like - I’d compare it to our old first EP, where we were just having fun, and some of it happened to catch on. When I look back, listening to those songs is like watching a really embarrassing video of yourself from high school that you hate. You cringe and you hide it from your Facebook timeline because you don’t want anyone to see it. That’s what our first couple years were for me, now. I’m sort of devastated that “Chasin Echoes” is still our number one song on Spotify - and we can’t take it down, because it got put in some major label compilation, and they refused to take it down.

N/I - Really?

Graydon - Yeah. When I meet somebody new, a lot of times it’ll be like “I really like your music, it’s super cool. I play music too, but don’t listen to our top song on Spotify, that’s not what our music is like any more.” So then I’m scrambling and saying “The name’s The Lonely Biscuits if you want to check it out, but we’re putting out a new EP in a month, so don’t check it out until then.” Because I want that stuff to get buried. Anyway, I was watching that show The Defiant Ones, on HBO, and there were two things that stuck with me. The first one was Jimmy Iovine talking about one of his artists wanting to change something on their record because other artists were doing it, and he compared that to horses with blinders on. The reason they put blinders on the artists is because they’ll get caught up with what their fans are thinking or what other bands are doing, and without the blinders, you’ll get caught up. And the other thing was Kendrick Lamar at the very end - he says something along the lines of “treat every opportunity as if it’s your first.” That really resonated with me because I’m always stressed about the baggage our band has, because I feel like we’re in a really cool place right now - when you see us live, you get it. But if you don’t, you define us by all these things that have already happened. So I think it’s important for me to shake some of that stuff off and not stress on it as much. Instead, I should just focus on putting out a new good song, and letting that do its own job to eventually overshadow the old stuff.

N/I - I’d say that’s pretty sound.

Graydon - Yeah. It’s interesting. That scene when we first came out was really strange - there were all those blogs that covered only college hip hop, and when we put out sort of hip hop things, it blew up. It’s funny now, though, because looking back, it’s obvious that it was totally a fad. Like the Mac Millers and all of them, Hoodie Allen…. I guess he’s still kind of big.

N/I - Asher Roth is one that comes to mind.

Graydon - Asher Roth. They all kind of fizzled out, and a lot of that college hip hop scene struggled, because kids were on to the next hot thing.

N/I - Which was…. What would that be?

Graydon - I don’t know. Probably EDM or something. But that’s when I realized I’ve been listening to rock and 90s era rock since I was like six. So that’s what I drift toward when I sit down with my guitar and this new version of our music. I no longer have to force an old Lonely Biscuits song out of that format. This stuff now isn’t going to be a fad, because it’s what we’ve all been listening to for so long. So as long as it’s not a fad for us, we’ll be happy.