Brothers Grim And T he Blue Murders
Like just about anyone with half an interest in literature, James Grim has a soft spot for The Brothers Grimm's 19 th century German fairy tales - but beyond the band's name (which uses the adjectival variation on the original Grimm's surname) there's nothing to link Brother Grim And The Blue Murders to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
"I love the Brothers Grimm stories and what they've brought to us," James laughs, "and Disney probably wouldn't exist without them. But if we can stay away from fairy tales, that'd be better."
James and Matt Grim had been playing in bands forever and a day - "I'd played in punk, metal, you name it," James says - when the brothers started colluding on songs "with a country twang…Then one day Matt pulled out a song that had a real blues feel to it, and that changed everything," James says. The brothers began playing their newly found country-folk-blues tunes as a duo; with their fraternal association, and dark lyrical themes, the duo was given the honorary title 'the Grim Brothers' and a band was formed. James and Matt found a couple of like-minded souls to round out the Brothers Grim's rhythm section, and set about practising and refining the band's fledgling musical aesthetic. James openly admits his interest in literature, a passion that permeates the Brothers Grim's colourful storytelling story. "I'm an English teacher, so I'm all about literature," James says. "I love story telling in all its forms - the more gripping, the better. I'm a real hound for detective novels especially - I'm a real geek about them."
At the heart of Brothers Grim remains the songwriting partnership between the Grim brothers. "The way we write songs is that Matt will come in with a riff and I'll write lyrics - 9 out 10 times when Matt comes in with a riff, I've already somehow got the lyrics to go with the music," James says. "And then we'll take it to the band and they'll finish it off."
Brothers Grim's debut album, A Year to Forget, comes after a year that if not completely annus horribilis, wasn't too far away. "I don't want to make too much of it, but we call it the year to forget," James says. "Basically, at the beginning of the year we got a call that my brother's girlfriend had died. We'd been away touring for a month, so we so far away when that happened. It was a difficult time for us, and for my brother especially. We knuckled down and kept touring - whether that was the right thing to do or no. And later during the year we lost a total of four friends."
Notwithstanding the tragedy of such loss, James says the brothers were amazed at how death brought out the best in others. "Death can really bring out the best in human nature," James says. "Watching how people looked after my brother and us ... it was so good." A Year to Forget contains two tracks that explore and grapple with the events of last year. "There's two songs on the album that deal with what happened," James says. " Fearful Sea looks at how we coped with it, and how alcohol isn't the best way to deal with grief. And there's Devil's Gospel - my brother wrote that completely."
However, James is adamant that A Year to Forget isn't a "heavy" album. "If we do deal with something negative, then we try and make something positive out of it," he says. As for the remaining songs on the record, James says they derive from scenarios or emotions that come into his mind; the stories are not literal narratives, but rather intended to invoke a sense of empathy from the crowd. "The other songs are based a real scenario or emotion that I've experienced," James says. "But it's more than just me dribbling on - I'm trying to paint a picture that is real life. And it's done in a way that means I don't have to deal with real life trauma every night. I don't want to be dictating anything - I'm far from perfect, and I'm absolutely fine with that."
As a regular touring band, Brothers Grim And The Blue Murders have spent large slabs of the last couple of years touring both the city and country regions. It's this regular touring schedule that has allowed the band to refine its intense live show. "I'm not interested in seeing a band that's staring at its feet for the entire show," James says. "We want to bring 100% to the show, delivering to an audience what we've created. I love it when the audience starts out with its arms folded - it becomes my personal mission to get their hips moving. And generally by the end of the show everyone is dancing and buying us drinks," he laughs.
With a steady stream of sold out shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the odd country centre ("I love playing in country towns - people start out thinking, 'Who are these city slickers?', but then they all get into it," James says), Brothers Grim And The Blue Murders' star is rising high. "We're at a strange point in the evolution of this band," James says. "Touring is in our nature, and we're 100% into the band. Now we're getting popular and selling out shows out of town. But I'm quite happy playing to five people - as long as I can pay the rent, I'm happy," he says, with a laugh. "We'll see how we go - we'll either die, or we'll be stronger."
Brothers Grim And T he Blue Murders launch A Year to Forget at The Corner Hotel on Friday 29 July. Tickets from cornerhotel.com.