Gruntbucket played their first gig at The Old Bar, initially taking a musical approach heavy on riffage and indulgence, and light on the melodic sensibility common to Madden and McCormack’s other musical output.
In the beginning , Gruntbucket were a concept conceived in the dusty, grimy and inebriated festive atmosphere of the Meredith Music Festival. “The original idea came about three or four years ago as a wild idea we had at Meredith,” explains Gruntbucket guitarist and vocalist Mikey Madden. “Tim [McCormack] and I talked about for a while before we actually started playing.” At the time Madden’s principal musical focus were The Vandas, while McCormack was playing bass in Downhills Home. “It was a bit of a reaction against playing in country rock bands,” Madden confirms.
The result were the appropriately titled Gruntbucket, a seething, soaring collage of sprawling guitar breaks, driving hard rock beats and psychedelic rock explorations. “I always saw it as being more arty – a bit like early Can records, and Beefheart freak-out boogie stuff,” Madden argues. He and McCormack recruited old friend Dave Watkins, and Gruntbucket were born, Madden taking the band’s name from a guitar pedal he’d been given many years previously. “I have this guitar pedal called the ‘gruntbucket’,” he laughs. “It’s this ancient pedal that a friend of mine sold to me in high school so he could buy a train ticket. It sounds absolutely awful, but it seemed a fitting title for a band that has managed to clear rooms!” Madden laughs.
Gruntbucket played their first gig at The Old Bar, initially taking a musical approach heavy on riffage and indulgence, and light on the melodic sensibility common to Madden and McCormack’s other musical output. “We wanted to explore the really raw sounds we hadn’t been able to explore in our other bands,” Madden concedes. He admits that Gruntbucket weren’t received with universal acclaim by the audience who happened to see them either. “When we started out every song was about 20 minutes. We managed to clear the room,” Madden laughs.
It didn’t take long, however, for Gruntbucket’s potent formula to attract a community of interest. One notable fan was long-time Melbourne independent rock patron Andrew McGee, who offered to release the band’s debut record, Receiving, on his Torn & Frayed label. “We met Andrew through being friends with friends,” Madden explains. “Tim plays in James McCann’s Other Band, and James is good friends with Andrew. Andrew is the sort of guy who likes wild loud noises, so he loved it.”
James McCann had been recording at McGee’s Empty Room studio in Nagambie, and through McCann, it was arranged for Gruntbucket to put down some tracks one weekend. “Recording the album took a bit longer than we expected,” Madden says. “The tracks sounded OK, but they were still a bit rough. So we headed up there again and wrote some more songs, ‘til we eventually had the nine songs that ended up on the album.”
Madden, McCormack and Watkins toyed with the idea of trying to replicate Gruntbucket’s live sound in the studio; eventually, however, the band agreed that the record did not need to be a carbon copy of the band’s live set. “It was something we talked about – whether we wanted to perfectly capture the band’s live sound, or whether we wanted to use the studio setting to explore the music further,” Madden recalls. “In a studio you can the chance to play around with things a bit further.”
With The Vandas between albums, Madden is happy to nominate Gruntbucket as his current musical focus. “I guess so,” he chuckles. “We’re hoping to get things together with our other bands, but it’s been difficult with some members getting married and having kids.” He doesn’t have any particular aspirations for Gruntbucket either, provided it remains an enjoyable project. “I’d like to do another album pretty quickly,” Madden confirms. “I want to keep pumping out a lot more music – it’s a good fun thing to do.”
Despite the evolution of Gruntbucket’s style from their original lumbering big rock genesis, Madden still sees Gruntbucket as exhibiting a certain primeval character. “I’m not sure if it sounds to everyone else like it does in my head,” Madden laughs. “If you like something with guts and soul, but with melody and self-deprecating humour, then you should like Gruntbucket.”
GRUNTBUCKET‘s album Receiving is out now through Torn & Fraye