“The ultimate goal here is to make something insanely unique,” vocalist/guitarist Rich Barni said of his band’s songwriting process.
When one listens to alternative indie rock act Grip of the Gods, it’s clear that the Philadelphia trio succeeded. Born in Tunkhannock, Barni formed the group with Dunmore natives Alex Deck (bass) and Corey Deck (drums), and they often return to the area for shows, most notably on May 11 for Astorian Stigmata’s record release concert; Stigmata’s Dennis Condusta directed their last music video and recently traveled to Philly to play with them.
Eager to discuss his latest six-track EP, the philosophical rocker talked to The Weekender about the meaning behind the band’s name, the making of “Take,” and an upcoming summer tour.
THE WEEKENDER: Grip of the Gods is a pretty epic-sounding name. How did you choose it?
RICH BARNI: It sounds like it would be a heavy metal band; it’s funny because I always have to tell people that it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds. We can be hard at times, but certainly not anything that borders on that. Grip of the Gods was a line of a song that I wrote when I was playing by myself. I was actually just starting to think that I wanted to get out of the solo acoustic scene and start playing with a band.
It was just a line in my song that was stuck in my head. We actually used to originally go by the name Walking in Monologues when we first starting playing as a makeshift project. As we got more serious, we wanted a name that had a little bit more staying power than Walking in Monologues because I don’t think that anyone even remembered that name when you told them what it was.
W: You released two “rough” EPs before your latest, “Take.” How have you grown as musicians since then?
RB: I think we’ve just become all-around better songwriters, and I think we’ve become more conscious of who we are and what we sound like, and knowing that, it’s a little bit easier to approach a song… We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better, each other’s styles a lot better, and we’re very open to each other’s opinions. We’ve become a lot more vocal to each other, too, as we’re writing.
(Recording “Take”) was a very fun process, but it was also a very grueling process, as it should be. I’m a firm believer that you really, really should be working very, very hard at whatever it is you do. If you’re serious and you’re passionate about it, then you should have absolutely no problem putting in a serious amount of time with minimal sleep.
W: How does the title, “Take,” represent your first professional release as a group?
RB: “Take” is the title track of the release. Lyrically, the song discusses the challenge of enduring general life “tortures,” or experiences endured by any individual throughout their life. It is about broad pressures created merely through existence. We felt that the message of this track was very reflective of the release as a whole, as each track is heavily rooted philosophically. This is the case with the majority of our material up to this point.
W: What direction are you heading in with the material you’re working on now for your first full-length?
RB: We’re moving forward a few steps deeper in the direction of writing more concise songs that still convey the same message, carry an equally emotional weight, and possess the same distinct qualities of the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves. We’re also incorporating more experimental sounds and electronic effects, which is something we had originally intended for “Take” but decided to pass on due to time constraints and wanting to get back to the stage. Most of what you hear on “Take” was sculpted from live tracking in the studio coupled with amazing production by our producer, Steve LaFashia.
W: What can people expect from this upcoming show at the River Street Jazz Cafe?
RB: People can expect to see “Take,” nearly in its entirety, mixed with a few older songs and one or two brand new song that are still in the works. They can expect a solid, original, unique rock performance from a trio that sounds more like a five-piece, with a very active stage presence.
It’s just always nice to come back, being originally from the area. It just has a different feel to it and also seeing so many familiar faces when you’re playing, then just getting to talk to those people after the show as well.
W: What do you guys have on the horizon?
RB: We have a summer tour coming up in July that goes all the way from Binghamton, N.Y., down to Charleston, S.C. We’re doing approximately 12 shows in 13 days. We also recently announced many additional spring and summer shows. Check out our Facebook and/or Twitter pages to see the full schedule.