Making Grandchildren: Aleks Martray’s Influences.
Image by Ryan Treitel.
Our Christopher Brown asked Aleks Martray, frontman for Grandchildren, what influences him and the band’s eclectic music. Here are his responses:
For years I was in constant commute between DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. I wrote music in all these places, but arranged most of it in my head on these drives. Moving across a landscape has and inspirational effect on the creative process, so does traffic.
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2
Opened the doors to orchestral music for me. Completed at the turn of the century, it represents the modern edge of late Romanticist music that would become what we now recognize as soundtrack music, but before it lost its soul to Looney Tunes and Hollywood. It was also his “come-back” and marked a recovery from severe depression after the critical failure of his first symphony. Way to hang in there Sergei! You can hear the catharsis. I unknowingly steal ideas from this piece on a weekly basis.
The man invented modern comedy, political satire, and persona. He also scored and conducted most of his own soundtracks. A true visionary. His blend of playfulness and dark themes seems way ahead of its time when you watch his films now. I strive for that mixture of diversion and honesty.
For over 2 years I lived in a house in west Philly called “Danger Danger” where we recorded, practiced and hosted shows for hundreds of bands from all over the world. I remember recording in my room while live music raged on throughout our living room, basement, and attic- jazz legend Marshall Allen, Dan Deacon, Maps and Atlases, etc. It was definitely a golden age of sorts unlike any other time in my life and this is where Grandchildren took form.
Growing up on base in Germany we got our dose of American culture condensed and often a few years behind. By the time I was 6 I had every rhythm, melody, dance move and lyric (often phonetically of course) etched in my brain. Its part of my musical DNA at this point. The songs take me back to my childhood where music was a purely visceral impulse, before I over-thought things. I think a lot of my sound comes from what happens when a guy with a laptop strives for king of pop production quality- “Epic Lo-fi.”
Terry Gilliam Films
Growing up I watched tons of movies and wanted to live inside many of them. Gilliam’s movies painted a surreal world usually pitted in the mind of a child. Looking at them now the combination of production design, artistry and music always creates a world greater than the sum of its parts. That’s always my goal- to use craft to create a transportive experience and seamless reality that transcends instruments and lyrics.
Showed how a gypsy with 3 fingers could reinvent and instrument.
Many of Grandchildren’s beats are comprised of audio samples of broken glass, old rakes and tools, and other relics of the alleyway behind Danger Danger.
Radiohead’s Ok Computer
I’ve never listened to an album the first time thought nothing of it and then listened to it a second time and suddenly realized it was my favorite album ever, except for when I was 13 and heard Ok Computer. For me it was the end of genres as thing of confinement. It blew the whole concept of “alternative” out of the water and symbolized a movement towards a new frontier. They may not have invented that modern blend of electronica and rock but they definitely popularized it and opened the doors to kids like me to expand their musical consciousness. Though the songs carry a heavy nostalgia for my adolescence they still sound fresh every time.
Latin America and the Caribbean
My time spent in Nicaragua and Cuba in particular opened my mind to the role music plays in a culture. The music is part of the landscape, it’s all around you and is at the core of peoples identity. I’ve sampled a lot of my field recordings in my music and collaborated with many of my Nicaraguan friends.