Remember when you were in high school, and your friends had a band whose music you were obsessed with, and you’d hang backstage at their DIY shows and smoke weed and drink PBRs, and you just knew if they stuck with it they would totally be famous someday but at some point instead they’ll give up on their dreams and become investment bankers? Grand Rapids is your friends’ awesome band that doesn’t give up and become investment bankers. Instead, they survive on all you can eat pancakes at IHOP and continue making honest, charming music until one day they’re touring California with Surfer Blood and you look around and it isn’t just their friends whiling out at their gigs anymore.
Grand Rapids’ unassuming frontman Dan Lardner and bassist/guitarist/vocalist Alex Niemetz embody the sort of platonic male/female relationship that many think is impossible. Go ahead and compare their band to Pavement or talk about Dan’s nonchalantly brilliant song lyrics, but at the end of the day Grand Rapids is just good friends making good music and really, what’s better than that? We caught up with Dan and Alex to talk about their upcoming plans, bad jokes, and food blogging.
Tell me how you two met.
DAN LARDNER: I met Alex the first day I moved back to the city. We were 17. We walked around and got ice cream. Her band had just broken up.
What was your band before?
ALEX NIEMETZ: It was called Mod Rocket. It was just a bad band you’re in in high school.
DAN: My high school band was great. We came 2nd place at battle of the bands. Peter was in my band. He’s our guitar player in Grand Rapids.
How would you describe your sound?
DAN: People say we sound like Pavement. Our manager calls it Country Punk. That makes me sick.
ALEX: We’re just a band.
DAN: Friend Rock.
Alex, since your female drummer left, what’s it like being with the boys all the time?
ALEX: It’s definitely different. Now I’m outnumbered. I’ll see when we go on tour exactly how outnumbered I am. Like when we’re stuck somewhere and Dan says, “We can just sleep in the car” and I don’t want to go sleep in the car, I want to go wash my face.
DAN: You’re assuming we’ll even have a car.
I think it’s very charming that you exist in a scene of musicians that are all very supportive of one another. What’s it like being among a group of musicians in various bands that are collaborative rather than competitive?
DAN: It’s so crucial. We have a show tomorrow our drummer couldn’t play so Julian [of Pop Etc.] is going to practice with us the day of the show and play.
ALEX: And there’s Malcolm’s band [The Dough Rollers]. We’ve played with them before, he’s really nice and supportive.
DAN: We own no equipment anymore.
ALEX: All of our stuff got broken.
DAN: We share a practice space with The Virgins, and somehow everything just died.
Not pointing any fingers at The Virgins.
DAN: I’m not pointing any fingers. Now they just lend us their stuff, which is better than the shit that broke. It probably broke for a reason.
What music did you guys listen to growing up?
DAN: Glam. I was the biggest Bowie guy.
You were into glam rock? Wouldn’t know it to look at you.
ALEX: And he looked the same. I saw pictures. You would wear a scarf maybe. I saw a picture of you and Peter and you were wearing scarves.
DAN: Oh yeah, Peter was fabulous.
ALEX: I like The Silver Jews.
Drinking seems to have come up a few times. Do you play most of your shows drunk?
ALEX: Not drunk, but pretty drunk.
DAN: It helps.
Besides music, what do you guys do in your free time?
I said not music.
DAN: I just read a biography of Doc Holliday. I go to shows. I hang out at Malcolm’s. I watch a ridiculous amount of movies, read Twitter, Food blog.
Tell me about your food blog.
DAN: The food blog is called, “Dan and Julian are Foodies Now.” We were just watching some food shit after SNL and it was this stupid lady talking about the food and making dumb faces and we’re like, “We eat food!”
Ironically, I’ve noticed you eat a lot less than regular humans.
ALEX: He’ll eat every three days.
DAN: Don’t say that! I have parents, they’ll be worried. My parents have such little faith in me to survive.
ALEX: Dan’s mom put my graduation picture up on the wall, as if I’m her fake child.
Dan, you tell amazing bad jokes. Tell me a joke.
DAN: Why couldn’t the bicycle stand on its own?
DAN: It was two tired!
If you guys weren’t musicians, what would you be doing?
DAN: I’d be working for Alex. She’ll be successful.
ALEX: I sat in on a law class today.
In a dream scenario, where do you see Grand Rapids in, say, five years?
ALEX: I don’t want to have to work anymore.
DAN: I’d just like to be able to tour and have people come to see us.