Posted by: Necci – Jun 07, 2012
Somewhere back in 2008, Big John Bullen and Adam Kravitz formed Gritter, who were originally known as Rube. The story goes that the two were sitting on a patio late at night, thinking up concepts and ideas for a band. Staring out into the street, they tried to determine what musical direction in which they should go. They felt that before the first note was written the concept for the band needed to be etched in stone. Finally, one night, when John and Adam were on that same patio, they pulled out their gear and began writing “The Wrench,” the first song they wrote as a band. At that moment, Gritter was born. "The Wrench" was inspired by a moment in Good Will Hunting, in which Matt Damon’s character discusses his abusive upbringing with his therapist (Robin Williams). He tells Williams that when his dad would beat him, he'd make him choose between a stick, a belt, and a wrench. Williams asked if he chose the belt and Damon answers, “No, the wrench.” "Why?” asks Williams. Damon says, “Because fuck him.” From the riffs that this story inspired, Adam and Big John established a blueprint for their sound.
The first thing they needed to do was to get a singer and a drummer--not necessarily in that order. Pat Caine, an up and coming local DJ, became their original drummer. Ryan Kent, the youngest member of the group, joined on vocals soon afterward. Ryan was introduced by a mutual friend who swore he could sing like John Garcia of Kyuss. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case. “He sounded nothing like John Garcia,” says Adam, laughing. But right away, Adam admired the primal scream Ryan could bring forth from the bottom depths of his bones. It reminded Adam of Mike Williams of Eyehategod. Ryan was in. They cut a few songs, as Rube, and off they went.
But they're Gritter now. Where did that come from? "Well," says Ryan, "It turns out that T-Roy of Sourvein discovered there was this jazz player who had two albums under the name Rube.” Fortunately, there was the story of Ryan’s ex’s grandma who lives in Indiana, and mentioned that rednecks in Indiana were called grits. Big John said, “What about, Gritters?” And there you have it: GRITTER.
A year ago, the guys went on tour, all the way out to Vegas in a van. This is the American Dream--doing what you love to do. This is what you hear about, read about, or better yet, see on the big screen: stories of bands making it through the struggles of living the gig life. But for Gritter, things went a bit south. They were in the Mojave Desert (60-odd miles out of Vegas) and the van quit the band. Blame it all on a crankshaft bearing. Apparently, a mechanical piece, so often taken for granted, can still stall a dream.
Adam and John had to sell most of their gear to get back home and start over. This event hit Big John pretty hard--hard enough for him to stop touring and drop a chef gig he'd had for 25 years to dive into the world of carpentry. He had once turned down a personal chef spot for the Goo Goo Dolls because of his passion for Gritter, but in the end, he needed a change. He recently finished working on the Lincoln movie set, so Big John is doing fine, but as far as Gritter was concerned, a new bass player was needed. At this point, Seth Nicholls, a friend of the band who happened to play the bass rather well, took over.
“I was a little intimidated," Seth says. "I had some big shoes to fill, and it was all out of respect for what Big John had created with Adam. But knowing where we were heading, I was ready. Adam [has] an ear for those heavy Crowbar riffs, and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth in. I felt like Jason Newsted when he joined Metallica--he knew their material, it was just a matter of getting into the studio. I feel honored to be part of Gritter.”
The most recent member change came last winter. Pat Caine made a professional decision to focus more on DJing. He played his last show with Gritter at Banditos in January, and Kevin White joined the roster as the new drummer. This move was a blessing in disguise--Gritter added another pal to the band who knows the songs and has 24 years percussion experience. A gun-loving mofo, Kevin's drum hits sound like a nice classic Beretta; powerful, precise, and 100% in style. Gritter has gone through an overhaul of sorts--a rebuilding phase. They have all been friends for a long time and now Gritter has finally evolved into something that this town wants and needs to hear.
Kevin, you are the latest addition to Gritter but you are also the drummer of Throttlerod. How does this impact the bands when booking tours?
Kevin: Really good drummers play in multiple bands, i.e. Josh Freese, who drums for the Vandals, and has for GnR, Suicidal Tendencies, Weezer and so forth. I think it is definitely do-able, plus we don’t fill the calendar like many touring bands, so there really isn’t a schedule conflict.
Adam: Also, if we were to encounter that issue. we would likely be playing the same gig. Ultimately though, we would deal with that issue as it comes.
With the new acquisitions, in what way has the band evolved?
Adam: Getting Seth and Kevin on board has made production so much easier. We are cutting tracks rather quickly because these guys have passion, good memory, and commitment, along with experience. Things are moving much faster these days. We have that special connection where we are able to guide the direction of a song by merely looking at each other.
Seth: There is a vibe about Gritter these days too. Where in the past there wasn’t much love, we have evolved from all positive and negative exposure to be a much better band. Much has been gained.
Who and what inspires Gritter?
All: Kyuss, Eyehategod, Crowbar, Black Sabbath, Queens of The Stone Age, Pantera, Motorhead, etc etc.
Ryan: It seems as though bands in our genre and from around here promote their music through the iconic Southern imagery, and it is so worn out that we’re beating a dead horse. The idea now is to focus on the music, be more creative, and stop utilizing the south as a branding mechanism.
Kevin: Besides, it seems like the South is more like New Balance, khaki shorts, white socks, and three button shirts these days. Not the typical jean jacket, shit kickers, and shredded jeans. Really though, I stay inspired by being super-critical about my percussion, even about the small things the fans won’t really notice. We play to please, to any crowd, be it small or large. Even if it were one guy..
Adam: We love what we do. I am amazed to have friends from 15 years ago joking at me that I am still playing in a band. My time and money alone inspires me. Our gigs don’t support our needs for equipment or repairs. We pour our heart and soul into this band.
Seth: If two people out of 200 come up to me at the end of a show and compliment our band, then I am inspired.
It really sounds like Big John keeps you guys going. Would you consider him a source of inspiration in the spirit of his very own legacy to the band?
Adam: Big John is Gritter. Big John is the Brain Child. Big John is the foundation of this band, even though he isn’t physically in it. He set so much creativity in motion. He was driven to succeed and he loves music. John always loved playing loud because it forced people to listen or leave. Without John there would be no Gritter.
Ryan: Big John never quit music. He just stepped aside.
Who writes the lyrics?
Ryan: I write the lyrics for most of the songs but like many bands we develop a concept and rework things in practice. So what happens is we all come up with great ideas as we practice. Most of the words have come from my time knowing Adam the past 4 years. About that Phil Anselmo thing. It’s nice to hear someone say that I sound like him but I never wanted to sound like someone. I want to grow as a singer and develop my own style and through these lyrics. there is personal meaning allowing me to achieve that destiny.
Gritter’s music is apparently super heavy and expels deep emotion. Considering how tight you guys are, where does the anger come from to produce the Metal Magic?
Kevin: Skeletons in my closet.
Adam: Everything else on the planet.
Ryan: The world sucks, man. So many people get shit on from birth to death.
Seth: We like heavy music, man. It’s not like kill your mother shit. We like Heavy Metal, man. It’s like Truck Dick. Hard and heavy
Do you guys only like Heavy Metal?
Ryan: I remember growing up where I spent a lot of my childhood, with my grandparents, and there was always a bit of Blue Eyes [Frank Sinatra] on the radio or anything to do with that genre. I loved that stuff.
Adam: Around here, we play what people want to hear.
Is RVA saturated with Heavy Metal?
Ryan: But it’s cutthroat.
Kevin: That’s RVA. Bands play for other bands. We feed off of each other. Then there are those cutthroat moments, when one person may say how awesome you were, while another pulls the stool from under you and critiques in such a way to turn people off from your true ability. It’s sad but it happens. Backstabbers.
Adam: I like what Kevin was doing way back when Sunnshine was around. They were way ahead of the curve.
Kevin: Yeah, we really were ahead of the curve then. It’s funny how Josh of Sunnshine is a dad with a successful custom cabinetry company and we still use some of his equipment. Thanks Josh. Jeff is running a tattoo shop in FLA, Chris is operating his own tile company. Joe is a general contractor. And I’m still playing drums.
How many albums has Gritter produced?
Adam: The first one is Angry at the Missus (2009, released under the name Rube). Next comes Sour Mash & Spanish Moss (2010). And then finally, we are going to release our third – Welcome to the Sinkhole – sometime this summer.
So then you have big plans for the summer?
Adam: Well, we already have six new songs, four of which we recently recorded in studio. By June we plan on having two more songs done, and by the end of the summer we plan on releasing Welcome to the Sinkhole with about eight to nine tracks. We do have some gig dates on the horizon as well. We have dates on June 10 at Banditos, June 16th at The Canal Club, June 28th at Gallery 5, and July 20th at Strange Matter. Certainly we are open to accommodate more of these shows for the public to enjoy.
Are there any venues that you like more than others? Or places you would like to play?
Adam: The National, for sure. Canal Club, Alley Katz (Kingdom), Strange Matter, Wonderland. We would like to play The Hat Factory sometime. Even travel regionally--DC, Charlottesville, Raleigh, VA Beach. You know the drill.
By Marc Schmidt