First Issue Revisited: Grandaddy on “The Sophtware Slump” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, September 27th, 2022  

First Issue Revisited: Grandaddy on “The Sophtware Slump”

Putting Off the Sunset

Aug 19, 2022 Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar) Issue #69 - 20th Anniversary Issue
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As part of our 20th anniversary coverage we thought it would be interesting to conduct brand new interviews with some of the artists interviewed in our very first issue way back in December 2001. We weren’t able to talk to everyone for a variety of reasons but luckily many of the first issue artists were game for a catch up to discuss their albums from the early 2000s and what they’ve been up to since. With each new interview we’ve included a small image of the layout of the first page of each artist’s original article from our first issue. These articles originally ran in our 20th Anniversary Issue, but are now being posted online. Here’s a First Issue Revisited interview with Grandaddy. This article was also one of 11 cover stories in the 20th Anniversary Issue.

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“I remember, back then I was kind of at the height of my powers: finally having a little bit of budget, and useful drive and creativity and capacity to experiment. It was just, ‘How can this be better? More interesting?’” recalls Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle as he looks back on the making of their 2000 album, The Sophtware Slump.

“I think the name of the game back then was just always topping the last thing that I did, really, I don’t think with any specific intent. It was just like, ‘How can it be more badass than the last thing?’”

When Grandaddy graced the cover of Under the Radar’s very first issue in December of 2001, they were wrapping up a year that had raised their profile considerably. The Sophtware Slump, which followed their 1997 debut album Under the Western Freeway, was met with widespread acclaim for its dreamy, melodic songs that, within some of their lyrics, found heart in a world of cold technology.

Lytle recalls when The Sophtware Slump seemed to be shaping into something special. “If there are certain elements intact, which is like, ‘Oh, it’s catchy, and it’s honest, and I think it’s interesting,’ that’s great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you just made,” he notes, speaking from the Los Angeles area. “And obviously it’s even worse for me because I’m building everything from the ground up, and doing the engineering and the recording and a lot of the playing a lot of the time as well. I’m so damn in it that it’s almost impossible to have any clear perspective on it while you’re in it.”

For Lytle, the location of the album’s creation remains one of the elements that particularly sticks with him from that period. “It was this little farmhouse that was outside of Modesto [California]. I was renting it. It was an in-law quarters that was attached to the garage of this Portuguese family. They didn’t even speak English. I think they were confused as to what I was doing out there all hours of the day and night.”

The tiny house became Lytle’s world for a while, where he lived as he sank into writing, recording, tracking, engineering, and mixing The Sophtware Slump, with the band popping in and out.

“When I first moved in there, all I was doing was hauling in tons of gear. And it’s funny because, where I had the control room set up, it was kind of like this underground attic area where the owner of the property, this old Portuguese guy, stored gear and farming equipment. Like a dug-out basement area underneath my control room that I’d set up in there.

“Every now and then him and his buddies, these old Portuguese guys, would go down there and drink wine. And I’d be working with my headphones on, and I’d be like, ‘What the hell was that sound?’ I’d take the headphones off and I could hear these guys down there jabbering in Portuguese. That just added to the weirdness of it. Modesto is already a weird place. I was kind of set up on the outskirts.”

Grandaddy feature from Issue #1.
Grandaddy feature from Issue #1.

The Sophtware Slump gained some celebrity attention that was memorable to Lytle, though he remembers that experience being different at a time when internet updates didn’t have quite their current immediacy.

“That’s one of the benefits of living in Modesto—before the internet age, too. In order for stuff like [celebrity attention] to happen you usually have to be on tour, and you usually have to play the show, and somebody from the label comes back and says, ‘Oh my God! Guess who’s here?’ Everything happened literally in real time.

“I think one of the most well-known notables that became a big fan was David Bowie. He actually came to a few of the shows and hung out backstage, and he was really awesome. We’ve had a few moments like that, and you wonder how you would behave, and it was so surreal. I was just drinking it up. He was so nice, and I think he had that ability to put people at ease.”

Three more albums followed The Sophtware Slump, and since announcing a split in 2006, the band has also pursued solo projects, reconvened occasionally for reunion shows, put out the 2017 album Last Place, and dealt with the 2017 death of bassist Kevin Garcia (who had a stroke at only age 41). In 2020, Grandaddy marked the 20th anniversary of Sophtware Slump with a set that included The Sophtware Slump…on a wooden piano, which featured Lytle performing the entire album solo.

Grandaddy feature from Issue #1.
Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle in Tustin, CA in 2006. (Photo by Wendy Lynch Redfern for Under the Radar)

More recently, it happened that Lytle was returning the day after this interview to the house The Sophtware Slump was recorded in for footage being shot as part of a planned documentary on the band. Otherwise, with hearing issues impacting the length of time that Lytle can work on music, these days biking and hiking provide a balance. Still, while presently rebuilding his studio, he sees Grandaddy on his horizon.

“Musically, I’m working on a solo record that’s going to have a pretty distinct sound. After that, I have another big batch of Grandaddy songs, and I wouldn’t mind doing another album. And then I kind of wouldn’t mind just sort of fading off into the sunset,” he considers with a laugh, “and not talking about music anymore. And just, I don’t know, trying to be a good person.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 69 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, our 20th Anniversary Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.grandaddymusic.com

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