Music Interview

The Groaning

By Kim Mercil

The GroaningKM: Why would you title your project The Groaning, which means to “make a harsh sound under sudden or prolonged strain?”

Padraic: Our music is about how we respond to life, which can be a strain. The word groaning has connotations ranging from the physical to the spiritual. You can choose which appeals to you just like you can choose how you respond to life.

Charon: This title was a bit of a hard sell for Padraic. I had been reading Hildegard von Bingen's writings, in which she discussed the groaning of the soul – mine has been in a state of groaning since time immemorial – and I thought it quite fitting. He began to see my point. As soon as one gets passed the general textbook definition, it begins to make more sense. And if not, I've given listeners a built-in insult!

KM: The Groaning began in ‘03 with Padraic and Charon. Where did you meet each other?

Padraic: Charon and I met hanging out in the DC "scene," a few years ago and found we had a similar outlook on life and similar taste in music. I failed to drive her away with my rants against the corruption of the "scene" with disco-beat synthpoop karaoke bands and top-40 80's, and my bemoaning the general death of guitar and real drums in so much of today's club music.

The GroaningCharon: I'm glad I agree with his rants 93% of the time: I might have gone mad by now if not. The other 7% of time, I am amused by the rants: There are a few synthpop bands out there that I find entertaining…a few.

KM: Eventually The Groaning expanded to include four new members: Claire, Arthur, Prosector and Paul. In what order did these new members join the band? How did you know they would bring just the right sound/style to the project?

Padraic: I don't know what the "right" sound of this band is. We wanted guitar, bass and real drums to give it a rock sound. Each of us brings our own musical approach, so our sound is how we happen to come together musically.

Paul: Arthur & I appeared in January 2004 after the demise of our band, Bastille. Prosector was there, Claire was (supposedly) in the band, but had too much sense to rehearse in the cramped, frigid garage they were in at the time. Until now, Charon is the only one I told this story to, but we initially had no intention of sticking around; we were just looking for something to do before our new project came together. Then we got seduced (no, not THAT kind of seduction).

Charon: They loved us from the beginning. Admit it!

KM: One of the members goes by the name Prosector. Is this a real name? If not, why did you choose this name?

The GroaningPadraic: He's from Ukraine (not The Ukraine, mind you.) What can I say?

Prosector: I'll try to answer that. Prosector is someone who assists in autopsy, helping in establishing the cause of death. Philosophically speaking, the cause of numerous humans' problems as well as the cause of destruction of nature is certain attitudes and behaviors of humans. I assist in establishing that.

Paul: Ummm…you mean civilization & society are morally/spiritually dead and you're assisting with thepost mortem?

Prosector: That's the idea.

KM: Two other Groaning members have nicknames also. Arthur is The Gravemaster and Paul is The Gothfather. How did these names come about?

Paul: The name initially came up in jest, but the notion of rock patriarch appeals to me.

Charon: It was just too amusing to pass up: In all of our photo shoots, Paul has this gangster quality about him that begged the moniker ‘Gothfather.’

Arthur: The Gravemaster came from the last band I was in and it kind of carried over. With my last name Graves (this is my real last name). That is how it came about.

Charon: Arthur has the best real name ever. In a review of our Web site (don't ask), they accused Arthur Graves of having a fake name, while my name, Charon Powers, was completely real. *shrug* My last name is real, the first name a moniker I received from my newspaper's copy desk chief after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I was responsible for the memorial pages of the victims of the tragedy, so for about 10 days afterward, I collected pictures of the dead. I realized that NO ONE could possibly be that goth...

The GroaningKM: Padraic and Claire happen to be classically trained brother and sister, Padraic on violin and Claire on flute. When did you both start? Why did each of you choose the instruments you did? Does any other Geddes family members have any talents as well?

Padraic: I started back when long-haired humanoids roamed the earth wearing headbands and flowers. My grandfather played violin, and I didn't know any better, so I decided I wanted to also. I have to give a plug for music in our public schools, because that's where I started taking lessons. Claire also started flute in school, after a few years of private piano study. Our brother Finn McCool plays trumpet with Alzo Boszormeinyi and the Acid Achievers, who have what I will generously call a unique sound. (This makes it advisable for him not to use his real name.) We also have 3 other siblings who studied music, but no longer actively play.

KM: Padraic, outside of The Groaning you have written and performed violin tracks for such bands as Todesbonden and DC Suspects. Is there any degree of difficulty when composing these guest spot tracks as opposed to tracks for The Groaning?

Padraic: Todesbonden is sort of classical/metal and DC Suspects is punk. While there are elements of punk and metal in The Groaning, they are definitely different sounds. It's fun for me to play in different styles. I don't find it especially difficult. I just try to make my part complement the feeling of the particular songs.

KM: Has any other Groaning members recently done guest spot appearances? Are there any in the works for them?

Arthur: As far as any projects not really. Although from time to time people have asked to "jam" but it is always not enough time. A friend that I grew up with would like for me to play with him in a new band but that would involve me relocating to California, which is not going to happen any time soon. I find that one band takes up a lot of time, so much in fact that I don't see any other projects any time soon.

The GroaningPaul: A local composer friend has approached me about playing in a jazz combo that would create live acoustic realizations of his algorhythmic electronic compositions, but the project has not begun in earnest yet.

Padraic: That must explain some of the crazy beats at our last practice!

Paul: Ha! You'll never know whether I'm artsy or just suck!!

KM: Claire is currently studying abroad. Does she plan on returning to The Groaning? If not, are you going to look for a replacement for her?

Padraic: Claire plans to rejoin the Groaning fold when she returns this summer. In her absence we changed the song arrangements and have been performing without flute and keyboards. It would be nice to find a flute player to sit in on performances, but Claire is the groaning flautist.

Paul: I'm constantly amazed at Claire's ability to pull these harmonically perfect countermelodies out of thin air. She's one of those rare musicians that eschews technical razzle-dazzle & says more with less notes. Yes, Claire…return to us!

KM: In your opinion, do you feel The Groaning has a streak of luck being you got to open for such acts as Faith and the Muse and The Awakening without competition from other bands looking to get on the bill?

Padraic: It’s true there aren’t that many real goth rock bands around anymore. It’s not that big a scene, and we know the people putting those shows together. We’re also fortunate that Arthur is a good friend of Monica Richards from her time in DC with Strange Boutique.

KM: Why do you consider The Groaning to be a "jam band?”

Padraic: That’s Charon’s description. As the singer, she has the opportunity to "enjoy" our extended instrumental improvisations in practice when she runs out of lyrics.

The GroaningPaul: "Enjoy?" Very diplomatic. Everyone will be able to tell you're from DC.

Charon: The band's repertoire has an improv quality that I tend to liken to “jam bands,” hence the term. Just ask Padraic how many of his solos are, at least in part, improvised upon each performance! When warming up, Arthur will start playing a riff, Padraic, Paul and Prosector will follow suit and I will start pondering melody lines and lyrics to add. This will go on for about 15 minutes: If a song doesn't basically gel within that time or by the next try, they seem to drift away. I never cease to be amazed each time this 'birthing' process happens: It feels almost supernatural at times.

Arthur: Coming up with song, I have a million riffs that we jam on: Some become songs and others are just for that time and space. It is interesting how everyone puts their own ingredient into the music to make it one.

Padraic: Actually, I think "a million riffs" may be too conservative an estimate of what Arthur comes up with! We carry a little of that improvisation into some of our songs. The EP version of Satan Doesn’t Like U has short into and outro sections with the whole band improvising together. It’s my favorite section of the CD. Song of Job is a good example of the band indulging me with an extended violin solo and adding some great supporting tracks.

KM: Currently, you are in the studio working on a five song EP. How is this coming along?

Padraic: It seemed to take forever, but it’s all done now. We’ll be officially releasing it with a show on February 27 at DC9 (in DC).

The GroaningCharon: When we finally got the master copy of our CD, for the first few moments, I held it like it was precious metal: I couldn't believe that almost 7 months of our lives, my life, was contained in two little discs.

Padraic: I vociferously deny that it’s metal! We left off our Dio cover song. (The 2 discs, by the way, were a CD art disc and a music disc. We’re not enough of a jam band to expand 5 songs onto 2 CD’s, but it sounds like a challenge for our next practice!)

KM: Does The Groaning have any plans in the works for 2005?

Padraic: Our song Arteries is on an upcoming compilation called Random Affliction, distributed through Tower, and we’ve been approached about appearing on two other compilations. We’re still adding new songs to our live set, and we’d like to get a full length CD out eventually. We’ve only played in the DC area so far, so we’re working on getting shows in other cities not too far away, like Baltimore (The Vault on 3/4/05), Richmond, Norfolk, Philadelphia and New York. We all have jobs, so extended touring would be a challenge. Now that we have a good quality recording it should be a little easier to let promoters who don’t know us hear what we sound like. We’re available for weddings, funerals, and bar mitzvahs.

Prosector: Funerals – yes. Weddings – well, possibly. But can you imagine how many Goth points we'd lose if we were to play at a bar mitzvah? ;-)

Padraic: After performing a Prince cover, I don’t think we have many goth points left!