Music Interview

Gropius

by Jett Black

GropiusSouthern Gothic, enchanted by sultry vocal elegance and classical strings instrumentation finds no greater form than that of Gropius (named after Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus architectual movemnet). North Texas venues everywhere proudly present Gropius to fans from absolutely every walk of life.

Gropius performances feature three sexy goth babes. Melissa Adams, vocals. Julie Carpenter, violin & cello. And Amy Boyd, viola. All three sirens, as sexy and as groovy as they the music they create together, are often found movin' and groovin' at the foot of the stage throughout every performance. Masterfully sawing away on classical strings; violin, cello, and viola; Julie and Amy join sultry vocalist Melissa through each exquisitely harmonized masterpiece in modern rock music. Gropius is groovy-gothic. It is sexy, seductive and contagious.

Listen now as three Gropius musicians gather to discuss recent developments and plans for the future.

Current Gropius line-up:

Melissa Adams - Vocals
Julie Carpenter - Cello/Violin
Amy Boyd - Viola
Rich Sanchez - Percussion
Matthew Koch - Bass

How does Gropius interact with the broad demographic range of audiences attending Gropius performances?

Amy: Surprisingly very well. We have opened for many different Dallas acts such as Hellafied Funk Crew, The Tomorrow People and the late Course of Empire. I personally like opening for "non-gothic" bands. We get a very good response from these audiences. It's nice when big burly guys in overalls and backwards baseball caps or girls in "Spice Girl" attire come up to me after a show and say, "I normally don't like the whole gothic thing, but you guys are so different, I like it!" They sign the mailing list and come back to our shows. It's nice to think that we can actually open people's minds to something they have never heard before!

Melissa: Our interaction with the audience depends on their interaction with us. If they get into it, then we feed off of that. When people stand there and stare at us, it's hard not to do the same back.

Rich: On stage, Melissa is great. She interacts with the audience in a very cool way. Off stage, I know I'm a bit more quiet and reserved. I don't walk around like, "Hi. I'm the drummer for Gropius." None of us are like that. It's not too often someone comes up and goes, "you guys are God!" I would be taken back and really flattered. At our last show, we saw this girl who was singing along to all of the lyrics, and none of us knew her. We all thought that was really fuckin' cool.

Gropius has opened for a variety of well-known darkwave and gothic recording artists: Switchblade Symphony, Lycia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Gitane Demone, Nocturne, The Seraphim; just to name a few. How has this helped increase market exposure for Gropius?

Rich: I would hope a lot. It's great meeting these people. Mainly, I am concerned with the whole scene in Dallas. It is comparatively small. Like, I recognize a lot of gothic show regs, but it's great to, I guess, in some way be a part of that scene. It's still relatively underground and very real, like punk in its earlier years. You still won't hear gothic music on any syndicated Dallas radio stations. It has a lot of room to grow. I like that.

Amy: We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with these bands!! It is sort of funny, but when we first started playing gigs, our fourth or fifth show was opening for Switchblade Symphony at the Impala! Talk about nerve racking! Some people in the DFW area thought we were a national act on tour with SS. Also, as a result of playing with Projekt bands, we were asked to submit a song for an upcoming Projekt compilation!

Melissa: I'm not sure that the act of playing with those bands really boosted our exposure directly. Most of the people that attended those shows had seen us or heard us at some point beforehand. Perhaps they were more willing to accept us after we opened for a bigger act. The main thing that playing with those bands gave us was a better resume. It definitely would have been harder to play The Church if Switchblade Symphony was not a reference.

Off of the new 11-track release, Songs For Walter, which tracks have made it into your live performances?

GropiusMelissa: All the songs on the CD have been performed live.

Amy: All of them!

Rich: Although, we like to have a different set for each show. But all the tracks on Songs For Walter were always played live. It's the best way to get them down for recording. And also, we actually like the songs. If we wouldn't play it live, why record it?

In terms of broadening the fan base and general support, how ambitious is Gropius now?

Amy: Very!!! Since the release of our first full length CD, we are shopping the market for labels and more out-of-town exposure.

Melissa: Pretty damn ambitious!!! We all like gothic music and the gothic look, for the most part, but we have many other influences that we are trying to incorporate into our sound. We aren't prejudice against who listens to our music. The gothic label often alienates people who would normally listen to our music; therefore, we are trying not to put ourselves over as some major gothic mecca of music. Please don't misunderstand me, we don't pretend not to be gothic, but that is not all that we are.

Rich: Well, the most we can do is make good music. Which is the whole point. I just have faith in the people who come to the shows and buy the albums. I would like to see Gropius take off. I'm in it 'cause it's something original, and music definitely seems to need that. We are playing as much as possible and, hopefully, what we do speaks for itself.

Covet the Senseless, the lead-in track on Songs For Walter, address what concepts? What is this song about?

Melissa: I was a very unhappy little person when I wrote the lyrics. It really addresses the idea that you don't know what you're missing if you never had it. There are good and bad points to everything. Blind people may never see the flowers, but they'll also never see how grotesque death can be. The horror and beauty in life exists solely in how you look at things. My passion and emotion can be seen as wonderful, but they can be a real pain in the ass, too.

Swich Licour has an altogether more seductive mood and altered pace to its production than other tracks on the full-length CD. How does Swich Licour differ from other tracks on Songs For Walter in terms of how it is performed and recorded?

Amy: Swich Licour is a very interesting song. The string parts were written with a more chamber music style. Really all the instrumental lines, including the drums, stay the same through the entire piece while the vocal line intertwines the melody though it.

Melissa: Swich Licour does not allow for much improvisation. It is a piece in which every instrument is interwoven very tightly. If one person misses a beat or a note, the whole song is screwed. I think we got that song down in one take, two at the most, and that is really all it took for the other tracks. Swich didn't have many overlaid tracks like the others. We kept the melody simple. I can't speak for anyone else, but when it is performed live, I feel mesmerized almost. It has a liquidity about it that just makes me want to move like water.

Rich: Swich is a really simplistic song in comparison to say, Penitant Roses, or Dawn Of The Sun. Like almost all of Songs For Walter, it was recorded in one take, then we added overdubs and such efx here and there, but not a whole lot on that song. I always felt Swich Liquor, Voodoo Girl, and Herring are the songs that stick out the most on the album. Of course, we take a different approach every time we write. We are ever growing.

How did Swich Licour initially become a song-candidate for Gropius?

Melissa: I learned to speak Middle English very crudely when I was about thirteen. I loved the way it sounded and I just thought it needed to be a song. When we wrote a song that I was stumped for lyrics to, I found that the Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales" would fit very well. I speak it properly now since I took a course on Chaucer so it doesn't sound as goofy as it used to.

Since the release of Songs For Walter, what other songs has Gropius been working on?

Rich: Plenty of unreleased songs like Serpents Face, Adagio, Lord Randall, Sequestrian (which we made for a Projekt comp), and some older ones like Swamps, and I Got Mine. We play these all at shows.

Amy: We finished a song for an upcoming Projekt compilation, and with the addition of a new bassist we have been working on a lot of new material. The band as a whole is going in a new direction. I can't wait to start on another CD!!

Melissa: We have written around three or four songs, one being Adagio, which has a Middle Eastern feel to it. Unfortunately, after the CD was completed, we didn't have time to write much because we had to find and train a new bass player. That was another fun set-back. There were some older songs that we weren't able to put on the CD that will make the next one.

How can readers purchase a copy of Songs For Walter?

Melissa: I believe readers can do so through our website. Go to http://www.gropius.net, then go to links, then to Um Die Ecke. Under Um Die Ecke there should be an option to purchase. Boy, I hope I'm right.

Rich: Vibes in Denton carries the album. Also, they can contact us over the net at either Skinny.net or Gropius.net, and e-mail us if you want one. Or come to a show and we'll sell you one ourselves.

Amy: They can either come to a show or they can go to: http://www.abbadon.com/umdieecke and order online!

Matt Groening. In the 'thanks' section of the CD insert for this release, you thank Groening, the creator of "The Simpsons," "Life is Hell," "Childhood is Hell," et al... Why?

Amy: That was James', our lovely ex-bassist, idea!

Rich: Why not? We all watch the "Simpsons," and now "Futurama." We also thank Brack from "Space Ghost Coast-To-Coast," and Monty Python. Why? Just because.

Melissa: Groening really has a beautiful sense of irony and sarcasm. He doesn't sugar-coat things, he just points out their absurdities. Of course, I didn't thank Groening so you'll have to get the real answer from the ex-bass player.

Penitent Roses, is it still available? How many copies were originally pressed?

Amy: Penitent Roses actually only had 6 tracks, one was a studio track while the other 5 were live tracks recorded at various clubs around Dallas. There were only 200 copies of this CD they were all numbered and signed by the band! We are hoping that if we ever get big, these CD will become sort of collector's items. As far as I know, there are no more, we sold out back in October (1998)!

Rich: All the songs, except for Penitant Roses, were recorded live.

Will Gropius release any remixes from these two CDs?

Amy: I don't think we have even considered it!

Rich: Don't tempt me.

Melissa: I don't know. Anything is possible. I'd much prefer to concentrate on writing a whole sleugh of material than messing with one song's original composition. I imagine remixes will come when we hit a massive writer's block. There is a silly techno version of Dawn of the Sun but don't bother looking for it anywhere.

Where and how did Gropius form?

Rich: Gropius originally formed in El Paso and was basically a complete different line up. The senior member is Melissa; she's been here the longest. Back then there were no strings. Just bass, drums and a singer

Melissa: The drummer asked me to audition for vocals since he had heard me audition for another band that fell through. I auditioned for the bass player, a guitarist and the drummer and was accepted. We soon ousted the guitarist; he just didn't work for us.

Amy: I didn't join the band until Feb of '97. Julie (violinist) and I met in Kharma Cafe in Denton one after noon. She was talking to someone I happened to be sitting next to and we all just fell into a conversation. She noticed my viola case and asked if I would be interested in playing in a band. The rest, as they say, is history!

How did Gropius end up re-locating to the Denton/Dallas area?

Melissa: The bass player and I got engaged for one thing and wanted to get the hell out of El Paso; but the main reason was that my parents decided to move back and I lived with them at the time. The bass player followed and we eventually convinced the drummer to follow suit.

GropiusWhat changes in band member line-up have occurred within Gropius over the past 6 months? (As of May 1999)

Amy: Over the course of Gropius there have been quite a few, but in the last 6 months we have replaced bassist James Spangler (he played on the CD) to bassist John Remmes.

Melissa: In the past 6 months we have changed drummers and bass players. Actually we changed drummers about 9 months ago.

Rich: I joined about six months ago in October '98. We just acquired John Remis on bass. It's a lot of work to kinda re-teach the songs to a new member. I think things are a bit tighter from it. John has a great stage presence. I like that. I can't move all too much behind the kit.

Do any Gropius members 'moonlight' on musical side-projects?

Amy: Julie and Lee do...

Melissa: Julie, the violin player, is doing a side project with Lee, our manager, and some other people. The line-up has changed, so I don't know exactly who all is in the band.

Rich: Julie is in a side project with our ex-bassist James called Die Atom Kinder. Amy is in the UNT (University of North Texas) orchestra. And me, I do a lot of Techno at home.

Outside of Texas, where has Gropius performed?

Amy: Nowhere yet. We really want to, though!

Melissa: Nowhere; and thanks for bringing up such a painful subject. While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper-cut and poor lemon juice in it.

Rich: I would love to, but it's a matter of money, and time. We are still independent. So, we have to pay our own way. We want to play out as much as possible.

Will Gropius tour this year in support of Songs For Walter?

Melissa: God, I hope so. We are playing in Houston on the 5th of June. Hopefully, we'll have more chances to play outside the Metroplex and Texas altogether.

What would you like to accomplish through Gropius before the end of the millennium?

Rich: A paid, out-of-state gig.

Amy: To get signed, and tour!!

Melissa: I want to be playing outside of Texas. A record contract would be even better. Maybe it will happen in 6 months. Who knows?

What challenges might Gropius be facing next?

Amy: Again, the whole label thing seems like a huge wall right now!!

Melissa: Gropius will definitely be challenged with getting our name outside of Texas. It will be like starting all over again.

What contributes to the lyrical development of tracks on Songs For Walter?

Melissa: Some of the lyrics were written when the first bass player and I were having troubles. Without him to piss me off, I've had to deal with writing about my faults and insecurities. That's kind of embarrassing. There are lyrics that are pure nonsense or tell a story that has no relevance to me, though. My lyrics usually come from very low periods in my life. When I feel the worst, I write the best.

On what compilations will readers find additional Gropius recordings?

Melissa: Tactics of Infiltration - I don't think that one has much distribution. Cowboys in Tokyo - international distribution, horrible compilation.

How will Gropius advance from it's local supportive fan base into the great beyond?

Amy: Getting the word out there, WAY out there, hopefully within the next year!!

Rich: I guess word-of-mouth is the best, and most honest, advertising. I just hope for more, and more exposure. We will keep concentrating on making good music.

Melissa: Luckily, we have friends all over the U.S. They better help us out, damn it!! I'm thinking of claiming that I had sex with Ken Starr and possibly get some press from it. TeeHee.

What personal activities do you, or would you like to include into your leisure time?

Amy: Um...leisure time. Isn't that that thing where you get to do stuff you like?? I can't seem to remember when I had that, or the funds to do the things that I like! If I had the time, I would like to work on some different projects, expand my viola-playing horizons a bit. It would be good to get some different influences. I would also love to have horses again. I rode/trained horses for over half of my life, I really miss it!

Melissa: I don't really have much time for leisure activities with work and the band; though the band is the leisure activity I've always wanted. I've been interested in martial arts lately, though I don't have the money to do anything about it. The main thing I've wanted to embellish is learning more about Eastern culture. It's terribly fascinating.

Rich: I write music constantly. I play several instruments. I guess, if I were in a relationship, I'd do that. But I'm single, and good that way. I also do Kung Fu, meditation, and I'm a nature boy.

What would you like to share with readers today?

GropiusMelissa: Gropius is hard work, and well worth it. We have not been stagnant since we began. We're always exploring different techniques and realms of expression. If there is anything that someone wants to hear us do differently; just wait, we're getting to it.

Rich: Hippo Dick Lice (don't ask).

How can readers best contact Gropius?

Amy: http://www.Gropius.net.

Melissa: Gropius@necronom.com is the email address and messages are forwarded to all the members.

Rich: At a show, or via e-mail; on either of the sites, and hell, my e-mail is FuTHark25@aol.com.

Where can readers look for additional information about Gropius online?

Amy: Our management: http://www.abbadon.com/umdieecke. The first Gropius fan site: http://www.skinny.net.

Melissa: http://www.skinny.net is the fan site that was started by, well, a fan. You can find reviews, news, rumors and the basic info you'd find on our official website < http://www.Gropius.net >, like shows, etc. It's a fun site to visit. If you want to find out about Walter Gropius, the architect, it's no help though.