By Laura Peterson
Other bands may talk about what style of music they want to play – not Grand Ole Party, one of San Diego’s favorite rock trios.
When singer-drummer Kristin Gundred, guitarist John Paul Labno and bassist Michael Krechnyak decided they wanted play together, there was no talking, just jamming.
“The reason we’re a band is because it was just so easy,” Labno said. “Everyone got to play whatever they wanted. And, when everyone got to play whatever they wanted, we liked how it sounded.”
The three friends, who met at the University of California, Santa Cruz and moved to San Diego in late 2005, still don’t tell each other what to sing or how to play.
“It’s like orchestrated anarchy,” Labno said. “So far, it’s worked out.”
“Worked out” may be an understatement. The group has become a San Diego fixture, playing to sold-out crowds. They were voted best alternative band at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards.
The band recorded their first album “Humanimals” (DH Records) last year, produced by Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley, who Grand Ole Party toured with this spring.
Their independent West Coast summer tour, which kicked off with not one, but two shows at The Casbah in July, took them all the way to Canada and wraps up at UCSD’s Che Cafe Friday night.
No matter how big or small, Labno said he enjoys playing packed venues.
“It’s fun to play to a full room, be it 50 people or 1,500,” he said. “It’s fun when they are excited, people want to be there, they want music, dammit, and we want to play.”
The hope is that a packed tour schedule will help Grand Ole Party grow their fan base beyond San Diego.
“We put ourselves in the great big world pond and we’re waiting to see what happens,” Labno said. “I think about job security a lot, but I hope that this can continue to go on for a while.”
Life as professional, full-time musicians required some adjusting, Labno said.
Some things haven’t changed – the band still drives themselves in a van to their performances. But now, they spend several weeks on the road at a time. Coming home to San Diego feels a little different every time, Labno said.
“It’s surprising that it’s my home life that feels chaotic and constant travel feels like the norm,” Labno said.
The band also reoriented how they create new music. Instead of performing and writing concurrently, they focus solely on performing while touring and solely on writing and practicing when back in San Diego.
While the rhythm for writing music may have changed, the content is still pure Grand Ole Party. Everyone contributes to the writing process, Labno said. Songs vary in topic from travel to love and insanity, all carried by Gundred’s powerful vocals.
“Kristin is a little more of storyteller than I am,” Labno said. “I don’t talk about made up stuff. She’ll make up characters and stories.”
When not writing music, Labno likes to read. Lately, he said, he’s been entrenched in history, politics and current affairs. However, the more information he gets, the more complex the picture becomes.
“Lots of things concern me and I don’t have a lot of answers - that’s the thing that frustrates me,” Labno said.
While such reflections may not make it into his songs right away, they undoubtedly influence his writing once they’ve been internalized, Labno said.
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