Brooklyn-by-way-of-Oklahoma indie outfit Grooms is just over a month removed from releasing Infinity Caller, its best album to date. It’s a record that almost didn’t happen at all, though.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to finish it, really. Once we did finish it, we weren’t really sure whether to try and put it out at all,” frontman Travis Johnson said. “To walk into a store and see it is amazing, because even a year ago, I didn’t know if we’d even be a band anymore.”
A conversation with author Michael Azerrad (Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1982-1991 and Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana) changed all that.
“He was saying that all the things that seem like hindrances are really opportunities; the things that make it feel like you can’t be a band anymore are just things that allow you to be a band in a different sort of way,” Johnson said. “I remember when he told me that, I wanted to stick with it and see what would happen.”
Grooms found a new home on Western Vinyl (Dirty Projectors, Balmorhea) to put out the group’s third record, one that was recorded in its practice space over the course of eight months.
“This was a completely different experience. We did the other two records in studios that we rented out for ten days, made the record and mixed it,” Johnson said. “We had never had unlimited time to work. There were nights when I’d spend seven hours playing around with mixes and sounds and redoing vocals. We’d never been able to do that before, to try things and not worry about needing to finish as quick as possible.” That time and freedom likely is the key to the success of Infinity Caller, both critically and internally.
“We figured out ways to sound more like ourselves and less like other people,” Johnson said. “I remember thinking that I wanted to find new ways — whether for us or just in general — to convey a certain aesthetic … basically a new way to make pretty sounds that weren’t just the standard ways you would think to do that. A lot of that ended up being simple use of harmonies to sound a little more otherworldly but still melodic. It’s ambient and grounded at the same time, which was exciting to me to stumble across.”
Now, Grooms — stopping this Tuesday at Opolis — are already in the midst of planning a fourth record, excited for the future just a year after thinking they didn’t have one.
“I’m so excited for this tour, but it’s going to be just as exciting to get back and start work on a new album,” Johnson said. “I really think we are on to something now.”