On this week’s edition of the Artist Q&A Series, we chat with GRO lead singer Josh Jenkins to discuss the release of their new album, their upcoming tour, and which of his bandmates he deems the nerdiest!
GRO: Jamey Ice, Joshua Wilkerson, Geoff Ice, Denton Hunker, and Josh Jenkins
#1 – Y’all have gotten a lot of props on the arrangements – what kind of focus was put on that during the recording process?
Well, I think we tried not to try too hard. It’s really funny when you say it, but I think in the past, when you are approaching a song, there’s a formula you can write songs to – verse, chorus, bridge, outro – which works for so many great songs but on this record we just didn’t want to be limited to that…We wanted to listen to the songs and feel where the song wanted to go. We just try to be open minded to that stuff because a lot of it is trial and error. We didn’t try to limit ourselves on this record, where I think in the past we would have stuck to a regiment of what a song should be, and if we ventured outside of that we were kind of hesitant to go there.
#2 – What makes Under Fire different than all the other records y’all have done?
We’ve learned so much through this whole process—being on a label, leaving a label. Maturity wise, where we are at, it feels like a very accurate place of where we are in life. I don’t think we set out to make a different record than everything else. I think we just set out to not hold back, say what we wanted to say, to explore the adventures. I think sometimes the fear can kind of keep you from doing that. One thing that we’ve learned just from being in music and doing this for a long time is that we really wanted the adventures. So I think this record for us is so dynamic. We have taken some steps in different directions and I think it shows. Hopefully it allows the album to have a fluidity to it that doesn’t feel like everything song is the same, or like we are trying to stick to some kind of format.We just wanted to make a record that was adventurous, and was honest. Hopefully it all works together.
#3 – One music blogger commented that y’all are “accessible to a wide audience”. How do y’all accomplish that, and is it something you are cognizant of when making a record?
I think it’s probably a two-fold thing. When you write, you want to be truthful, because I think when you are the most honest, people believe it. When you try to contrive something it just doesn’t have the same effect. But on the same token, you have to have music that is listenable, be aware of your audience, of the climate of music and what’s out there, what people are listening to. And for us, we want to create something that is very honest and true, and say something that means something for us, but also be aware of the audience we have now, and the audience we want to captivate. And to do that you have to have some accessibility. As artists, our goal is to reach as many people as possible. We’d love to reach thousands of people on a daily basis, and so it does play a part in making decisions on what songs make the record and how we approach songs as well.
Josh Jenkins, Lead-singer of GRO
#4 – A couple years ago, Joshua described the band’s sound as, “Zac Efron & Edward Cullen playing catch in the front yard”. Is that still relevant?
I don’t even know if I ever heard him say that [laughs]. We started out as a blues/rock band and it transitioned into more of a pop rock thing, which was our last record. I think we all grew up in Texas and we all grew up around “rootsy” music—Denton grew up listening to jazz and I grew up singing country music, and Jamey and Geoff grew up writing blues. Our last record we were very influenced by Matchbox 20, and we wanted to make a record that was very Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind. Nothing wrong with that. We love those records and that’s still part of who we are, but its not the full picture of who we are. I think we are far beyond and steps away from the Zac Efron and Edward Cullen playing catch in the front yard. If Bono and Willie Nelson were playing catch, I’d say we are somewhere in the middle of that.
#5 – Love the new music video “Heart of Me” – why did you choose to release a music video of that song specificially?
Well I think it works because while at the same time we wanted to be adventurous, we didn’t want to abandon our style, or the fans that had purchased our stuff and come to our shows and grown to love GRO. We wanted to make sure that there is enough on this record for them. And so with “Heart of Me” we wanted to kind of lead with that song as far as getting the video out, to kind of say GRO is releasing a new record, get the word out. And that song felt like a good bridge between Out of My Hands and Under Fire.
#6- I’m sure you guys love to eat. Any special foods you like while on tour?
We try to be healthy. There’s not many options when you are traveling. For me, gas stations are a great source for enjoyment, because you never know what you are going to get. I always tend to like the little fried taquitos, or Cheetos are always good. And beef jerky is a must. Denton likes honey buns but he’s trying to stay away from those [laughs].
#7- How would you describe your clothing style?
Our wives are pretty hip, so they come tell us what is cool and what is not. For us, especially with this album, in all the pictures we took it was all about trying to be cohesive. We all strive too look like we work together and we all enjoy that style. And a few of us need a little more direction as far as what works together [laughs]. We try to work together as far as that goes…Denton is probably the most stylish of all of us. It comes natural to him, he’s just cool.
#8 – Is it hard to stay independent and not be on a label?
Absolutely. It has its benefits and its pitfalls. The place we are at right now, it feels great. I think when making the record it was incredible, because I can promise you the record we made would not have been like it was if we were with a label. A lot of the songs would’ve been cut and songs would’ve been shortened, and a lot of the adventurous songs we had probably wouldn’t have been embraced. And so for us it feels great to have the ability to do that, to own it, and to make your own shots. And we’ve lived by those decisions.
But where we are at as a band now, I think a label provides security, and so everything that we do now, for better or for worse, is just riskier because a label is going to say “we are going to pay for you to do this,” and if it doesn’t work it falls on them. It doesn’t fall on you. Where we are at now, if we make a decision and its doesn’t work we have to live by that, which I think is better because you make better decisions because you evaluate those decisions better. But at the same time it is kind of nice to have someone paying for everything [laughs]. So it has its benefits but also has it’s weaknesses as well.
#9 – As self-professed “nerds,” what would you say is the nerdiest thing about you?
On a nerd scale, I’d say Wilk [Joshua Wilkerson], Dee [Denton Hunker], and Geoff are by far the nerdiest. Wilk might be the nerdiest—he’s the King Nerd. And Geoff’s probably second and Dee’s probably third.
I don’t know how nerdy I am. I like sports. I’m the only guy in the band that really likes sports. I mean, I like to read non-fiction. I like to read a lot of philosophy books and stuff like that. I don’t know how nerdy I am. The guys nerd out—Geoff talks about comic books all the time…Geoff and Jamey always give me a terrible time for watching sports if we are on the road. And then I see Geoff watching anime, comic book stuff [laughs]. I’m not going to pretend that I can compete with that.
Josh Jenkins, Geoff Ice, and Joshua Wilkerson (left to right)
Green River Ordinance kicks off their Under Fire tour Thursday March 29th in Houston, TX. Click here for their full tour schedule and how to get your tickets! Check out the Troubadour, TX site Tuesday at 8 am for your chance to win tickets in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Waco! Hint – reading this blog post will better your chances!