Alexander and the Grapes: A vintage-sounding bunch branches out
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2011 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Alexander and the Grapes.)
When Alexander Charos started Alexander and the Grapes in 2007, his band was almost an afterthought.
“On our first EP, it felt like I had written all these songs by myself, and then we got a band together and recorded them,” Charos said.
Four years later, as they prepare their first full-length album, the Grapes have aged — forgive us, but it must be said — like fine wine.
“I wrote all these songs to be played as a four-piece,” he said. “I put a lot more thought into what they can sound like as a band.”
It’s paying off onstage. The Dunedin group’s reliably warm, lush country-folk stylings have landed them gigs opening for national acts like Lovedrug, Say Hi and Lost in the Trees. At one show, the crowd dug the Grapes so much they demanded an encore — a rarity for a supporting band.
And like any good scene leader, the soft-spoken, Galifianakian Charos is always happy to spread the love. The Grapes often bring younger, like-minded indie bands onto their bills — including Friends of Giants, whose pianist, Tim Osterander, is a former member. “When we see some young bands that have potential, we try to hook them up with some shows,” Charos said.
This spring, the Grapes are asking friends and fans to give back. The Grapes launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for their debut full-length album, which they hope to record in July at an analog studio in Massachusetts. The goal: $3,500.
Charos said he was nervous about setting the bar so high, but within weeks, they’d already pulled in nearly $1,700. To help grease wallets, the band is offering incentives for each donation price point, ranging from an acoustic EP download ($5) to a mega-package that includes a song on the album named after you ($500). Charos’ father-in-law was the first donor to reach top donation level. “So a song on the record’s gonna be named Chuck,” he laughed.
Charos crafts songs with his brother Philip, who plays drums. “I usually get the skeleton of the song together myself, and then have an idea of what the drums are going to be like, and then me and him will polish up the structure,” Charos said. “He played a lot of jazz and classical, so he’s got a lot of good composition ideas. He’ll give me some funky chords.”
Rounding out the group are guitarist Chase Swan and Tom Dicks, who’s currently attending Belmont University in Nashville (“Learning the music business,” Charos said), but returns to the area when possible to play with the band. In the studio, Swan, Dicks and Philip take their cues from Alexander, but bring high levels of energy and levity.
The band’s goal this summer, Charos said, is to write about 15 or 16 songs, then try to decide on 10 for the album.
“It’s usually a feeling we all mutually have, like, 'This song works,’” he said. “Sometimes I’ll have a song that I love and I’ll play it with the band, and it just dies. If we’re in practice and the song feels like it takes off, we can’t wait to play it live.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo/video: Chris Zuppa, tbt*