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Bringing the thunder

Grand Analog takes the DIY approach on third album

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Grand Analog: from left, TJ Garcia, Ofield Williams, Odario Williams,  Alister Johnson and Warren Bray.

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Grand Analog: from left, TJ Garcia, Ofield Williams, Odario Williams, Alister Johnson and Warren Bray.

Call it a tale of two cities.

Two brothers from Winnipeg meet up with fellow hip-hop lovers in Toronto, and out of that emerges the musical entity Grand Analog.

But if you ask frontman Garfield (Odario) Williams what Grand Analog is, he says it's not even a band.

"I'd call it a collective, because there's so many people involved," he says.

The band -- or collective, if you will -- has been active since 2006, but existed in Williams' head since the turn of the millennium, he says. Its style is a combination of hip-hop, dub, reggae, soul, rock and other influences.

The sound is a direct result of growing up in Winnipeg where Williams and his brother Kevin (Ofield) Williams -- Grand Analog's DJ -- were exposed to a cross-section of genres by open-minded music fans, he says.

"I went to Kelvin High School, which had a lot of skaters and punk rock fans and I hung out with funk bands. Originally and early, I got that feel for a live band," says the vocalist, who cut his teeth as an MC in local hip-hop duo Mood Ruff.

"If I grew up in any major city, I would have probably just ended up hanging out with hip-hop kids and not really expanding my palate at all. I was very fortunate to grow up in Winnipeg, where dating a singer-songwriter girl that loves Bjrk isn't a crazy thing, it's a normal thing."

Some people have referred to the band's style as "genre-bending," but Williams doesn't buy into that description.

"It sounds like something you're intending to do, but that kind of stuff comes naturally to me," he says.

Grand Analog -- which also includes bassist Warren Bray, keyboardist Alister Johnson and drummer TJ Garcia -- released its latest album, Modern Thunder, on Aug. 20. Williams says group's third album is intended to be a fresh start with a different feel than its previous releases, 2007's Calligraffiti and 2009's Metropolis Is Burning.

"Most artists, when they hit the third album, they finally come into their own somehow, but we still try to be students of the game, nonetheless," he says. "We don't want to approach it like we know everything."

Perhaps the biggest sign of that approach was the band's choice to produce Modern Thunder without the help of a record label. The decision to self-produce wasn't easy.

"This album almost didn't happen a few times," Williams admits. "We decided to put it out ourselves, and we got a thousand trials and tribulations for doing that."

The main reason they wanted to do it alone was the chance to do things their way on their own timeline.

"You don't have to answer to anybody," Williams explains. "You don't have to sit in a queue and wait your turn. (With a label), unless you're a priority artist... you get put on a shelf and the label decides when they're going to put you out."

Modern Thunder features a wealth of diverse musical guests, ranging from hip-hop MCs Shad and Saukrates to Amanda Balsys of Wilderness of Manitoba and Bedouin Soundclash's Dennis Passley.

"Each song we did, we'd approach it like the first song. In fact, just to rebel against that, we made sure the next track we worked on was extremely different from the first one," Williams says.

The band will be performing its new album at Union Sound Hall on Aug. 22, along with Juno-winning Winnipeg singer Andrina Turenne of Chic Gamine, whose vocals are featured on the track Modern Day Fool.

Going out on a limb, Williams picks the album's last track, Howl Like Wolves, as a potential single.

"I have a feeling that's going to be a hit. You heard it here first," he says.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 C7

History

Updated on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:07 AM CDT: Corrects formatting

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