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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


I Love You, I’m Trying is out now!

Image: Supplied.

Multi-platinum alternative artist grandson has unveiled his sophomore studio album, I Love You, I’m Trying. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release, rejecting modern release structures, his Australian touring plans and so much more!

Across the body of work, grandson presents a more reflective side of the artist. He opens up on his own struggles with mental health, creating a relatable space that allows for a deeper connection with his audience. Intimate and vulnerable lyricism flows above alternative-leaning soundscapes that offer maximalist production to create a textural listening experience. Each choice feels considered and organic, the true mark of an artist in control of their musical output.

This Friday, grandson will kick off his North American tour, before heading to the UK and Europe later this year. Whilst no official Australian dates have been announced, the musician has revealed to MILKY he hopes to make it to our shores early next year.

TRIGGER WARNING: themes of mental health and suicidal ideation discussed.

So lovely to meet you! How are you going?

I'm doing really good. It's a really big mixture of emotions as I get ready to put this thing out and travel the world singing it. But above all, I feel relieved I guess.

I Love You, I’m Trying is such a great body of work. Is it out where you are? It's out been out here in Australia for a few hours.

So it's not out where I'm at. I'm embracing, I have like another four or five hours of keeping this thing between us. But I have been getting a lot of messages from Australian fans and it's out in some places. Thank, thank you for the compliments on it. I appreciate it.

Honestly, it's such a wonderful listen. It is your second body of work and you have been releasing music for about six to seven years. I know you've probably been working on your craft much longer, but how do you think your artistry has kind of evolved from like those initial releases into what we're hearing on this body of work?

It's funny, for me, it feels like I've done a 360 and kind of landed back where I began. I always loved hip-hop music. I loved pop music and electronic music. Rock 'n' roll became a place where I could be myself and be unapologetic. But I've always really wanted to explore what it means to be an alternative artist in a very like, pure sense of the word. I feel like this album more than others brings me back to rapping and to [the] alternative hip-hop sound that I was super inspired by growing up in high school, you know? And so this is an album that I feel draws on my experiences over the last five, six years but brings me back to where I started. And then as far as just getting to know the ins and outs of, you know, having played with the biggest artists in the world, played the biggest festivals, sold millions of records or whatever it is. I think that those experiences over the past couple years and then the pandemic shutting things down revealed to me what my ultimate, like what makes me the happiest is when I'm connecting with people on a really personal level. I think that seeing what the machine requires has taught me a lot about what's really important to me. So I think that this album and how all the twists and turns that it takes you on, it's a way different album than I might have made at the beginning of my career when I was just trying to, I don't know, get on the radio or something.

Yeah for sure, I get what you mean and that full circle feeling is so lovely. It is such a super intimate and reflective body of work, at least in my opinion. It offers a glimpse into your life away from the spotlight and touches on themes of mental health. What drove that decision to turn more inwards and why is it important to you to be quite open and honest in your music?

For me, songwriting has been a vehicle to more or less explore these feelings in a safe environment. So indulging in some of my worst impulses songs where I touch on suicidal ideation and leaning into my most addictive habits that has created in me a place for those feelings to go in my life. If I haven't given myself an outlet for a feeling, that's when it starts to dictate my life. If you don't learn how to put these things somewhere and talk to somebody about it, or sing about it or do something with it, then it has no healthy way of getting out. So therein lies my impulse to write alternative music that has this kind of darker touch to it. And then of course, just having been doing music like that for a while, I've been able to connect with people. It's not a fantasy to me, there really are people that connect with this music and that it helps them and that really inspires and motivates me.

Yeah, I love that. I think everyone, and especially kind in a post-COVID age, everyone is finding something to cling to and connect too. I think the album really does that in a very intimate way.

Thank you. I felt the same. Like I was stuck inside and didn't see my family back home for a long time, and suddenly I found myself, as soon as I was vaccinated, touring North America and Europe kind of constantly. It really wore me down. And talking to other artists, like I don't know anybody who is better off for having taken that time away and the way things are now. It's just really taxing to be making music in 2023. It's also beautiful in that you can connect with so many people around the world and I'm really grateful for how my songs have been able to spread like wildfire. But at the same time, it's taught me a lot about a lot of people are going through these similar feelings and I've always felt compelled to talk about them in my music.

Sonically the record is quite like dynamic and textural. The word that came to mind when first listening to the album was crunchy with the maximalist leaning production within an alternative sphere. There's also this beautiful piano moment towards the end. How did you craft the sonic realm the album exists within?

It started from just being a fan first and foremost. I was listening to a lot of artists who were opting for more intimate soundscapes artists, like Little Simz, Turnstile, Fontaines D.C.. I was getting really into these artists who were stripping down their sound. I wanted to do something similar whilst still having it feel powerful and energetic. I wanted to pack as much energy into this album as I had in previous work, but I wanted it to be a little more muted around the edges so it's less influenced by electronic music. It's such a personal album. Lyrically, I wanted the production to reflect that. I wanted it to sound how it feels, if that makes sense. So that's kind of how I went about doing it. That, and then I got really lucky in that I built a collection of co-writers and producers who were all willing to follow my impulses in the same direction. Because a lot of artists that build these more intimate bodies of work tend to do so focusing only with one small group of collaborators or just one producer. On this album I do work with a lot of different people, and different songs brought in different influences. So I had to really try and wrangle all of those different soundscapes and push it in one direction and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

I think it's like the perfect marriage between the thematic content and the sonic sound of the record. You mentioned there all your collaborators. When you are working on a project, do you find that you have a distinct creative process or do you think each project kind of takes on its own, especially depending on who you are working with?

It depends. I think that I kind of work a lot better [or I'm] more inspired when I do have some semblance of a concept. Not all of my records are or will be concept records, but at the beginning of the writing process, I feel like I'm still trying to, when you put together a puzzle you start with the frame, you know, you start with the outline and then you can figure out what's in the middle. I feel like when I'm writing songs, especially at the beginning of a writing cycle, I have to kind of get a lot of bad ideas out or just get things out that don't feel like myself. Along the way I start to get a better sense of, 'okay, this is the tone that I want, this is the concept.' And I've learned a lot from spending so much time with such deliberate and inspired artists.

If you had to pick three songs from I Love You, I’m Trying to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant super fan, which three songs would you choose?

It depends on a lot of things. But off the top right now, if you wanted the energetic tone of the album, I would play them Drones. If you wanted the kind of more somber, darker nature of my music, I would play them Heather. And then if you just wanted a good vibe to like drive to, I would put on I Love You, I’m Trying.

Perfect choices. I mean, they should, they'll listen to the whole album back to front, but you know if they've only got that twelve to fifteen minutes.

It's a different time. You know, people don't have the time anymore. Maybe they only have ten seconds to build an idea of who I am and what I'm about. Hopefully they pick the right 10 seconds, but I can't control it.

I'm definitely more of like an album person over an EP person. I'm just greedy and I want more than four songs.

Wow. I think that you, I don't know, do you think that most people are like that?

I think I've been having this conversation a lot lately and most people I've been talking with prefer an album over an EP. But I think EP's are just the thing now.

I know. It's this interesting purgatory that artists find themselves in of kind of aimlessly putting out music until there is this feeling of momentum and then scrambling to get things out around that ten seconds before people move on. This album that I put out was definitely a more old school rejection of that. Like, I've written an album and I'm putting it out and I'm not waiting for some perfect moment lightning bolt to strike for us to put the album out. I'm gonna put it out, I'm gonna go on the road, and hopefully people can connect with it while it's a finished body of work, instead of giving them little snippets and leaking the entire thing over six months and seeing what happens. I agree, I'm in your boat. But yeah, I don't know, I think that people's attention span is shorter than it used to be. And also it's a huge endeavour to make an a full-length body of work. It's a big project. Sometimes an EP can be all that an artist might be able to afford. There's lots of reasons that artists can't fully exercise their like double album magnum opus just right away.

Yeah of course, there's so many factors that play into it. But I hope artists take that leap away from EP's into albums when it's viable for them to do so. You mentioned earlier that you're hitting the road. It all kicks off in a week from today!

I know, I know! And I know that everyone that checks this out is gonna go 'grandson, when are the Australian dates? What the hell? Man, you're playing Estonia. You can't come play Melbourne?.' And I hear you. Believe it or not, granny hears you and I am gonna be dropping some Australian dates finally for the first time in my career. I will be coming out and playing some shows. Should be the top of next year.

That's is so very exciting! Can't wait to have you here. How have you gone about bringing I LOVE YOU, I’M TRYING into a live context for this run of shows?

It's been really fun and I can't wait to tell you all about it. I think one of the places I started was I needed to align myself with new musicians who came from the kinds of music that the album is inspired by. So I found a new band that I'm gonna bring out on the road and we really, I made sure that we connected on these reference points before I even played them the new album. So that was a big part. And working with a musical director and building the set essentially from scratch, taking old songs and reimagining them and re-contextualising old things, introducing new things. I wanted to build a set that reflected this kind of attitude shift and I think we've done it. I think it's an amazing live set and I can't wait for people to hear it.

It sounds incredible, I can't wait for it to come to Australia.

I know, I know. I was just out there but I'm not gonna lie, I was just out there hanging out. I wasn't even making music and then I decided to, I mean I was sitting in Melbourne and I was like, 'I think I should at least meet some fans.' So I did this park hang. I just let my Instagram story know, 'Hey, I'm gonna be at the park if anyone wants to come.' And like thirty, forty kids showed up that had been grandson fans for years and, you know, had the t-shirts. I didn't even remember to bring a guitar. I couldn't even sing for them or anything. I just played them a couple songs off the album and we hung out. But it was really cool. My partner's Australian, she's an incredible artist herself, and so it's been important to me to connect. And I think that there is a Canadian - Australian thing going on. Like, I do think there's a commonwealth, we are colonies that, and you know, I think that there's some similarities in the culture. So I do connect with Australia.

For sure. You've just mentioned connection there, so how important are the live shows for you not only when it comes to like showcasing your art, but making that in-person connection with the audiences who do resonate with your music?

It's super important to me. I think that I am a kind of a dying breed maybe of artists, but for me, writing songs and performing them is my favourite part. I'm not making songs so that I can craft a brilliant release strategy and blow up on TikTok. Like being on stage, connecting with fans feels really important to me. I've had plenty of opportunities to just like get to know people and get a sense for what the live show means. And it's so much more than just an opportunity to listen to these songs that you know. But because I've always been so outspoken and because I've made sure to wear my beliefs on my sleeve, you know that when you come to a grandson show you're gonna be surrounded by people that think and feel the same. In a lot of places it can be a really important opportunity for people to meet like-minded people, especially when I go to cities or countries where the kind of progressive values that I promote in my music aren't necessarily the status quo. So the live show is super important to me and important to fans on a lot of levels.

I Love You, I’m Trying is out now!


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