Interview with Chris Bailoni of Grapetooth

Grapetooth

Chris Bailoni, one-half of Chicago synth-pop/new wave duo Grapetooth, discusses his musical beginnings, modern new wave, and what’s next for the band.

What do you think of when you think of Chicago? The windy city is known for its deep dish pizza, its two Major League Baseball teams, and its Prohibition-Era history of organized crime. Music wise, Chicago has produced countless notable musicians that span many genres: Muddy Waters, Kanye West, and the Smashing Pumpkins all hail from Chi-Town.

But despite acting as a musical melting pot, a genre that Chicago isn’t particularly known for is synth heavy, ‘80s new wave dance music. The modern resurgence of this kind of music, inspired by bands like New Order and Tears for Fears, is even less associated with the area. However, the wine-fueled partnership of two Chicago-based musicians is changing that.

grapetooth (n.) one who consumes copious amounts of red wine, to the point that their teeth are frequently stained crimson.

Grapetooth is also the name ascribed to the musical collaboration of producer Chris Bailoni, also known as Home-Sick, and Clay Frankel, vocalist and guitarist for garage rock band Twin Peaks. After bonding over a mutual love of wine and Japanese new wave, Bailoni and Frankel began experimenting with making music together in December of 2015. “There was some night when we were out and Clay was talking about wanting to make some music that’s not rock music, like Twin Peaks. We were drunk at this bar, just chatting about it,” Bailoni, now 26 and gearing up for Grapetooth’s headlining tour this June, recounts. “So he came over the next day and we just started making music. That’s kind of how all that started.”

Grapetooth played their first show in 2016 before they had even released a full-length record. They’ve been selling out venues ever since, gaining a reputation for their rambunctious live shows, which are half frenetic mosh pit, half wild dance party. Bailoni admits he wasn’t initially comfortable with performing on stage, and he credits their song “Violent” with helping him get over any stage fright he felt. “That was the first time I felt like we both broke through the nerves and got more comfortable with how the shows would go live, just because it was so fun to yell [“are you violent?”] so loud,” Bailoni recounts, when describing their first time playing the song at a show in Chicago.

Grapetooth’s bright, high tempo sound wasn’t necessarily intentional and it took some time to find. Bailoni described their first attempts at recording as “pretty strange”: “I guess the drums were dance-y and new-wave-y, but we pitched down the vocals and made them sound like horror movie soundtrack songs, really scary. Weird stuff, dissonant sounding.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2016, when the two wrote Grapetooth’s first single “Trouble”, that Bailoni thinks they really hit on something special. “That was probably the first song we made that we were both like, ‘oh wow, we’ve got a sound here and now we know what we’re doing’”.

Despite finding what Bailoni described as the perfect mesh of his production style and Frankel’s, the two didn’t always have serious aspirations for what they’d created.

“We still hadn’t really planned on releasing it or doing anything real or ever playing a show with it,” Bailoni continues, when asked about their initial plans for Grapetooth. “We were like, let’s maybe make a small EP and put it on Bandcamp for free or something like that.” Despite their modest intentions in their early days, Grapetooth released their first self-titled record in November of 2018. The majority of the ten-song tracklist is in line with their influences, which include synth-punk duo Suicide and Yukihiro Takahashi of Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, the curiously country-sounding closing track, “Together”, sounds a lot more like Frankel’s Twin Peaks work than a New Order song. Including that on the tracklist was no mistake. “I think we just wanted the record to be eclectic of genre and style, but still somehow fit together,” Bailoni explains, when asked about the disparate song’s inclusion. “It just sounds like two friends making music together in their bedroom, which is what the whole thing is.”

When asked about how Grapetooth fits into the Chicago music scene, Bailoni agrees that his city isn’t synonymous with the style of music he and Frankel are creating. “It’s definitely more rock based. Rock, and then obviously rap and hip hop. But all those worlds are so tightly connected – everyone in Chicago knows each other because it’s such a small community, like any community in a city of arts,” he says. “But yeah, I suppose there’s not too much synth/dance stuff coming out of Chicago.”

Maybe being a bit of an outlier in the music scene is one of the reasons why Grapetooth enjoyed such success before even putting out their first record. Personally, Bailoni thinks the combination of his and Frankel’s individual styles is what sets them apart from other bands that have a similar sound. “I do feel like there’s not too much stuff coming out that sounds like us,” he says. “But I feel like Clay’s vocal style kind of separates [us] from the pack and gives it more of a grunge punk sound. Because if you take away all the vocals, we just sound like we’re copying any New Order song or any new wave Japanese music.”

While a lot of musicians were seemingly born with guitar picks or drumsticks in their hands, Bailoni didn’t start dabbling into music until his second year of college. He credits his friend Kevin Rhomberg, known to many as producer and musician Knox Fortune, as his inspiration for getting into music production. “I remember him showing me all the music he was making on his laptop in his bedroom, just with shitty speakers,” Bailoni explains. “His ability to make songs that sounded like they were produced by a full band on his laptop kind of inspired me that you didn’t really have to have a lot of equipment or anything expensive, or any real [technical] musical knowledge, to be able to make songs.”

While a lack of musical knowledge might hinder some facets of the songwriting process, Bailoni thinks there’s a benefit to being less experienced with the technical aspects of music. “I think there’s definitely a positive aspect of not being too musical if you’re a producer, because you tend to lean more towards what sounds good emotion-wise versus what would make sense musically,” he says, when discussing his process for creating music.

“The lack of knowledge tends to force more outlandish, creative ideas, I suppose.”

Bailoni may not have started making music seriously until he was nineteen, but he had a different artistic outlet before that: filming and editing skateboarding videos. This skill would later benefit the band when it came time to make music videos, particularly the video for “Trouble”. “We just kind of grabbed a camera and then went out with a couple of weird outfits with our friend Jackson, who filmed it,” says Bailoni. “It ended up being kind of fun, just the mentality of how you film a skateboard edit: go out with your friends, edit it afterwards, and see what comes out of it.” Keeping with the band’s spirit of experimenting and seeing what happens, Bailoni explains that neither he nor Frankel aim for any kind of narrative in their videos, opting instead for videos that resemble “visual collages”.

What’s next for Grapetooth? For now, they’re proceeding in the same fashion as they always have: taking things as they come and having fun with it. “As far as what’s gonna happen in the future, we don’t really know. […] I guess we’re just gonna keep making music whenever we do, as we always have, and then actually put out a second record.” In the meantime, Bailoni thinks Grapetooth may put out a few singles or an EP this year. But rather than working with any big-name producers, he and Frankel will continue to employ the do-it-yourself method to create, as he puts it, the feeling of two friends making music together in their bedroom. “Just keeping it fun and simple,” Bailoni reiterates. “Us and friends.”

Grapetooth is currently on a headlining tour with support from Ian Sweet and James Swanberg. Catch them in Los Angeles on June 21st at the Echoplex, in Vancouver on June 25th at the Fox Cabaret, or anywhere else that fine concerts are sold. Tour dates can be found here.

Written by: Andrea Renney

Sunflower Seeds: Comfort Zones

In this seed, I’m working on getting out of my comfort zone. But just for a second, let’s think about the Cheesecake Factory…

Every time I go to the Cheesecake Factory I always order the Godiva Cheesecake. Not that anyone cares as to what my order is, but this is a habit for me and I’m too scared to try something else that I might not like.

I find myself eager to try new things and see new places, but I also get very comfortable with what works. The whole idea of it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of sticks with me. However, I must say that I have been getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone especially in this the past year.

This past March when I went to New York, I didn’t know anyone that was a part of the group. People had familiar faces, but I didn’t really know these people on a personal level. I’m not going to lie at first, I was a little nervous since I ended up getting lost on the subway alone, but I was able to make some great friends from that trip. I saw a city I had never been to with fresh faces. 

I usually don’t make the first move with guys, but within the few times I have, I have been pretty successful. I haven’t had a Cinderella story from my reaching out, but I have had a few fun dates from these. Besides spontaneous trips and flirty moves, I have been saying yes to a lot more in life, and I find myself enjoying life even more. I have done things that I never thought I would do, and I couldn’t be happier! The next time I go get a desert, I might just branch out. 

Written by: Nina Capuani

Julia Michaels at House of Blues San Diego

If you want to have a great time at a concert dancing and singing the night away – Go to a Julia Michaels Concert!

You truly won’t regret it. Both Julia Michaels’ energy and her audience’s energy filled the room. I can honestly say that her concert was one of the most fun ones I’ve been to simply because she had the loudest crowd.

Julia Michaels performing at House of Blues San Diego

Julia Michaels sold out her 9th headlining show for her Inner Monologue Tour at House of Blues San Diego on April 20, 2019. She is a very busy artist as she is also currently touring with P!nk on her Beautiful Trauma Tour at the same time as her Inner Monologue Tour.

Many of you may know Julia Michaels. However, if you’ve never heard of her, then you’ve most likely heard her hit single, “Issues.” Before that, Michaels was writing hit singles for other artists such as Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar,” Nick Jonas’s “Close,” and many more.

What is interesting about Michaels is she’s an intricate person – I’d describe her as a beautiful badass with her signature feminine floral dresses and her tattoo sleeves and nose ring. She has a very distinctive and different sound than most artists and her voice is easily recognizable.  Michaels is also a very open musician, which was the concept behind her “Inner Monologue” – those thoughts that she has that people don’t see from the outside. The stage represented what you see on the outside – everything is happy with smiley faces and flowers, but you listen to the lyrics and realize everything isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Michaels attempted to make her tour relatable by letting her fans know that it’s okay to go through depression or anxiety.

Julia Michaels made it clear that it was a judgement free zone and safe space for everyone to let go and sing and dance. Her music has a feel good vibe to it, and it was so much fun letting loose and relieving stress by screaming along to her songs. Additionally, her songs hold a lot of emotion and truth, so it naturally felt as though this was a place to just let everything out.

Julia Michaels has such a strong connection with her audience, she wanted to get as close to them as possible.

At one point, Michaels’ security carried her into the audience as she finished “Happy,” followed by a cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You,” and then a ukulele rendition of her own song “Apple.” She also sat on the edge of the stage pointing out her audience’s posters and making eye contact with fans. I even heard from some fans that the meet and greet took two hours because she’s so genuine and her conversations with each individual were long and personal.

I love how you could tell the audience truly admires Julia as they all had matching floral dresses and sneakers similar to Julia’s. But despite their elegant appearance, they were definitely one of the loudest audiences I’ve ever heard in a venue. Sometimes, you couldn’t even hear Julia because the audience had so much passion and energy! It’s amazing when songs from concerts become your new favorites because of how amazing and fun they sound live – and for me those songs were“Into You” and “Happy.”


I loved getting the opportunity to see Julia Michaels. Her message she imparted that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself and let your feelings out deeply resonated with me. If you want to have one of these fantastic nights with an amazing artist, make sure to go see Julia Michaels on her Inner Monologue Tour.

Review By: Alexandra Will
Photos By: Alexandra Will

Movements at the OC Observatory

Movements performed a sold-out show at the Observatory Orange County on Friday, April 19.

With alternative rock groups alongside Movements including Drug Church, Trash Boat, and Boston Manor, Movements managed to put on a memorable act that shows their growth as musicians as well as their appreciation for their loyal hometown fans.

Orange County’s Observatory, in comparison to the North Park location, was a bit too claustrophobic for my liking. For one, the venue was entirely general admission but consisted of terraces that spaced out the crowd into awkward sections. Second, the pit was simply too tiny for the number of people wanting to mosh, crowd surf, and just have that full concert experience. The crowd was stuffed like sardines but this did not put a damper on their energy for the openers. Unfortunately, I missed Drug Church and Trash Boat’s sets, but Boston Manor’s performance easily made up for it and got me excited for the rest of the concert.

An Emo and pop-punk band from across the pond, Boston Manor is hands down one of my favorite groups to watch live. Henry Cox is an excellent frontman with the vocal abilities to match which showed in their opener “Flowers in Your Dustbin” from their latest release Welcome to the Neighbourhood. Backed by talented musicians, Cox kept the crowd moving with their hits like “Halo” and “Lead Feet,” angst-driven anthems that warmed up fans for the main event.

Movements exploded in popularity upon releasing their debut album Feel Something in 2017.

Since then, they’ve toured with big-name players in the scene such as Knuckle Puck, Citizen, Turnover, and The Story So Far. The band opened with “The Grey” which describes the feeling of slipping into a cold and lonely depression. Frontman Patrick Miranda, who is open about his struggles with anxiety and depression, is unafraid to speak on mental health issues in his lyrics. Next up was a fan favorite “Colorblind” which had the audience pushing, shoving, and loudly singing along. Miranda is known for his colorblindness, consistently making note of it in other songs like “Deep Red” which is a personal favorite of mine. This song starts off with a catchy bassline, worked by Austin Cressey, that punches through the guitars and vocals. The chorus is ear-wormy in and of itself with a break down that allowed the band to let loose on stage.

Movements is a SoCal band that grew up in Rancho Santa Margarita who, despite their rise to fame in the scene, have not forgotten their roots. This show specifically was a sign of gratitude to the fans that have stayed with them all these years. Patrick reminisced to the time they opened for the band Basement in the same venue. In 2015, they performed in front of 300 people. Today, they sold-out a well-known music venue, playing in front of an audience who truly cares about their art.

The end of the show was bittersweet. Movements came out to a crowd chanting their name and finished with the classic “Daylily.” As the song reached its crescendo, Patrick raised the mic to the audience as they sang “‘I think it’s time you had a pink cloud summer'” back to the band. The group felt at home and living the dream.

Written by: Rica Perez