When Grandaddy limped to a halt in 2006 with the underwhelming Just Like The Fambly Cat it seemed like a mercy killing. The band had been on the cusp of indie stardom after their first two albums (1997’s playful Under The Western Freeway and their acknowledged masterpiece, 2000’s dystopic near-concept album The Sophtware Slump), but they then seemed to lose creative steam, chugging through another two albums before calling it quits. Singer/songwriter/founder/producer Jason Lytle marked the split by leaving his long-time home of Modesto, California (home of Star Wars creator George Lucas, nerd fans!) in favour of a new life in the (relative) wilds of Montana where he created his first solo album: Yours Truly, The Commuter.
At first listen the album sounds like the flip side of 2005 Grandaddy mini-album Excerpts From The Diary Of Todd Zilla, which seemed like a hate letter to Modesto.
Yeah, well there is something to be said for looking out the window and not despising everything that you see. It definitely has a reflection on the rest of your life, being able to go outside and not dreading it.
Why did it take so long to get the hell out of there?
It was really just a logistical thing, you know, to be near the band. And after a while we were travelling so much that it didn’t really seem like you lived there so much – until you were home and it usually took about a week for me to really go ‘OK, we’re home,’ and start to look around me and then go, ‘Ah, God, where am I at?’ again.
Well, there was a sense of that frustration all over Fambly Cat as well. It sounded so resigned and exhausted.
I don’t really like to be like that. I have my downer periods and things that could be depression, but I have ways of bringing it back around. I don’t like to force it upon anybody else and eventually I realised this body of work that I was creating was sort of mutating into this bummer version of me that I wouldn’t want to hang out with.
Was that the motivation for calling time on Grandaddy?
Yeah, that was a big part of it. It’s funny: I really value my time alone and I am a really kind of independent, do-it-yourself kind of guy, and I was always like that before the band. But I realised that the band had become this machine with certain requirements, and so many hours of the day I was required to not only be around people but be inspiring to them, to lead them and to make suggestions and be at the helm. I would have to get into hotel management or food service management to have a similar situation where I had all these people underneath me that I was trying to motivate. I don’t want to be that.
Well, the last couple of records were more or less solo discs.
Sort of, yeah. Plus, once I started to see it wane and peter out I was like, ‘OK, if I’ve been in charge this whole time then I’m going to decide that it is time to bring it down.’
There is still quite a lot of darkness on Yours Truly, although there are some sweet lyrical twists in there that leaven the darkness.
I have always had a good sense of humour in the face of darkness. That is just how I make sense of things. And the point of the big things about living somewhere where I am surrounded by the outdoors and part of the country that is pretty uplifting and inspiring to me. I look around me and it’s incredible: beautiful views, awesome opportunities to go out and get lost, to do hiking and camping and all kinds of other recreations that I do.
Ever thought of exploring outside the US a little bit? There’s plenty of space out here to get lost…
Obviously with the band situation every second that you’re not playing a show you’re spending money and you have to account for every minute that you’re not on stage. Hopefully with my situation it will free it up. Let’s create motivation, let’s create more work. [laughs] I swear that I’ll never be too happy.
Yours Truly, The Commuter is available at www.7digital.com