Ah, the pressures of being a rock star. Making a mixtape of your favorite music, an activity that encompasses a lazy Sunday afternoon for most of us, is something that has to be squeezed in between the constant necessities of recording, touring and promoting if you're one of the long-haired few. Of course, we mustn't forget these special guys and gals will be assured some monetary compensation for their difficulties. Still, cynicism won't get you anywhere, and Jason Lytle, the leading man of Modesto, California's indie heroes Grandaddy, has certainly never been one to cop such an attitude. So in the wake of the release of his own mixtape, Artist's Choice: Below the Radio, which features everyone from Beck to lesser-known acts like Little Wings, we thought it would be worthwhile to get the skinny on how such a sincere dude goes about the task of constructing a truly underrepresented pop artifact and how that work relates to the day-to-day trails of rock stardom in the land of Schwarzenegger and sunshine.
Prefix Magazine: How did the Below the Radio project come about? Did Ultra Records contact you or was this an idea that you brought to them?
Grandaddy: Through my manager, they came to me. It was actually presented to me quite a while ago, but I had to find time after touring and after setting up preparations for this next Grandaddy album. PM: How did the song selection process work? Were there specific guidelines you had to follow?
Grandaddy: I needed a set of boundaries. I could just scan my memory for all of my favorite songs, ranging from Beethoven to Bad Brains. I decided to use songs I considered to be "sleeper hits." PM: I've heard much about how difficult it can be for a band to choose and stick with a track sequence for one of their own albums. How would you compare the process of choosing and sequencing the tracks for a Grandaddy record like, say, Sumday, and choosing and sequencing other people's songs for a compilation album?
Grandaddy: It's just like making a painting or drawing, or arranging your furniture, or preparing a sandwich -- a start and a finish. What pleases the ears and makes the eyes comfortable? Or maybe I don't know. My intuitive approach could be polar opposite of someone else's. I just do what I feel is right. PM: A lot of these songs, like your own music, reference West Coast, specifically Californian, sights and sounds. How would you describe California's influence on Grandaddy's music and your own tastes?
Grandaddy: Its fair weather encourages people to spend time outdoors. Its sunlight shines on everyday scenes and makes them more noticeable and therefore more remarkable. I enjoy remarking on the everyday scenes I see, and maybe it's due to the lighting. Maybe I'm full of shit, but I do know if I moved to a windowless apartment in London I would shrivel up and die. PM: Are there one or two characteristics in these songs that connect all of them in you mind, or do they represent wholly separate facets of your tastes in pop music?
Grandaddy: They all seem to have pretty conventional and familiar chord progressions. They all have vivid imagery for me with their words. There also seems to be a bit of sadness, but not necessarily despair. PM: Do you have a favorite song from the album?
Grandaddy: No, but I do have a least favorite. I won't say the name of it, but I will say that the last song on the album is nowhere as good as the rest of the songs on the album. PM: Has the band or you personally ever considered working with any of the artists on the compilation? If so, whom and why?
Grandaddy: Jim Fairchild (Grandaddy guitarist) is actually a member of Earlimart. Other than that we have toured with and befriended many of the bands on this compilation. Working with any one of them would be a privilege if time permitted. PM: You mention getting some kids to help you sing the lyrics for the new Grandaddy track on Below the Radio, "Nature Anthem." Did you write the song with them in mind, or was it more of an afterthought?
Grandaddy: I always envisioned a sing-along with children. My parents never took me camping or on outdoor trips when I was little. I like the idea of children roaming in wonder in the outdoors. Maybe if I would have had that and gotten it out of my system I would be normal now and working in a bank or selling real estate with a lovely wife and kids in Phoenix. PM: What are you and the band's current plans?
Grandaddy: I'm currently working on what is already "my favorite Grandaddy album." I hope our record label finds a new breakthrough in product marketing so I'll never have to tour again, just make more records.