Music starts as an outlet to meet people or express emotions, and for ninety-nine percent of the world it stays that way. For the other one percent, something unidentifiable clicks; another gear kicks in that drives their songs out of garages and bedrooms and into the greater conscience. Such a moment occurred recently for Mission Viejo’s GRMLN, a.ka. Yoodoo Park. Though he was already signed to Carpark Records, his cover of the Ben E. King chestnut “Stand By Me” has amped up anticipation for the debut EP from the UC Santa Cruz sophomore, Explore and opened his mind to the possibility that this music thing might work out.
Since this is sort of an introduction, who is GRMLN?
GRMLN is Yoodoo Park, which is me. It’s just a name that I use to put out my music. I started making music during my senior year of high school, and that’s the name I came up with. I felt like it described what I was at the time; I was just hanging out in my room all the time making music. I was some kind of creature.
Lots of people who are musicians have always been musicians. Was there an inciting incident for you to start playing?
I think it was more that there wasn’t really a big music scene where I grew up and that the kids I was hanging out with didn’t really listen to music either. The only person that I had to share music with was my older brother. I was listening to all of the same bands that he liked, and after a while I got interested in making the sounds instead of listening to them. I began to experiment with a few different recording methods and instruments. That’s how I got started, and that was the beginning of GRMLN.
Who were some the artists that you were listening to at this point?
My tastes started out in the realm of punk; I listened to a lot of Fugazi. I was also really into Interpol at the time, and that had a big effect on the first things that I recorded. I base a lot of my music on the bass line, because I started playing that first. I would look for bands, like Interpol, that featured interesting bass lines and then try to learn from them.
You mentioned that you were into Interpol at the time you started recording. How have your tastes changed since then?
I’ve been going back and listening to a lot of the classics. It doesn’t really show all that much in my music, but I’ve been really listening to a lot of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. It’s not a sound that I want to emulate, but there’s a timeless quality to their work that I can appreciate. It’s those kinds of songs that make me want to make music.
Is that what led you to put out your cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me?”
Yeah. That’s another one of those timeless songs. I would always sing that in the shower. It’s one of those songs that sticks with you from childhood. It sounded like a really fun idea to do the cover; I’ve just been so in to music from the Sixties lately.
You said that cover sounded like a fun idea. Where did the idea come from? Was this an idea from your record company?
They wanted the song, but my record company lets me do whatever I want to at this point. I wanted to record that specific song because it was one that spoke to me. That ‘s how I came to do it; I just wanted to take something that I loved and put my own twist on it.
It’s pretty iconic. How did you decide what sort of take to do with it?
I originally had this idea to put percussion into it, but when I did it that way it ended up taking too much away from the vocals, and the vocal is really what that song is about. In the take that I used, I emphasized the vocal as much as I could, because that’s the way that I wanted people to hear the song.
The one major change you did make was to add some vibe-y bells. How did you get that effect, and why did you choose to use it?
I used one of these really old keyboards that I have laying around at my house. I just really wanted to incorporate it. I waded through all the effects on there, and I’m really not sure which one I ended up using- it may have been the xylophone. When I heard it, I knew that was the sound that I wanted, and it just seemed to work with the song.
What’s your process when you record?
I do everything in my house. The actual recording depends on my mood. Usually I’ll put down the drum track first, but like I said earlier, I’m also really focused on the bass. I might put down a bass melody first. Sometimes I’ll even begin with guitars. Vocals, though, are always last. I want them to be the catchiest part, and saving them for the final thing gives me time to revise as I’m working.
Did you do it any differently since “Stand By Me” wasn’t one of your own songs?
I started with the bass, because so much of that song is in that great bass line. I tried a lot of different things with it, especially with the guitars. Eventually I just decided to go with something simplistic.
You’ve released a couple of other songs from your EP Explore that are a little more atmospheric and surf-y sounding. Would you agree with that?
Yeah. The idea behind the EP was to make some relaxing music to drive and listen to; I think that Explore does that. I tried to arrange all the instruments and vocals so Explore would be the kind of album that you would be able to listen to on the beach.
Is that the kind of sound that you’ll have going forward?
I don’t think so. Artists can’t stay in one place, and this EP reflects one phase that I went through. I know that I’m going to change. It may come sooner or later, but I know that there will be other types of music that will speak to me throughout my career and there will be avenues that I want to explore, some to the good and some not so good.
Since this sound got you a record deal, do you ever feel a little worried about moving away from it?
I don’t think I’ll ever truly move away from any one type of music. It’s something that I did, and it will always be a part of me. The album that I’m recording now isn’t going to be a 360o change, but it will reflect that I’ve been growing and incorporating new things into my sound.
Is it scary to be progressing like that?
Yeah. People want to tag a band with a specific sound, and that’s good in a lot of ways. I don’t want to get caught as that one band that sounds that certain way. I want to have the freedom to make the music I want to make. At the same time, you do have to think about how people are going to react to what you’re doing. You have to trust yourself before anyone else, but that’s a hard thing to do some times.
If I check back with you in a year, where’s GRMLN going to be?
He’ll still be in his mom’s basement, paying rent.