It doesn’t take a broken heart to make a great record. But damn, it sure does help. On Grieves’ “Together/Apart,” the 27-year-old road warrior-rapper finds some cathartic artistic release via a relationship gone sour. Grieves and his ex don’t speak anymore, but it might’ve been worth it. “Together/Apart” manages to be a labor of love, broken heart or not. It shows in Grieves (born Ben Laub) and longtime friend / producer, Budo, building the record from the basement up completely sample free.
It’s admittedly dark, sure, starting with album opener “Light Speed” and following through to the addictive “Vice Grip,” but Grieves isn’t without a sense of humor. In fact, some of the stuff he had to say about his former lover off the record was pretty funny. Relatively speaking, the record does have lighter points. While “On The Rocks” may endorse it’s fair share of heavy drinking, it’s dressed up as a commiserating summer single one hook away from being a radio friendly banger.
“Together/Apart” isn’t Grieves first rodeo, but it is his first time feeling the support of a label behind him. The press coverage, the interviews, the videos and the national distribution are all new to him. He couldn’t have imagined this type of support when he was broke and alone in Seattle, making music night and day.
“It was just me and my songwriting,” says Grieves, running on fumes after three days of no sleep and the rigorous schedule of Warped Tour. “I became very intimate with my music because that’s all I was working on, day and night.”
Grieves found Seattle after being fed up with the “standstill town” of Ft. Collins, Colorado. He ventured to the west coast where a brief flirtation with audio engineering and music business classes didn’t last long. After heading out on the road for the first time, he knew he’d learn much more on tour than he ever could in a classroom.
In 2007, Grieves took up the opportunity to DJ on a tour with Atmosphere. He brought 10,000 demos along with him and passed them out at shows. Apparently, that’s still a way to get things done. A few more national tours and a few thousand more demos, Grieves found his way to Rhymesayers with plenty to write and rap about.
“These past few years, the career has been kickin’ up and the momentum has become a lot stronger,” explains Grieves. “During that time, you don’t lose grasp. But it’s tough to balance the relationship between your loved ones and your career. Sometimes, those scales get a little skewed in the wrong direction. I had to learn how to do it a little differently, and a lot of those situations are talked about on my record.”
When asked about the risk of laying down such personal rhymes on a record – forever out there in the ether for all to hear and decipher – that sense of humor finds its way out of the gloomy textures of “Together/Apart.”
“I’m not being dishonest on the record,” Grieves says. “So, I may not feel this way four years from now, but this is who I am right now. It makes me wonder what is timeless, anyway. Especially for musicians! You get sick of your shit regardless. It’s like, ‘I’ve played this fucking song 5,000 times last year!’”
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