High Hopes: The Golden Grass

Adam Kriney is a great believer in synchronicity. Early in 2013, the singer/drummer found himself having dinner in Brooklyn with visiting Helsinki quartet Beastmilk. “I didn’t know them at all,” he explains, “but we got talking and I played them a song from my new band. Mat [McNerney] from Beastmilk thought it was amazing and told his label, Svart, about us. A few weeks later they got in touch and signed us up.”

The ‘us’ he refers to are the Golden Grass, a seismic power trio whose self-titled debut borrows from the heady dawn of rock’s classic era. Comprising Kriney, guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich and bass player Joe Noval, they play a glorious rumble of psychedelic boogie and stoner grooves. Yet while they may look the part, they’re by no means retro. Instead, the Golden Grass invest their cusp-of-the-70s choogle with sunshine vibes and the flashing energy of punk.

In fact, Kriney says the original idea was “to write very short, Rubble/Nuggets kind of songs, and not end up in this heavy southern rock thing. Early on we were always talking about The Move, the Pretty Things, The Action and the Small Faces.”

One of the key factors, it seems, was a two-year period that Kriney spent in a Grateful Dead covers band called Dead Tape. “The Dead were very progressive in the way they approached their arrangements and songwriting. And that’s something we’ve allowed to happen too. We actually write the most concise songs that we can, even if they are over 13 minutes long. We’re not being excessive by choice, we’re just trying to say what needs to be said and complete the story.”

The Golden Grass formed just last year, but all three members have pedigree. Kriney spent more than a decade in psych-prog band La Otracina and he’s toured as part of Nebula and Cult Of Youth. Rafalowich has hit the road with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns and was the leading light in blues-rock combo Strange Haze. The pair tried starting a band a few years back but the time just wasn’t right. It was only when Kriney returned from touring Europe in 2012 that the Golden Grass became a possibility. “There wasn’t a good vibe within La Otracina at the time,” he says, “so I decided to put it on the shelf.”

Instead, he headed to California to work on a pot farm while going through what amounted to an existential crisis. “The good thing is that I relistened to those old rehearsal tapes I’d made with Michael while I was out there. And I met this guy from a fairly well-known indie band on the farm. We bonded and I basically took everything that he told me and put it into use with this band.

“I keep coming back to the idea of synchronicity. If you’re paying attention, you’ll pick up all the clues and figure out the next step. Now there’s no looking back.”

The Golden Grass is out now via Svart.

This feature was published in Classic Rock issue 201_. _

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.