Photo Courtesy Ronnie Jackson Photography
By: Addie Hayes, Editor/Lead Writer, Regional Music Journal
Most music fans in Tulsa and Oklahoma City know the name GRIND. The four piece rock band, based in Tulsa, have worked hard to earn their reputation as one of the top bands in the music scene. GRIND’s music and live performance style is heavily influenced by the early days of rock, along with a mix of other genres. When the band hits the stage, its high intensity rock throughout the entire set. GRIND is made up of Dale Diver on vocals and guitar, CJ McClellan on guitar, JD Buzzard on bass and Bryan Turnham on drums. In anticipation of their upcoming performance at Rocklahoma 2019, Regional Music Journal got to sit down with the band for an interview.
GRIND Photos Courtesy Teresa Turnham
GRIND formed in 2014, however, each member of the band has a history in the Tulsa music scene. Dale Diver explained how the band started to form, “me and Bryan (Turnham) met like ten years ago. I worked at a body shop and I was fixing his car. I looked through his CDs and this guy’s got like Motley Crüe and I’m like ‘who is this guy, he likes all the music I like’.” Diver continued, “he came to get something out of his car and we kind of talked for a minute and then a couple of weeks passed, and I ran into him at Best Buy…we exchanged numbers and we just started jammin’.”
Bryan Turnham said, “we tried, I want to say six or seven times, to put a project together and it would kind of take-off for a little bit and fall apart.” Diver added, “the last thing we tried to do was, we started another band, and Bryan didn’t want to be in another band, so he stepped away.”
Diver’s well timed attendance at Rocklahoma resulted in a meeting with guitarist CJ McClellan. Diver said, “(I) went to Rocklahoma where I met CJ. He was playing with Benny’s Little Weasel. Benny’s was a local band and I had never seen this guy. In my mind, I had never quit playing the music I had played with (Turnham), it was always there. I saw (McClellan) play, I went right to him as soon as he got done. Immediately when I saw (McClellan) play I thought of (Turnham) so instantly we started talking.” The meeting between Diver and McClellan led to a reunion with Turnham, who knew bassist JD Buzzard.
Turnham explained how he knew Buzzard, saying, “me and JD, we just kind of fell into a project with Crooked X guitarist that passed away a few years ago, Jesse (Cooper). We tried that project, it didn’t work out. We just kind of parted ways for a minute.” Turnham called Buzzard and he was recruited to join GRIND.
As experienced musicians, GRIND faced a mixture of responses when they first hit the scene. Diver said, “It was easy for us to do it because we all had a past with the local scene. We could get the shows, but as far as being accepted, no one, and still to this day, there are still a lot of people that does not give two bits about GRIND.”
McClellan said, “because to start GRIND, we basically had to wipe away other projects. There was a little bit of friction that kind of existed. (Some) kind of looked at our project a little sideways for a while. But it was easy, I agree with Dale, because we had the contacts and there was some credibility from day one. A lot of the venue owners knew, they gave us a chance right off the bat from working with Dale and I in the past.” Diver added, “we made sure we held up the professional side, as far as musically and relationship wise.”
“Our second show we opened for Saving Abel and sold 100 tickets,” McClellan said. “There was a lot of buzz, because people was (curious)…there was some excitement and some buzz and we got some opportunities thrown our way that kind of helped us.”
GRIND had to develop a new fanbase, mainly due to the stylistic differences. Diver said, “the band I came from was a metal band. All the fans, other than my personal friends, they all just said ‘that is horrible, what are you doing’. I feel like everything we’ve done, we’ve created new.” McClellan said, “as far as fans that came from other projects, I agree with Dale, we really kind of started on our own and kind of build it as we went and there are a lot of loyal people that along the way, we recognize were there from the beginning and they’re still there. They keep bringing people and they travel. We got folks that will come from out of state to see us here or when we go out of state, they’ll come with us.”
GRIND’s sound is a blending of different music elements from different genres, with each member bringing something different to the table. McClellan said, “we all bring something different and it kind of makes it what it is, but what I think of, with the throwback to the heyday, it’s that larger than life rock band. I grew up watching KISS and Van Halen get up on stage and say ‘we’re the greatest band in the world’. Bands don’t hardly do that anymore…I miss the swagger, it’s supposed to be full of attitude and a little grungy and a little dirty. That’s the element, when we say the sound is influenced by rock’s heyday.”
Diver added, “I think the dynamic for the four is that we all grew up in the same time. We’re all in the right circle of the same age, we grew up listening to the same music, and we get to interpret the music we’ve grown up listening to. There’s no time on it, but you can hear some Alice In Chains, you can hear some Motley Crüe, you can hear everything. I like to think that there’s metal, there’s rock n’ roll, there’s soul, there’s grunge, and there’s some punk in there. Everyone hears it differently, that’s the dynamic, and when we do it together is when it works, just the four of us.”
This dynamic is important for GRIND’s songwriting process. “How I view it, it’s nice, when we write a song, we’re not trying to make one song sound exactly like the last one we did. Whatever feels good is what we end up writing regardless of how it sounds,” said Turnham. “This is where my Alice In Chains influence gets thrown in, because they’re just one of those groups. They can write something heavy and they can write something really beautiful and everything in between, it works regardless and that’s how I try to put my two cents in.”
“Dale and I write a lot of just like a core concept of the song and then we’ll bring it to the guys, let them help us build it. We’ve all been in projects where like one guy writes it all and it’s like ‘no don’t play the drums like that it goes like this’,” said McClellan. “We respect Bryan, we respect JD’s contributions to say ‘this is what we have, what do you hear’. And sometimes we change it, as well play together we slowly self-correct to what it’s going to end up being. Playing off of each other and tightening it until we can say ‘okay it finally feels right’. Everyone’s contributing and no one is in the room saying ‘that’s wrong, you need to play it this way’.”
In the music industry today, independent bands have to develop a strong business sense in order to survive. GRIND has learned how to navigate the local and regional music scenes better than most bands. “Some of the record folks or the management companies, they’re saying ‘we can do x, y & z’, ‘we can get you with these bands’, ‘we can get you on these festivals’, guess what, we’ve done that,” said McClellan. “With a band with no management or booking behind us, we’ve done as much or more than what a lot of people are getting with management companies. From a business standpoint how do you align yourself in a partnership with the right people to extend beyond the reach that we can get?”
“We’re at this crossroads right now. We’re going to talk, we’ve had some offers from some record companies and some management firms, and we’ve got to talk about that as a band, about the pros and cons of that,” said McClellan. “It’s a different model now, it’s not the old model where, here’s a half a million dollars, we’re going to invest in you. It’s a mixed bag of support and that’s kind of where we are, as a local band, a regional band. We’ve reached about as far as we can reach on our own. So I think the next step for GRIND is to find a partnership and a reach beyond that.”
One of the major decisions facing musicians today is how to distribute their music. The days of hard copies of EPs or LPs is quickly coming to an end. Everything is moving to a digital format. Along with this transition comes the expectation from fans to receive music quickly. Many artists are struggling with the decision of releasing singles versus an EP or a full length album. Then they also have to decide if they will release their work strictly in a digital format or will they release an actual CD.
“Everything is so fast and everyone can have it right now. I’m even torn between the fact, and this is what we’re kicking around, do we spend all the money on putting together a wrapper cover, because everyone can have it now,” said Diver. “I think it’s going to affect us, say you come see us at a festival, you get something tangible… but there’s a generation underneath us, and this is where I’m at. If we’re going to try and keep rock n’ roll alive, that’s who we want. The people we’re trying to gain would be this younger generation.”
“I think an album is worth the wait,” said Buzzard. “You got to wait a little longer for all the songs, but you got it in hand.”
This issue is something GRIND is currently thinking about since they are working on recording and releasing a new album. “We’ve got stuff that we’ve recorded since the (last) EP came out. We’ve never actually released it in a format you can walk away with. We’ll take those songs and then build on those,” said McClellan. “We’re gonna go do four or five new songs and we’ll have an eight to ten song EP without any heavy lifting, because a lot of the work has already been done. I’m excited because the new stuff we have is a continuation. The four we’re getting ready to record, every song is different.”
Buzzard said, “there’s the nights when the magic happens, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
GRIND’s live show is exciting, fun and energetic. The band always delivers fantastic performances which earns them new fans with each show. “I go in there and I make sure they see we are there. I make known, we’re here, wake the fuck up, if you want to take a cigarette break it’s a good time to do it, because otherwise we’re going to have a good time,” said Diver. “And the guys are really good at reciprocating that, great live players. That’s what we strive to do. We try to project fun and energy. People come to have a good time, if we can get your attention away from everything else for twenty minutes then we did our job.”
“Everyone gets distracted so easy and you can lose their attention like that. Once their off doing whatever on their phone, it’s hard to get them back,” said Turnham.
All the hard work has paid off for GRIND in a big way. The band won the We Are Tulsa Music Awards 2017 Single of the Year award for “Bridges”, they were nominated for the We Are Tulsa Music Awards 2018 Rock Artist of the Year, and now, they have been chosen to perform on the D&B Processing Stage inside the Rocklahoma festival grounds. Diver explained how they were chosen to perform on the D&B Stage, “(Doug Burgess) put us on the show with LA Guns and about that time he was talking, ‘I’m going to put a Rocklahoma lineup together’. We asked him, ‘how do we get on’, he said, ‘we’ll find out after the LA Guns show’. It was that night of the show, Lynn Hernandez came up and announced that we were the first band to be announced to play Rocklahoma on (D&B Processing Stage).
GRIND has worked hard to get where they are today. As veteran musicians in the Tulsa music scene, some things were easy for the band, however, navigating the ever-changing music industry and gaining a strong fanbase has been more challenging. Despite the hurdles, GRIND has kept doing things by their own rules, creating kick ass rock music and delivering high energy performances. When Rocklahoma 2019 kicks off on Friday, May 24, GRIND is scheduled to perform opening day on the D&B Processing Stage. Be sure to head over and show our local talent some much deserved support.
© Copyright 2019 Regional Music Journal