There are plenty of reasons for A&R staff to book flights to Australia these days. Iggy Azalea is tearing up the pop charts, Betty Who could be soon, and alternative acts like the Preatures and Tame Impala are seen all over American festival lineups.
You can go ahead and add the Griswolds to that last group. The pop-rock act’s deliriously catchy “Beware the Dog” hit our radar via an appearance in Tomorrow’s Hits July 18 and continues to climb Alternative Songs, hitting No. 20 this week, its highest rank yet (fellow Australian Vance Joy leads the tally, by the way).
To stir up anticipation for their forthcoming debut Be Impressive (due Aug. 25 on Wind-Up Records), they’re premiering another new song, album opener "16 Years," exclusively on Billboard:
Frontman Chris Whitehall chatted with Billboard en route to North Carolina, roughly two weeks into the Griswolds’ North American tour, about the band's sound and the history behind their name.
“We had the '80s thing in mind," he jokes, referencing the band’s National Lampoon’s Vacation-inspired name. “But our manager at the time said, ‘You can’t call your band that.’ We tossed around other '80s movies and then Chevy Chase came up and we thought of the Griswolds.”
The Griswolds are too young to have firsthand '80s nostalgia, but there’s plenty of contemporary alternative influence in their music. Whitehall names MGMT and Vampire Weekend as primary influences in their music, which makes sense listening to Be Impressive. Like many other chart-friendly alternative acts these days, they’ve followed in the footsteps of those two acts in using synthesizer, samples, and keyboard as their foundation.
But there’s guitar influence in their music, too. "Most of us were really into punk shows growing up," Whitehall remembers. "We’d go to all ages punk and hardcore shows. That’s pretty much what I did every weekend growing up.”
The fertile grounds of the Sydney suburb Darlinghurst provided plenty of gigs for the Griswolds’ current members to cut their teeth playing shows alongside countless other up-and-coming acts. When they were ready to come together and record, the Griswolds crafted their 2013 EP Heart of a Lion in their garages and bedrooms and caught the ear of Wind-Up Records almost immediately.
“It was a huge surprise,” Whitehall says. “It never happens to an Australian band, especially a new Australian band that only has one or two songs.”
Well, it’s happening more and more, and right now it’s happening to the Griswolds.