Your Grandparents Manifest a Cinematic, Soulful Debut Album With ‘Thru My Window’  [Q&A]

Photo: Jordan Perez

Inspired by everything from '90s boom bap artists like Digable Planets and the Pharcyde to modern funk legends like Outkast and D'Angelo, Your Grandparents have quickly proven themselves to be their generations’ torchbearers for the psychedelic soul movement. 

Using a variety of recording techniques to get the desired effect for their genre-blending debut album Thru My Window, the group credits their uniquely cohesive sound to their years-long friendship, which began in their early teens. With their lush grooves, breezy, clear vocals, a sonic aesthetic built on unwavering authenticity, and of course, a deep love for their roots and deep musical traditions passed down from their grandparents, Your Grandparents embodies what it means to be an artist to watch.

Ones To Watch had a chance to talk with the trio, comprised of DaCosta (vocals), Jean Carter (vocals), and Cole, aka ghettoblasterman (producer), to discuss their inspirations and the long days and nights that went into creating their debut album.

When you last spoke to Ones To Watch, it was for the release of your single “So Damn Fly,” and now, a year later, here we are talking about the release of your debut album, Thru My Window. How are you all feeling, and what have you learned about yourselves in this last year through the album-making process?

DaCosta: From a personal outlook, I’ve learned that making music is heavily dependent on my mood, or just how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my personal life. When things are a little too stagnant, it’s a little harder to write. On the other hand, when things are flowing, and life is being lived, it’s easy fuel. It’s good fuel. It doesn’t burn too quickly.

GBM: I’ve learned that no idea is too wild. It’s usually less wild than I think it is.

Jean: Yeah, it’s better to start at the extreme and take away. I realized I feel like a lot of artists feel like they have to put themselves through turmoil or allow certain situations to write meaningful things. Like it’s not necessarily good music, but it’s something that means a lot to them. I think I realized that that’s not the case and inspiration comes in many different forms. It could be a person or something completely random and inanimate that makes you feel something.

What were some of those inspirations?

Jean: Definitely films.

GBM: A lot of films!

Jean: Yeah, we’re all pretty big film people. We do all our own videos pretty much, and it just comes from this love of film that we’ve had that got nurtured in high school. We were blessed enough to have a really dope film program that Sony funded and stuff, and so we got like an impromptu film education before we graduated. So by the time we graduated, we knew how to get our own projects done without reaching out to someone else and then taxing us because they want to hire their friends and all that stuff. So because of that, we had complete creative control. I’ve also been watching a lot of Korean movies lately. Not during the album - wait, actually, during the album, there were a lot of old kung fu movies and blaxploitation movies from, like, the '70s. Also, my friend got me this Curtis Mayfield record, and “So Damn Fly” is definitely heavily influenced by that whole record.

GBM: I feel like the '70s in general, the '60s and '70s, definitely had a big inspiration on the aesthetic and the kind of sound we were going after. Especially with “So Damn Fly” and “Tomorrow” and those kinds of songs.

Do you feel like this album has a linear story the same way a film does, or do you feel like it’s more of an anthology of the band’s personal experiences?

GBM: It’s kind of a mix of both.

Jean: Yeah, it started off as an anthology, and then we pieced together the story, which was largely done by Cole by sitting there and being like, "Hmmm."

DaCosta: Yeah, it was a lot of Cole dissecting the words and putting them on the tracks.

Jean: When we’re writing the words and trying to be free-flowing and expressive and stuff, we’re not fully conscious of a bigger picture situation. Instead, Cole is sitting there producing everything and putting in the music and being just more of a listener than anyone else could. So he has the context, and he could find a story that we didn’t know we were doing together with our three minds and in our three different lives.

GBM: It’s like a puzzle almost, because I’ll be sitting there at like 2 a.m. in my bed, listening to the songs, and I’m like, “Ok, Kyle said, that in the hook, so this song has to go before that,” and so on and so forth. It’s like a storyboard kinda.

Right, to keep the record’s “plot” cohesive and self-referential.

GBM: Another big consideration was playlists. I love making playlists, and I know Kyle loves making playlists, too, so it needed to flow. It just has to flow. We didn’t want songs that juxtapose each other or have opposite vibes be back to back.

DaCosta: Yeah, I think we even switched around the playlist a couple of times before we had it set in stone.

GBM: There were like fourteen songs originally, and then we got talked down to ten.

Jean: Fourteen tracks woulda went crazy!

I’m sure fans would love a deluxe version of the album at some point! So what were some of the rough draft ideas before you set these ten tracks in stone?

Jean: There were more modern-sounding tracks. The more time we spent on a project, and this being our debut, we wanted to be true to the name. We wanted to be true to the artistry that had gotten us to this point.

DaCosta: There were a couple of heavier hip-hop tracks there too.

Jean: We had been doing that, and a lot of people haven’t even heard those because they’re like heavy hip-hop stuff from when we were in high school and like early college.

Were there any tracks on the record that challenged you?

Jean: “Intoxicated” challenged me. I had a whole different verse. The conception of that song - I was just venting about whatever I was going through at the time, and one of my homies was like, “It’s not sexy enough!” So I was just like, “What? No! I’ve done sexy stuff on all the other songs. Just let me vent!” So I tried another verse, and we ended up going with that one instead.

DaCosta: I mean, it worked out great though…

Jean: I mean, yeah, it sits nicely on the song, and now I have a verse for something else one day when it’s time for it.

GBM: Yeah, that song went from being all of ours and everyone on our team’s favorite song to our least favorite song. I will say that recording the instruments for the album was fun, but there were definitely some long hours. We had a drummer and bassist come through, and they played for like twelve hours straight doing all the songs. So the songs that have live drums on them were all done in that one day, and they even did songs we recorded that didn’t make it on the final record. I think we started at 1 p.m. and we ended at 1 a.m. It was crazy.

What song are you most excited for people to hear when the album drops?

Jean: I think people are gonna like “Comfortable” a lot. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the record in a while because it’s existed in our world for a minute. We had just posted the visuals for that song today, and I was feelin it.

DaCosta: I think people are gonna really like “Digest.” For me, it gives me that “it” factor.

GBM: I think “Red Room.” It’s my personal favorite and one of the more fun ones to me. It’s just a good time!

You mentioned earlier that you try to maintain creative control when making your music videos and coming up with concepts for visualizers. What is your creative process like?

DaCosta: We definitely sit down, and we go through everything from storyboard to shotlist and just take and grab inspiration from all over the place. For “So Damn Fly,” there was that That 70’s Show shot where they’re all sitting around the table, and it’s spinning. So there are all types of really cool influences, and we just try to use those and make everything unique to us.

GBM: I think we kind of go through a three-step verification. The idea has to go through all three of us before it becomes something else or moves on to actually being tested out or put into picture. So that kind of attributes to the very solid identity we aim for.

It sounds like that impromptu film education you mentioned earlier has really set you up for success in creating your videos.

Jean: Yeah. My high school film teacher, Miss Butler, I took that class for two years, and then when I couldn’t take it anymore, I became a TA. So then I took the after-school class, and I just spent hella hours pretty much ruining the way I enjoyed cinema and teaching myself like - she would have us look and watch these classic movies and be like, this is what they did wrong.

Can you give me an example of a classic film you would watch and critique?

Jean: The first one that comes to mind is Rear Window. I watched it a few times, just because I had taken the class a couple of times. She talked about how the set that they made and the world that they created, they had full control over. Just seeing older films and how simple things were a lot more complicated then. Like you can’t just delete a take and wipe your card. Everything had to be so planned out and so intentional. You gotta do shit on purpose. It’s just a lot of thinking and planning, and sometimes, I feel like it’s more challenging to have more people involved in a film production sometimes because of the growing degrees of communication. With the small groups that we usually keep, everyone’s on the same page as us. All of us took this same class, so we all have a similar workflow.

DaCosta: Yeah, our organization when it comes to films, we’re all pretty much on the same page. You know, with what was going to happen, who’s doing what, who’s in charge of what, etc.

Jean: And pre-production is the biggest thing and finding the right team because we can’t shoot it and be in it. Although Cole can somehow!

GBM: I’m in one scene, and I’m like, “I’m just gonna kill this scene right now, and then I’m gonna jump back.” That’s why I’m only in the last scene.

Because he’s doing everything else!

Jean: Yeah! Then as soon as the scene cuts, it’s like, I go back to directing people, and Kyle goes back to making sure we got the next shot set up.

GBM: There were only seven people on set.

DaCosta: And four out of seven were crew members

GBM: Yeah, the DP was the only person that wasn’t actually a casted character. Everybody else is like multitasking.

You’ll be making your first-ever festival appearance at Day N Vegas in November. How are y'all feeling about it? 

GBM: It feels incredible!

DaCosta: I’m so so excited!

Jean: If I get excited, I get nervous. So I just aim to be focused, or I don’t think about it at all.

After the release of Thru My Window, what are some long-term or short-term goals y'all are manifesting?

Jean: I think for the next album, I want it to get Best Rap Album. We went R&B on this one, but nobody knows the way that we - like yes, we rap on it, but nobody knows our actual rap potential. So I feel like that’s something that needs to be lived out on the next project. It’s been a minute since we were rapping, bro. There are cool people out here doing the rap thing right now, but not many people have impressed me.

GBM: I kind of want this album to open up the door to doing a lot of travel. When we got back from Paris in 2019, what we experienced during that summer gave us fuel to start this project. So I feel like if we just keep that kind of like tradition going, we just travel somewhere and just make stuff, I think it’ll never get steered wrong.

DaCosta: I think I want the album to just open up doors in general. I know it’s kind of a broad thing, but like, we’re so diverse, and between the three of us, we can do literally anything I think in the world if we put our minds to it, and we kind of plan on doing everything that we want to do. So, I kind of want this album to open the door just so that we can you can start striding towards whatever, whether it’s directing movies and videos and fucking scoring -

Jean: Or directing other people’s videos!

DaCosta: Yeah, all types of shit.

Thru My Window is available everywhere you can stream it. 

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