North of the Dial

We're all pretty Radiohead-obsessed," says Grassfight's Nathan Forester, and certainly the opening bars of "Rhodendron," from his group's French Shemes EP, with its spare, ambient guitar line and Godrich-like touch to the mix, demonstrates that Yorke and Co. have indeed made their mark on this Denton group.

A strange admission from a band based out of a town where the anxiety of influence runs as high as the Corn-Kits sign on the old Morrison Milling grain silo? Maybe; the good news is that, in 2008, a Radiohead obsession is as good as any excuse to launch an ambitious band's career. It's the 21st-century equivalent of seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan; for every Muse that starts out under the sway of The Bends, there's a Midlake that moves on and takes only the idea of Radiohead's self-determination with it.

And that's the trajectory Grassfight has set for itself: Even now, barely a year and a half into its existence, the band is pulling out of Radiohead's orbit, adding elements of Joy Division, The Smiths and even a whiff of Kevin Shields. In fact, Forester is as confident about Grassfight's ultimate musical destination as he is candid about their origins: "We're playing exactly what we want to play," he says, "and we're exactly where we want to be. Every practice we're getting better."

As we get further into our conversation, it becomes clear that it is indeed Radiohead's artistic autonomy that Grassfight respects the most. "Radiohead has done it perfectly," Forester says, "to be a big band without trying to be commercial. They've become 'big' by doing exactly what they want. And that's our philosophy—if we think it's good, maybe other people will too."

I ask if Forester thinks that balance is easier to strike in Denton: "That's a great quality of Denton," he says, "to have the freedom to do what you want. There isn't this feeling 'we're all trying to make it out.'"

But Forester also thinks Denton's commercial antipathy is a blessing and curse. "I feel like there's not that level of excitement that there needs to be. I don't know if we're doing our part to make this an exciting scene."

Is it that Denton bands should try to get out of Denton more? "Sure. What if bands said, 'Screw it, we are trying to make it out of Denton'? I think everyone's scared to say that."

But as far as Grassfight is concerned, its goals go beyond just becoming local heroes. "[The band members] are all on the same page," says Forester. "It's a step-by-step process. But we're not so starry-eyed that we don't see the steps."

 
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