"We were so pissed off that this record wasn't done," Neal says. "We were all getting on each other's nerves. This band almost broke up probably a dozen times over the last year."
"There was about an eight-month stretch where--I mean, I deal with most of the business side of things, and George writes all the songs," Barnhart says. "So he and I talk a lot. And there was about an eight-month stretch where our phone conversations, every single one of them, ended in an argument. Not necessarily a screaming, yelling, call-the-cops-cause-Donny's-beating-me-again argument, but it was definitely tense. There were times when I wanted to throttle him, where I was going to drive to his house and kick his screen door in."
"Same here," Neal adds. "And it was usually the dumbest little things that would set things off. Scheduling things, the color of T-shirts, just the dumbest, stupidest shit."
Sitting next to each other at the picnic table, it's clear that's all behind them. But the band's raucous live shows--which Neal says are "probably three or four notches above the record, as far as volume and intensity"--aren't a thing of the past. Not yet. They've toned it down recently, only because people were starting to come to Little Grizzly shows for the onstage theatrics, not the songs. The group also added keyboard-banjo-guitar-whatever-else player Howard Draper recently, meaning they'll be able to play the songs the way they always wanted them to sound. Still, the eyes-wide-shut emotion will always be there, because it's part of how they listen to music and how they play it. While they don't want to become parodies of themselves, they don't want to change just because of someone else's ideas about their band. They just want to do what they believe in, no matter what the result is.
"I never wanna fake it," Neal says. "When I'm up there screaming and crying and whatever, I mean, that's all completely real. And it got to a point where I felt like people were expecting it, and we all felt like people were expecting it. Colin was expecting that people wanted to hear him pound the shit out of his kit every time on every song. And that wall of noise from Matt, and Jake standing on the end of the stage, glaring at people. I think we all thought we were in danger of becoming caricatures of ourselves. But I like being in a really emotional band. I love playing live. I love bringing people in and having them connect right there with us, going on an emotional jaunt with us for an hour or however long we play. That's real important to me. That's the kind of music I grew up on: really emotional rock. You know, The Who and...The Who." He laughs.
"I think it's important to all of us," Barnhart says. "We don't wanna be perceived as coffeehouse folk singers either. That's kind of the difficult balance. You do wanna connect with people, you wanna have an impact, and you wanna play your music well. It's just a matter of us playing the songs right, and if that happens, then, more than likely, everything will fall into place."