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The Griswolds’ 9 Tips For Making It In The US, The Australian Way

Written by Chris Whitehall on August 21, 2014

Bands can make a pretty comfortable living after making it big in Australia. A talented band or muso can do well for themselves thanks to the loyalty of Aussie fans and their love of live music. But for many, you haven’t truly made it until you’ve managed to crack the coveted American market.

To make things a little easier for the countless industrious Aussie bands and artists who make their way over to the US each year, we’ve enlisted the help of Chris Whitehall of Sydney’s The Griswolds. He and his bandmates have spent the better part of 2014 making headway in their mission to conquer the Land Of The Free.

By no means do we have all the answers when it comes to cracking the prized US market, but we’re getting pretty damn good at surviving over here with zero money, no sleep, and never-ending touring, while still having a good time. So here’s a few of the things we’ve learnt so far…

Be Australian

We’ve found that wherever we go we have a remarkable ability to exploit our Aussie accent for personal gain. “Everyone loves us cu**s!” So far we’ve been able to score free drinks almost anywhere we go. We kinda feel like a novelty for the American people, like an exhibition at the zoo. “Come see the Australians, they play music and drink loads!” It works well for us.

Tour, tour and tour some more

Pack up your shit, get in a van and be prepared for life on the road. We’ve pretty much sold every little thing that’s important to us (including a shit-ton of our instruments) to be able to afford this past year of overseas touring. You just gotta play gigs and keep on playing them until you can’t physically stand or sing, then you gotta keep playing them anyway.

At times, it honestly feels endless. We’re into our 70th day of this tour. Sometimes you sleep in the tour van and sometimes you can’t afford to eat. The only thing that’s actually assured is that we’re having the best experiences together on the road. Whether things are tough or going awesome, we’re having the most kick-ass time a bunch of Sydney guys could have.

Write a song about a large American river

The fact that we have a song that happens to refer to the Mississippi river (called Mississippi) seems to go down very well with our American friends. Funny thing is, that lyric was actually an ad-lib – we just couldn’t find a better replacement word, so it stuck.

Watch: The Griswolds – Mississippi

Sleep your way to the top (not literally)

It’s not “what” you do, it’s “who” you do. Sometimes, when you’re meeting new people, you’ve gotta suck some dick (read: be a people pleaser) to get ahead. Unfortunately the music isn’t always enough. Usually this comes in the form of a meet-and-greet or an acoustic performance for a small group of people, but I’m sure in extreme cases a little fellatio wouldn’t go astray.

Play SXSW

You’ll pay 15k+ to fly to Austin, Texas, play 15 shows, drink for a week straight, lose your voice and won’t get paid. Don’t get us wrong, we were honoured to get asked to play this year, and very well may play it again in the future, but it seems like the main benefit of playing the famous South By Southwest conference is having your name on the bill.

Fraternise with radio stations

“Am I a fucking Griswold now!?” a manager from a respected alternative radio station in Ohio said, while laughing at us maniacally. We turned around and his penis was hanging out of his pants. We had told him over some beers that we don’t trust anyone until we’ve seen them naked. We trust him now.

The Griswolds’ US Tour

Declare bankruptcy

Because touring in the US means you’ll never have another dime in your life. To tour over here, we have to hire drum kits and buses and all the things we need to play a gig. Back home, we already have cars and our own amps and drum kits. But unfortunately we can’t fly here with all that shit, so ya gotta hire it all. Best thing you can do is make sure your parents have a spare room or a garage you can move into after you’re done overseas.

Trade free tickets for baked goods

Ya gotta do whatever you can to survive here. Lucky for us, American hospitality isn’t a myth. We’ve had people offer to cook us home-made dinners and people make us cookies and cupcakes and all sorts of other things to help us survive the States.

Name your band after an American pop culture reference

“Fucken aye right we’re The Griswolds!” I remember being at Studio 301 in Sydney while recording the Heart of a Lion EP. We were a few days out from our very first gig at World Bar and we didn’t have a name. We were just about to lock in the name Weekend at Bernies and someone yelled out “Chevy Chase!”, which in our drunkenness ended up morphing into The Griswolds.

The fact that we are named after a classic American movie family seems to rate well with our yankee pals.

The Griswolds’ debut album, ‘Be Impressive’, is available from Friday, 22nd August.

Watch: The Griswolds – The Courtship of Summer Preasley (Live At Music Feeds Studio)

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