Grabbitz discusses the evolution which led to his debut album, ‘Things Change’ [Interview]
Over the past few years, New York producer Nick Chiari has risen to the challenge of personally handling every aspect of music production on his own. A skilled producer, vocalist and musician, Chiari has released a string of strong tracks on Canadian label Monstercat and independently under his alias, Grabbitz.
Chiari’s musical inclination was obvious from early on — the producer wrote his first song before his age hit double digits. Since then, he’s produced everything from hip-hop to drum & bass to alternative tracks. The versatile artist’s style continually evolves each release, with the greatest example being his debut album, Things Change.
Released on May 19, Things Change consists of 12 markedly unique tracks. The album’s tracks include standouts like “Play This Game,” a gritty song that features a grinding guitar riff and even brief rapping from Chiari. Other noteworthy tracks like rock-heavy “Follow Me” and emotion-packed “Don’t Let Me Go” were released ahead of the album and were warmly received by Chiari’s loyal fan base.
We caught up with the producer alongside the album’s release to discuss what went into this LP and he was excited to talk about the new direction he’s taking with his music.
Chiari’s previous release, the Better With Time EP, released on Monstercat in February 2016, is indicative of the vastly different angle he pursued on Things Change, which Chiari says is due to a realization of wanting to create a personally authentic sound.
“Things Change is a more drastic step into the direction I’ve been wanting to go in, which is more of a rock hybrid sound,” he says. “Better With Time still had its tiptoes in the dance world and, while there’s a little influence from dance music in the new album, Better With Time had more. This new record leans into the full song spectrum.”
Chiari says Things Change has been complete for nearly a year. Instead of releasing it immediately, however, he spent time planning and assembling a live show to accompany it.
“We realized these records weren’t DJ-able. We had to take a step away from it and build the live show and get the performance right. We also had to transition everyone who was expecting EDM at the time to accepting a different kind of sound from me.”
As an artist, Chiari says he’s constantly growing and exploring new sounds. Looking back at his productions from three years ago, he says he realized he was trying to “emulate the EDM-type sound [his] idols were making at the time.” Once he felt like he had perfected those sounds, though, Chiari recognized it wasn’t truly the music he wanted to make.
Grabbitz embraced his rock, alternative and hip-hop roots and the musical inspirations he grew up listening to, like Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, and Eminem. These influences shine through in Things Change, evidenced by its embrace of a wide range of musical elements and a deliberate desire to not be confined to an EDM-constricted box.
Things Change is a 12-song musical journey about accepting change and learning to grow with it. It’s about being able to understand that things aren’t always going to be the way you thought they were going to be, Chiari explains. The name has a dual meaning, because the record is about that happening in his own personal life, but for the fans, it’s also what happened with his music.
“It’s a double meaning I take a lot of pride in. I overcame a really tough time and came out better, and now the music’s going to be come out better, too.”
Going forward, Chiari will be stepping away from DJing for the most part and focusing on his newly-developed live performances. Fans who come out to the live shows are going to be in for “a wild ride,” he says.
“I’m going to perform my heart out at every show,” he says. “I may still DJ at after parties, because that’s still really fun, and I love dance music.”
He also notes that the next album is “pretty much ready” already, and that he will be touring with his live show later this year.
The artist says that feedback on the album so far has been overwhelmingly positive but notes the importance of deeper, analytical listening. “I hope people get to marinate on it,” he says. “Everyone takes a certain amount of time to digest music, so I just want to give it time to sink in.”
Musically, Chiari has already learned an important lesson that takes some artists decades to realize.
“You can’t sacrifice your art for anything. When it comes to people wanting you to make a certain sound or make money of of you… You can never let anything like that control the art, because then you’ve already lost.”
As an artist, Chiari notes that he has the ability to make music that he truly feels and is passionate about instead of feeding into what the industry wants.
“That’s what’s going to set this album apart,” he says. “It’s not made for any specific reason or to try to appeal to a certain group. It’s just me.”
Read our full interview with Grabbitz below.
It’s been a little over a year since Better With Time came out. What are some key differences between Better With Time and Things Change?
Things Change is a more drastic step into the direction that I’ve been wanting to go in, which is more of a rock hybrid type of sound. Better With Time still had its tiptoes in the dance world. There’s a little influence from dance [music] in the new album, but Better With Time had more. This new record is a little more leaning into the full song spectrum.
How long has this album been in the works?
The album’s been complete for a long time, actually. It’s been a year, almost. We basically realized that these records weren’t DJ-able. We had to take a step away from it to build the live show and get the performance right. We also had to transition everyone who was expecting EDM at the time to accepting a different kind of sound from me.
Will we see more of a focus on your live performances going forward rather than DJ sets?
100 percent. You’re going to get a wild ride. It’s going to be a crazy show. I’m going to perform my heart out at every show. I may still DJ after parties, because that’s still really fun and I love dance music.
How would you say you’ve evolved over the past few years as a musician and producer?
I feel like I’m evolving all the time. I write music every day and naturally, everything just slowly grows and expands every day in different areas. Sometimes things get more experimental in certain areas and you get better at something. Over the last three years of putting out music, I realized I was trying to emulate the EDM-type sounds my idols were making at the time. Guys like Skrillex and people who gave the feeling of community where you can make these records and make the coolest wobbles and dubstep sounds. I was really into that. But when I felt like I’d perfected that, it wasn’t necessarily the records I wanted to make as a person. You only get to live one time, so I need to make the records I really want to make: full-blown songs.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over those past few years?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned musically is you can’t sacrifice the quality of your art for anything. When it comes to people wanting you to make a certain sound or make money off of you… You can never let anything like that control the art, because then you’ve already lost. As an artist, we have the ability to make songs, and you’d better believe I’m going to make what I feel instead of feeding into some big money play or industry play. That’s what’s going to set this album apart. It’s not made for any specific reason or to try to appeal to a certain group. It’s just me.
Who has had the most influence on your music over the years?
I love Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, Eminem, The Gorillaz… I get inspired by a lot of different people. My library contains an outrageous amount of music.
What’s the next instrument you’d like to learn how to play and why?
I can play a little bit of cello, but I would never in a million years that I’m a cello player. I want to master that. There’s a whole lot to master. It’s so much harder than it looks.
What has listener feedback on the album been like so far?
The feedback so far has been fantastic. A few of my really diehard fans that I love to communicate with have just been flipping out. That is very important to me. Everyone’s really digging it. I hope people get to marinate on it. Everyone takes a certain amount of time to digest music, so I just want to give it time to sink in.
What do you hope people take away from the album?
This album is about accepting change and learning to grow with it. Being able to understand things aren’t always going to be the way you thought they were going to be. That has a double meaning, because the record is about that happening in my own life, but to the fans, that happened with my music. It’s a double meaning that I take a lot of pride in. I overcame a really tough time and came out better, and now the music’s going to come out better.
What do you see for the future of your music?
I have the next album pretty much ready already. I have a new song coming up with Savoy. We’re supposed to be playing a couple of shows together, because our styles fit together and coincide in a way. I’m going to keep releasing content and music and videos. We’re going to be playing shows, so you can come see the live show later this year.