Shortly before things really got going on the Mount Currie main
stage last week, a lesser-known indie band was busy impressing the crowd that
had gathered around the Lillooet Stage.
Kristen Gundred, John Paul Labno, and Mike Krechneyak, the lady
and gentlemen of Grand Ole Party, are used to being the first ones up on the
stage, so they weren’t too worried when they began rocking out, sans sound
check, in front of a crowd of thousands early Friday afternoon.
“We’ve been the first band at shows before,” Labno said with a
With Labno on guitar, Krechneyak on bass, and Gundred on vocals
and drums, simultaneously, Grand Ole Party quickly grabbed the attention of
eager festival goers who tended to bounce from stage to stage like hyperactive
children, especially when they played their thumping, catchy hit, Look Out
It’s hard to believe that the diminutive Gundred can pack such
a vocal punch. Somewhat soft-spoken in conversation, she’s anything but when
front and centre at the drums and the mic. With an extensive range, her
powerful voice is also rich with soul and a raw, bluesy quality — a
unique combination that is a bit of a throwback to strong female singers of the
When the group first heard the massive lineup slated for the
Pemberton Festival, all three members agree that Tom Petty and The
Heartbreakers was the one act that really stood out for them. You see, the three
met up at university in California, lived together for a while, and went
through a phase where they religiously listened to an old Petty CD they’d
“borrowed” from Krechneyak’s father.
“We listened to it like every day,” Gundred said.
Krechneyak grinned and recalled a time when a somewhat
inebriated and belligerent Gundred got home, kicked open the door, and yelled,
“put on Tom Petty!”
While they were stoked to hear that one of their favourite acts
was playing at the festival, they weren’t able to stick around and hear him
perform the following night — that’s because this young band is busy on
the touring circuit, hitting spots all along the west coast this summer.
Labno said Pemberton Festival has been a totally different
experience from other festival gigs they’ve played.
“This is cool, I mean, it’s a beautiful area and some great
acts. South By Southwest is more just like insanity,” Labno said.
Gundred chimed in that they had played seven gigs in three
They also spent some time touring with another group at
Pemberton Festival, Vampire Weekend, before the group really blew up.
“We toured with them right before they became, like, megastars.
I literally said to them, ‘what the hell?’” Gundred said with a laugh.
Grand Ole Party’s overall sound comes across as fairly
aggressive, but the people behind the music seem to be anything but.
“There’s a time and place for everything, right?” Krechneyak
added. “So we’re not aggressive all the time.”
The years they’ve spent playing and living together seem to
have made them pretty comfortable around one another, and it’s clear that they
share a healthy sense of humour.
When asked how they decide what to play for a performance like
Pemberton Festival, Krechneyak reels off a response in the blink of an eye: “We
usually stand in a circle and start kicking each other in the groin. The first
words that come out …” he trails off with a laugh.
Their debut album, dubbed
, was released in fall 2007, and has garnered praise
for its pure rock ’n’ roll spirit and solid lyrics.
Now, they’re working on some new material, and plan on getting
back into the studio soon, while they continue to tour.
“I definitely love touring and I also love being a working
musician,” Gundred said, adding that she’s grateful to be able to focus on
their music, full-time.
If you didn’t check them out at Pemberton Festival, take a look at their MySpace page — their music isn’t to be missed.