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Rising from indie obscurity in the mid-'90s, West Coast combo Grandaddy earned international acclaim with the exploratory space pop of their breakout albums Under the Western Freeway (1997) and Sophtware Slump (2000). Under the leadership of frontman Jason Lytle, the group maintained their success throughout the first part of the 2000s, then disbanded in 2006 as Lytle pursued several solo projects. In 2012, Grandaddy reunited for a series of tours, eventually easing their way back into the studio to record their 2017 comeback album Last Place. Grandaddy were formed in 1992 in Modesto, California by singer/guitarist/keyboardist Lytle, bassist Kevin Garcia, and drummer Aaron Burtch. Although a noisy, lo-fi approach characterized early recordings like 1994's Complex Party Come Along Theories, the addition of guitarist Jim Fairchild and keyboardist Tim Dryden in 1995 expanded the band's sound exponentially, fueling such subsequent efforts as the unreleased Don't Sock the Tryer and the 1996 EP A Pretty Mess by This One Band. Originally issued on indie label Will Records, 1997's acclaimed full-length Under the Western Freeway proved to be Grandaddy's creative breakthrough, and the following year the album was reissued on major-label V2, with "Summer Here Kids" earning Single of the Week honors in the pages of the NME. The Broken Down Comforter Collection, a compilation of singles tracks, preceded the 1999 Signal to Snow Ratio EP, which heralded a movement toward the vintage electronic textures further in evidence on 2000's superb Sophtware Slump. In 2002, the group released another odds-n-sods collection, Concrete Dunes, which paved the way for a busy 2003. That spring, Grandaddy released the Floating Debris EP as well as their fourth full-length, Sumday, and spent the rest of the year touring, making appearances at festivals such as Glastonbury. In 2005, they resurfaced with the Excerpts from the Diary of Todd Zilla EP, and a full-length album (Just Like the Fambly Cat) followed in 2006. The latter release was essentially a solo project for frontman Jason Lytle, however, as the group disbanded during the recording process. Lytle subsequently relocated from California to Montana. He reemerged in 2009 with his first proper solo release, Yours Truly, The Commuter, on Anti-. After releasing an album of improvised piano pieces titled Merry X-Mas 2009 at the end of the year, Lytle's next move was to form Admiral Radley with former Grandaddy bandmate Burtch, plus Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of Earlimart. Their first album, I Heart California, was released on Espinoza's the Ship label in July of 2010. Lytle next returned to his own songs and began recording his second album. Meanwhile, he was recruited by Fairchild to put Grandaddy back together for some 2012 festival appearances. The group played the U.K.'s End of the Road Festival, San Francisco's Outside Lands, and Paris' Rock en Seine Festival, as well as some warmup dates. Plans for an album were kicked around, but before that could happen, Lytle released Dept. of Disappearance in October of 2012, again for Anti-. In the summer of 2016, during another reunion tour that featured an old-school lineup of Burtch, Dryden, Fairchild, and Garcia alongside Lytle, it was confirmed that Grandaddy's fifth studio record was indeed in the pipeline. The band signed to Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton's 30th Century Records label and released Last Place in March of 2017. Despite getting the band back together for live shows, the album was written and performed by Lytle only, with just a bit of drumming from Burtch. Bassist Kevin Garcia died following a stroke in May 2017; he was 41 years old. Following his death, Grandaddy canceled all remaining tour dates and stayed dormant until the release of the song "Bison on the Plains" in late 2018. In 2020, the group celebrated the 20th anniversary of their landmark album, The Sophtware Slump, with a deluxe four-LP reissue that included a new reworking of the entire album played by Lytle on solo piano.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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