Keeping it positive

Local funk hybrid Griswald mixes musical genres into a positive patchwork

SORRY FOLKS, PARK’S CLOSED Local rockers Griswald, featuring Charlie Schonwasser (left) and Sean Adams, bust a move at the Brick.

SORRY FOLKS, PARK’S CLOSED Local rockers Griswald, featuring Charlie Schonwasser (left) and Sean Adams, bust a move at the Brick.

Photo by Tom Angel

The Brick Works, Tuesday, June 5

Not to be outdone by two energetic sets from local melodic metal band Spiritfall and new Dreamworks Records recording artist Pressure 4-5 (from Santa Barbara), Chico’s own Griswald brought its amalgamated funk-metal sound and positive vibe to a sparse, all-ages crowd at the Brick Works on Tuesday, June 5. The concert was a benefit for the Pleasant Valley High School music program.

KFM banners were strung up everywhere, and Griswald kicked things off like it was a packed house, delivering a tight and powerful set of originals from the band’s new album. This energetic five-piece rock/funk/world beat outfit is often compared to one of the musicians’ admitted influences, 311, but that doesn’t bother them.

“We really try to sound like everyone,” says guitarist Darren Bruestle. “We do listen to a lot of rock, but we also listen to stuff like ragtime and other jazz forms. You can take any kind of music and make it funky or heavy. As long as it is positive we’ll incorporate it in somewhere. And we’re flattered by comparisons to 311. I was never bored by their music, and so when I first started writing songs, I wrote them in that style.”

The “patchwork style” of rock is popular if the band can pull off the transitions from one style of music to the next. Anyone can groove to a funk, reggae or rock beat, says Bruestle, but you have to get there smoothly to make it palatable.

“It’s all in the transitions,” says Bruestle. “I spend most of my time writing them and making them flow.”

You try to find the underlying groove common to whatever genre you are trying to splice together, he says, and that becomes your glue.

Take the funk/rock jam “Plastic” from the band’s debut CD The Goods, or “Timeline Superhighway” from the recently released KFM CD compilation (also on The Goods), for example. Both of these songs performed at the benefit meld several styles yet progress effortlessly. By the time the world-beat rhythms unfold on “Plastic,” you’re ready for them. It sounds like it belongs there, not as a separate piece.

Other crossover crowd-pleasers included the reggae/rock/soul ballad “Conspiracy,” the Human Rights-like “Lotus” and the hip-hop/metal-inflected “Phoddey Wadda.” All of the group’s songs are happy, energetic and positive, says Bruestle, like those of his favorite band, Van Halen (original line-up).

“We like to try and embrace the negative,” he says, “ and spit it out in the positive. That’s why I think Van Halen was so important: They showed that metal can be positive. And that’s why we play music, to promote positivity.”

This positive outlook is apparently starting to pay off for the group. It not only won a Battle of the Bands contest in ‘98 after having only been playing for a couple of months, but also won the recent KFM-sponsored Battle of the Bands held at LaSalles several weeks ago. This recent accolade earned Griswald a slot on KFM’s newly released local music compilation (available at fine local record stores). Further, this night’s gig, organized by Spiritfall Road Manager/Dad Bill Spencer, like the recent KFM Battle of the Bands, was also a benefit for the Pleasant Valley High School Music Department.

“We had excellent radio support for the show,” says Bruestle, “But I don’t think that the people in charge at PV took our benefit seriously. They didn’t push ticket sales and barely any high-schoolers showed up. We enjoyed doing it, though. And we’d do it again.”

You can check out Griswald on the web at or at