Michelle Belle and Carter Stellon met at an open mic event nine years ago, and their two-piece band the Grimtones is as strong as ever.
They have not always been a two-piece band. When they started, they were a six-piece band, but they spilt up to pursue different things. With only two members left, Carter swapped guitar for drums.
“We both play multiple instruments, and we wanted to do an album,” Belle said. “So we were just like, well, if we cannot have other people, let’s just play all the instruments in the album.”
They each play more than five instruments on the album, so their live sound is a lot different than their studio sound.
Going from a six-piece group to a two-piece has been one of their biggest struggles. They have to constantly change their recipe to fill in the spots that former players used to occupy.
“In all reality, there are a couple of songs on our album—we just cannot play it,” Stellon said.
“Sometimes I have to play the bass line with my thumb and solos with my fingers so I can keep the bass line going,” Belle added.
Taking influence from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, they follow the motto, “players have to be able to play.”
“We always wing it on stage—it is much more satisfying to play when it is not completely rehearsed,” they said, almost in unison, collaborating on sentences. “We play the instrument and not the song.”
After working together as songwriting partners for nine years, they automatically follow and understand each other, and the best part of having fewer members is that it’s much easier to jam.
Stellon said their songwriting process is different every time.
“There have been times when we have studio time and we need to come up with a song in three days, and then we have had songs for years and years, and they are still not done,” he said.
The Grimtones have always written the music first, before the lyrics. Their steps of production usually go in this order: melody, music and then the lyrics. Belle is the mastermind behind most lyrics.
“It is half and half,” she said. “If I write a song and there’s a part missing, Carter usually knows exactly what parts to put in.”
The duo is often described as a soft rock ’n’ roll band, but their sound is different in every song. Stellon pointed to The Beatles and their varied sound to explain the band’s interest in trying new things.
The two consider their 2014 album, Sing the Body Electric, to be their biggest achievement to date. They said that their sound has matured a lot from when they started in 2008, when they worked together as studio musicians in Dogwater Studios.
“It should have taken two weeks to record our album when it took us a year because we messed around and experimented,” Belle said. “We kept microphones under garage doors to record rain and [clamped] tambourines to bass drums to get certain sounds.”
The Grimtones released a single, “Words,” in December, 2016. They’re now planning to release an EP and, eventually, a full-length album.