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AudioDamn! Discuss Wearing Suits, French Toast, and Jeb!

Music InterviewWeston PaganoComment

With their curious name, sharp attire, and German accents, AudioDamn! stands out amongst the current crop of upstart debutants hitting the tour circuit this year, but below the blazers burns an energetic mixture of pop, rock, and soul demanding to be heard in its own right.

The Germany-based, Austria-bred trio consists of frontman Oliver “Oli” Wimmer on vocals and guitar, Ali Grumeth on backing vocals, guitar, and bass, and Daniel "Mudi" Mudrack on drums. Affable and eager, their tight suits and polite demeanors don't detract from the rambunctious rock and roll performances they provide, somehow exuding even more energy than the few recordings they've released via an eponymous EP through EPIC Records earlier this year.

Though still largely unknown to broader American audiences, their short headlining tour last year and current opening slot for Highly Suspect have allowed the band to begin quickly winning over new fans with their charm.

Sitting in the dimly lit underground green room of Chicago club Double Door as middle band on the bill And the Kids played over our heads, AudioDamn! sat down to talk with Transverso next to vandalized wallpaper posters of fellow falsetto Maroon 5 and fellow German Zedd.

TRANSVERSO: So you say you just approved the final master for your full length debut today. Congratulations, how does it feel?

OLI WIMMER: It feels amazing because we’ve been working on it for quite some time. I mean, this feels like a lifetime of work from back when we started the band. Actually, I feel like the starting point of the band was this album. We had our first gigs, but then we decided let's record a full length, Ali produced it, and we just started off with this crazy idea of playing everything live in one room. I think that was three or four years ago or something, and it grew so much over the years. I did this demo for the song “Radar” and we always played more gigs than we intended to. 

ALI GRUMETH: Our manager once said something that’s coming [true] now, “You have your whole life for your first record; you have a few months for your second.” [Laughs] That might apply for us too but there were some songs [made] during this album we’re already pushing to the second album.

But this is definitely a super special moment. How many times [was] the album almost released or we had almost deals? We were talking to so many people in Europe already and it all didn't work out, and to be true, it felt kinda like maybe having an English speaking rock band in Germany just does not work out. People kept telling us “Yeah, you’re doing great, but do it in German.” We refused. Those days I really felt like maybe we really should let go because it’s so fucking tough to even keep a band alive so everyone can pay their rent, and it was funny because those were the days where things took off in America. We met our management, we met our publisher, and three months later [EPIC Records CEO] L.A. Reid called and wanted to have us signed. [Makes explosion sound]

WIMMER: Transcribe that as the sound of a car transmission. [Makes sound of car taking off] We were on full throttle all of a sudden, it was crazy. Now we are on this American journey seeing the whole country, playing all of the cities like Chicago, and going to the south, going to the small places and the big places, and it’s crazy. Ali said it started out in a basement in Germany, this album, and it came to life in a van in Chicago. 

You said you refused to make music in your native language. Is there a reason why you strictly speak in english? 

GRUMETH: Yes, because it just felt better for us. We were listening to English music since we grew up. We were so much influenced by Green Day, by Foo Fighters, by Nirvana. That was most of the music we listened to, and when we founded this band we decided to found a band that is about the maximum fun. Let’s just always do what feels the best. And we discovered it feels the best for us to do it in English somehow because it sounds more familiar, and so we did. German lyrics are a bit different than English ones. 

WIMMER: Yeah it’s so funny how people listen to music differently in different languages. We both feel like [with] German music people care more about lyrics, I don’t want to generalize it, but it feels like the songs are always a little more about the lyrics and less about the melody, so hooks in Germany can be phrases, can be words. Hooks in America [are] changing now, though, with all the urban, what’s it called, trap or something. [Laughs]

GRUMETH: That’s a good point. English sounds different, it’s a matter of sound and that English speaking sound appealed more to us. 

WIMMER: And English has more of a melody than German, generally. 

GRUMETH: That’s a good description.

WIMMER: You know it’s hard to say, some people might disagree, but for me English was a better language to sing, just as a singer I enjoyed that much more. 

So speaking of the culture gap, I remember the last time I saw you you spoke about playing a Jimi Hendrix cover to an Asian audience that didn't know who he was. How did that happen? 

GRUMETH: [Laughs] We met a university in Germany, a really small university named PopAkademie, and they supported us so [much]. They sent us to China, and the city of Mannheim, where the university is, they had an exchange program going on with the Expo [in Shanghai], so they sent us there. They sent us to France and Norway, all over the place. 

WIMMER: [But] China was crazy. The funny thing was we didn’t even have to play and people were going nuts. We went up on stage and all these people were like “Oh they look different! What are those guys doing? What’s happening?” And we’re just setting up, you know? And then we played and I think [Ali], you said “You guys know Jimi Hendrix?”

GRUMETH: I thought it’s a joke that works every time, but everyone was just fucking looking [confused.] [Laughs]

WIMMER: It wasn’t as funny, it was just absurd.

GRUMETH: It was funny! Imagine you bringing a joke that always works then all of a sudden you see 400 faces staring at you, with no expression in their face! [Laughs]

What was it like playing rock music for people who had no preconceptions, people who didn't know the genre. Was it interesting to perform with that kind of clean slate? 
GRUMETH: I can't tell but all I know is they appreciated it so much. They were partying hard. They loved the music. We love playing for them although they didn't get that one joke, that’s okay. [Laughs] It’s just a different world.

WIMMER: It’s an interesting question. I’ll think about it and call you later when I’ve thought about it.

Is there a notable difference when performing for European audiences versus American audiences? 

GRUMETH: Yes, I would say how it’s amazing how we get the most appreciation in America which is the greatest honor for us as well. I mean, we’re sitting in the backstage room with posters from Biffy Clyro, Kings of Leon, Maroon 5. We traveled all those places like our heroes, the people who made us play music, we even worked with some of them, like mixing engineers, mastering engineers, management, whatever, and it’s such an honor to be in a country where all the music comes from that influenced us and play for an audience that is freaking out on our music. I’m even missing the words to describe that.

MUDI MUDRACK: Absolutely.

In a Twitter Q&A that you guys did I saw you said the American food you love most is French toast but the German food you miss most is bread. How do you explain that? 

GRUMETH: [Laughs] There’s just a huge difference between what you get as regular bread here on every corner versus what you get on every corner in Austria or in Germany, that’s just a different bread. That’s the whole story and we are used to that bread, some of us for almost 30 years, others just 20 years. [Looks at Oli, the youngest band member, and laughs] Just used to that bread, that's the whole story. We’ll bring you some!

It’s just funny because French toast doesn’t sound American and is made of bread.

GRUMETH: But it’s not French, right? [Laughs] I haven’t been to France a lot but I never saw French toast anywhere in Europe.

WIMMER: I think all around the world French toast has the English name so it’s got to be British or American. But we have to find that out, there’s no French name for French toast.

GRUMETH: But there you go, that’s one of the basic differences, French toast is sweet and super soft. That’s cool, I love it. But it’s the opposite of the bread that we used to eat when we grew up.

While we’re on the subject, what’s been the strangest thing about being in America? 

GRUMETH: The sizes. It’s all bigger. It’s amazing. When we came here we thought we could walk. When we looked up where’s the label and saw it on the map on our iPhone we thought “Oh, we could walk there,” but it turned out, oh my god, you can’t walk that distance! I mean [Mudi] does, he walks for hours. But also the sizes of the coffee, of the cars, of the streets. Oh my god, remember when we crossed that one street in LA without a traffic light and we just ran over there and, fuck, there were cars as high as my head and the street seemed so wide? [Laughs] It feels really unfamiliar. 

WIMMER: Since then we haven’t crossed the street once, we stay on one side. [Laughs]

GRUMETH: And the fact that can live our dream over here. That’s the huge thing. 

I don’t know if you guys know, but we recently had a presidential candidate named Jeb! with an exclamation mark at the end of the name just like you guys do. Do you think that that’s the way of the future now, punctuation at the end of brand names to distinguish yourself? 

GRUMETH: We know [about Jeb!]. I don't know, but if so then we started it off because we did it six years ago already, he stole that idea. We’re going to sue you! Be prepared! [Laughs]

WIMMER: Maybe he wanted to hide his last name, I don't know, it’s speculation. 


Do you have a story behind the name? 

WIMMER: Yes we do have a story behind the name. We were called Amsterdamn! for a few years actually, it was just kind of a weird joke and it just stayed our band name. When we got signed to EPIC Records lawyers and attorneys came and checked the trademark and it turned out somebody else had it, so we changed the name. 

I noticed you guys have a thing going on with the suits. Have you ever not been the best dressed band at a show or festival? 

GRUMETH: I don't think so. Just kidding. [Laughs]

WIMMER: I don't know, it’s a matter of opinion.

GRUMETH: It’s not about the rating, the reason why we do it, it’s some kind of respect for the audience, to show “Hey guys, we’re here for you,” we go on the stage and look nice for you guys. 

WIMMER: We want to play nice music for you and we want to look nice. 

GRUMETH: It also feels good to be honest. It’s also kind of a ritual, no one of us is wearing suits in our common life. It’s a special vibe, you know? When you put on the suit in the backstage room, like yeah I’m going on stage and trying to look good. It’s a ritual I would say.
WIMMER: You put on the suit, you’re AudioDamn! 

So it’s like a costume?

GRUMETH: It’s not a costume, we’re trying to be as authentic as we can be, that’s what the whole band is about. When we recorded the album we tried to find the maximum realness, but we can just make ourselves beautiful for the audience.

It’s kind of old school thinking, like a theater thing. It’s a matter of attitude. Some bands have more of a “Rock ‘n’ roll, fuck you” attitude which is also a cool thing, I love a lot of those bands, but for us we found out our attitude is kind of the “Thanks for being here, we respect you, we’re really grateful” attitude.

Oli, you had the number one hit single in Austria at age 17. How did that affect your career from the beginning?

WIMMER: Well I think it did a few things that I am grateful for because it’s a weird experience, managers running away with money, you know, it just made me realize I really wanna make music in spite of all that other stuff that I had to deal with. I met Ali which I’m grateful for, because we had the same manager and he actually connected us to play in a band together for that project back then.

That’s actually how we met, we had a different band, and actually our live sound was way too rock for all those kids that were at those concerts. The kids during these concerts were, you know, progressing to the back of the room and the parents would coming to the front of the stage to start dancing. That seriously is what happened a lot of times. That kind of thing, it didn’t feel right, so we made this band a few years later, fortunately.

GRUMETH: A few years later that same manager that Oli was talking about called us when we lived in Germany (that all happened in Austria). We [hadn’t spoken] to him for years, and he called all of a sudden like, “Guys, I just discovered AudioDamn!! [It’s] Oli and you and a German drummer, right?” [Laughs] Like yeah, that’s what it is! [He said] “I’m so proud! I’m the one who convinced you [to first work together]!” When we were both refusing to work with each other, we were both like, “No, you know I have my own crew, it’s all good,” but he kept talking to us like, “Just meet up! Just meet up!” and we met and thought, yeah that makes sense, and didn’t think of it that we still have the same band he forced us to have five years earlier.

I noticed you guys have a brass section in your recordings, have you ever thought about bringing that into the live performances?

WIMMER: We actually do incorporate the horns sometimes. Not on this tour but we play with horns sometimes and it’s great. I think it’s different experience. To have AudioDamn! as the three piece is something cool as well because it’s more rock, it’s more gritty, and with the horns it’s a little more polished, you know what I mean? It’s nicer, and the AudioDamn! three piece experience is more down to Earth. 

GRUMETH: But that is something that I think is awesome, we need to change, we enjoy so much to play our songs in different arrangements, we enjoy so much playing the acoustic sets, and Mudi is doing this amazing brush thing and going all the way with the dynamic when we play acoustic guitars, and I even play a nylon string guitar, and then on the other hand we have this super rock thing that we play as a trio, and we have this funky horn section thing going on, but I honestly really feel like we need to vary, because it just feels good, and yeah, it’s just fun. 

Anything else you want to add? 

GRUMETH: Stay true. We found out that is the only thing that will work out ever. We tried so much, all of us tried so much, and then we found this band, and we always said it’s about the fun guys, it’s about the reason why we make music. Let’s just always do what feels best. Of course you get distracted a lot along the way and people tell you, “Do this, do that, and you will have success,” but we always came back and we said we can do this and do that to have success in other bands, this band is about fun and the reason why we make music, and it’s the best thing that could’ve happened to us and the thing we want to share with everyone out there. Stay true because you will do best in what you love the most, and we discovered it’s the one that will take off.

You can buy AudioDamn! here.