Winnipeg’s Grand Analog samples more than just sounds

Arts & Entertainment/Music by

With a sound as eclectic as the members and inspirations behind it, Grand Analog is a dub/rock/soul/hip-hop group originally from Winnipeg. When describing the band’s style, front man Odario Williams says, “It’s openness, and it’s freedom, and it is our version of hip-hop.” While these are the driving forces behind the band’s unique sound, working outside the bounds of traditional hip-hop has challenged the band and its members at times.

“10 years ago, they’d put a weird name on trying new things: ‘experimental hip-hop’ or ‘alternative hip-hop,’ and that scared people away back then. People were afraid of those terms,” says Williams. “[We] decided to not be afraid of that, of going there.”

While Grand Analog has embraced hip-hop terms, their music has always transcended the confines of a single musical genre because of its broad mix of musical influences. Williams attributes this collaboration of genres to his upbringing in Manitoba’s capital.

“Winnipeg was the perfect community for my formative years as an artist because it was big enough to develop a community out of, or to share your music with, but it was small enough that the influences were broad. When you’re just small enough you know the rock guys, you know the bluegrass guys, and you guys will mix eventually,” says Williams.

The band takes a very progressive perspective on the idea of sampling, a predominant aspect of traditional hip-hop. Conventionally, sampling consists of taking a portion of another artist’s sound recording to reuse as an instrumental or added element in one’s own song. However, Grand Analog samples by infusing the feel and mentality of a certain genre with the band’s pre-existing hip-hop tracks.

“Instead of sampling a rock record, we played in a rock sense. There’s a certain cadence that comes out of rock and roll, [or] comes out of reggae. We were experimenting [with] those things because we can,” says Williams.

Adding to the increased artistic freedom of music today, Williams suggests that some musical genres are a thing of the past. “Hip-hop today really has no definition,” he says.

Williams likes to refer to Grand Analog as a “live project” instead of a band, trying to stress the ongoing process of experimentation and excitement that goes into their musical performances. Concertgoers can expect the same energy and experimentation they hear live to translate to the audio recordings. “I find it difficult to go to a live show … and then buy the CD. It doesn’t do it for me. I didn’t want that to happen with us,” says Williams.

Williams’ emphasis on performance stems from personal experience – his father was a prolific DJ in Winnipeg, and Williams and his fellow bandmate and brother, Ofield, grew up watching him. “My brother and I learned [about] the importance of having a good time, providing a good time, and sharing that good time with people, more than the music itself,” says Williams.

Williams sees himself and his music as a device meant to act as a method of escape for the listeners, instead of a soapbox for the band. This springs from a creative process that occurs separate from Grand Analog’s conscious intentions, and the band allows whatever flows out of them to be recorded and performed. This open process has led to a sound that is both organic and unique, and definitely worth a listen.