Grade School’s alt-rock brings coming-of-age movies to life

The North Vancouver-based band discussed their new EP and tour

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer

Known around Vancouver as the Peach Pit twin of the alternative-rock scene, Grade School creates their own sound while still appreciating the bands they’re influenced by. Their latest EP, Be Cool, Grade School!, was released on May 18 and houses a surf-rock, new wave vibe that’s bound to have you bopping to the beat as you wander down to Kits beach. Based in North Vancouver, the band consists of Cody Schroeter (vocals and guitar), Ryan Ng (guitar), Julian Morency (keys), Jack Bunting (bass), and Gaspar Babeanu (drums). 

“Me and Ryan met through a friend’s band that we played in,” explained Schroeter, which occurred after a run-in at a Peach Pit concert. Their name alludes to how the rest of the band “met in preschool.” Ng had been “a fan of the band from the start” and played drums prior to joining them. “Everything kind of fell in place because I was a drummer but I wanted to play guitar,” he said. 

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

As the title of the EP states, the meaning behind the songs relates to experiences the band had growing up, from childhood through to adolescence. The EP’s first track, “Castle Fun Park,” drew influence from Schroeter’s experience as a kid who was too short to go on rides at the PNE. The prominent trumpet featured in this track sets the tone for the EP right off the bat. “It’s the first time we collaborated with another artist,” added Schroeter, as the trumpet was played by Len Plisic of local band Punching Knives

“I kind of just get a bit too loose with my metaphors,” Schroeter said. Ng added that it’s in their “subconscious” to write light-hearted songs about their childhoods. Their discography hopes to project the atmosphere of a “coming-of-age movie.”

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

Much of the musical influence for “Castle Fun Park” came from listening to songs by indie rock band Beach Fossils. Be Mine” — the EP’s closing track — took inspiration from local indie pop sensations Peach Pit. Ng added that the EP featured “the leftovers” of their previous album while drawing on inspiration from ‘80s new wave band, New Order.  

“There’s live drums on every track,” said Schroeter, saying the band recorded all sounds in the EP live. This was a new endeavour for the band as they had previously only used synthetic drum tracks with live elements when possible. They hope that, because of this, the album has more of a “band feel.”

“The writing process was much more organic, too, where we all gathered in a room, and we kind of built on together, as opposed to being much more separate,” Ng said. “We also experimented with more synthesizers.

“We still try to keep that made-at-home kind of lo-fi vibe with it,” said Schroeter. “None of these songs were recorded in a studio.” He laughed, lifting up his laptop to pan his bedroom, denoting what could easily be classified as bedroom rock. The genre has come a long way from the garage band era of the ‘90s, with Grade School moving the ordeal upstairs and keeping the rough-edged, indie sound alive.

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

The band is going on a Canadian tour with Black Pontiac, and their excitement is emanated upon the announcement. They look forward to writing “more music as fast as possible,” and having “new inspirations” from the road to tie into new bodies of work.

Follow Grade School on their social media as they document their BC and AB tour (June 26–July 13, with multiple stops in BC).

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