Grandaddy Let the "Cat" Out

California rockers finish their fifth, and final, album

February 2, 2006 5:00 PM ET

Retrospection, reflection and memory shade Grandaddy's Just Like the Fambly Cat, the California art rockers' fifth and final album, due May 9th. As the capstone to the band's fourteen-year career, the record teems with the shimmery, layered pop of Grandaddy's earlier efforts cut through with edgier guitar sounds.

"There was a lot of stuff that needed to be addressed with the band," frontman Jason Lytle says of the tensions that grew over the year and a half it took to write and produce Fambly Cat. "We knew there were things we couldn't continue to do in the way we did -- but nobody was offering up any suggestions as to what to do now. How do we fix this? Do we all get makeovers and lobotomies? Or reverse lobotomies? But I was just so on the path of seeing this album through, I didn't want to know. And it caused a lot of friction, a lot of intensity."

Musically, the album invites introspection from its haunting, two-minute opener, "What Happened . . .," a skeletal piano meditation that layers a sample of two young children cooing "What happened to the family cat?" over small bursts of static.

"I wanted the child character to be somewhere between five and seven years old and to have some sort of cute voice," Lytle explains. "I actually have a friend who's in the process of recording these children's albums, so I knew he had access to a well-varied supply of kids and their voices. I narrowed it down to those two and started cutting and pasting and manipulating."

The album's title -- partly a reference to Lytle's childhood pet that died -- is, appropriately, about endings. "The thing that I've come to know cats to do, when it's time for them to go or leave or die," he says, "rather than make a big spectacle of it, they have this dignified way of disappearing."

That wistful quality is captured on songs such as the melancholy epic "Rearview Mirror," which Lytle says was inspired by the death of a close friend. "Some people get a little too wrapped up. They're not getting over things and moving on," he says. "So, rather than looking out the front windshield, you're fixated on the rearview mirror and you can't get on with your life."

While the album does feature sprightlier tunes -- like the mostly instrumental, ecstatic "Skateboarding Saves Me Twice" -- Fambly Cat is darker than that. "I'm a fan of that whole high-drama, shooting-across-the-open-skies sound," Lytle is forced to admit. "It's big and cinematic and corny, but I really love that stuff."

Grandaddy have no plans to tour behind their final release. And Lytle is currently preparing to leave the band's base in Modesto to re-settle in Montana. "Knowing how affected I am by my closely associated environment," he says, "I'm looking forward to surrounding myself with timeless and monumental and beautiful things."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »