The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



Expressions invites you to “Take a Scuba Dive Into Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus” in our interview with recording artist Meredith Grotevant.


scuba’s” best melodies are soft on the ears, yet complex on the brain. Photos courtesy of Meredith Grotevant.

  Finding an artist with under 100 monthly listeners on Spotify is not terribly difficult. Finding a good artist with 18 monthly listeners on Spotify is nearly unheard of. 

  But “low and behold” (as track five is titled), recording artist Meredith Grotevant’s “self contained underwater breathing apparatus” is a miracle mix of hauntingly melancholic solo guitar and sparsely produced weaving melodies. 

  The former is best seen in my personal favorite off the album, “on the fritz.” It’s just a solo guitar, nothing else, playing in a style reminiscent of jazz improvisation. 

  “I was heavily influenced by jazz for many of the guitar parts on the album, and especially on ‘on the fritz,’” said Grotevant.

“The past few years of my life have been shaped by jazz music and jazz guitar playing. I spend a lot of time listening to jazz players like Julian Lage, Bill Frisell, and Pat Metheny. With ‘on the fritz’, I attempted to emulate their free verse, effortless playing. I think I took that inspiration and put a distinct spin on it. That’s one of the most beautiful things about jazz, there is such a deep history in the genre and its culture, yet jazz never stops growing and expanding with each new artist and listener who joins the community.”

  The melody of “on the fritz” is slow and pensive, the perfect soundtrack for a rainy day and a cup of hot tea. Grotevant expertly makes use of long, held-out notes, sometimes to the point of empty space, which many artists in today’s fast paced world of pop and overproduction are afraid to do. The space allows for reflection on the melody and serves as a contrast to the complex chords that punctuate Grotevant’s musical phrases. 

  “The acoustic pieces are inspired by a lot of the music I grew up listening to. My dad is a diehard Wilco fan and my mom has consistently introduced me to local Austin folk, rock, and indie musicians since I was very young,” said Grotevant.

“I typically gravitate towards quieter, acoustic music for leisurely listening, so it came naturally to me to initially start making similarly acoustic music.”

  This more acoustic sound is contrasted by some of the other electric based sounds on the album, such as on “yoggieville”. The repetitive electronic bells running throughout the song create a gentle yet complex background for the highly distorted electric guitar melody to play on and build off of, especially when more bells with countermelodies are layered into the sound. Grotevant’s weaving melodies are soft on the ears yet complex in the brain.

  “The electronic inspiration came from an interest I have in synthesizers and the mechanical workings of electronic instruments. I became interested in Moog synthesizers about a year and a half ago and after months of intense research and listening to the Moog classics, I knew I wanted to dip my toe into similar production styles. I bought a small synthesizer called the Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano last May as a first taste of the sounds and possibilities of electronic music and synthesizers in my music. I am working towards hopefully being able to save up for a dreadfully expensive Moog at some point in my life,” said Grotevant.

  However, it would be a mistake to say that self contained underwater breathing apparatus is all gentle production and pensive melodies. Songs like “double headed cockroach” and “frederick walton’s last hoorah” stay consistent with the sparse production of the album but carry a higher level of anger and force in their distorted bassline melodies and volume. In this, Grotevant exemplifies the emotional range of the electric guitar, contrasting her earlier expressive pieces with the supercharged buzzing power chords of “frederick walton’s last hoorah” that end the album.

  The constant throughout the album is guitar. 

  “Guitar is my main instrument. I have been playing guitar for about 9 years in different capacities. My main focus over the past few years has been classical guitar and jazz guitar, but I love to learn and play in any way I can. Throughout my life, I have played a lot of different instruments to varying degrees including banjo, oboe, violin, ukulele, mandolin, and piano. Still, I think the guitar will always be my favorite instrument and the one I put the most effort into,” said Grotevant.

  While some artists collaborate with friends to release projects, self contained underwater breathing apparatus was largely a solo project.

 “The songs on the album were made over the course of about a year. Everything from the actual musical production to the design of the cover art was done by me so there was no explicit work with my friends or anyone else,” said Grotevant. “Though I worked alone, I am lucky to know such amazing, creative, and loving people who deeply influenced me and the music I made on this project. Almost every song is inspired by a friend, family member, or my dog.”

  Any future projects from Meredith Grotevant will find a passionate audience in the music lovers of SLOHS.

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