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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Diggin' The Graves

by Joel Marshall

The guitar tones float out of the buzzing amplifiers. The plastic piano keys plunk out a simple melody. The bass bumps methodically, pouring out of the suburban garage and into the neighborhood. The Graves, on this warm winter afternoon in Pasadena, California, are practicing in their parent’s garage for their upcoming studio recording session. The band is composed of three brothers; Sean Graves, the youngest and biggest spokesman for the band, is the lead singer and guitarist, Chris Graves, a twin and a goofball, plays electric keyboard, and Kevin Graves, the second twin and academic, play bass guitar. They sound like The Kooks combined with Plain White T’s, playing the kind poppy, slightly folk-tinged brand of music that is currently so popular. “I’m the older twin,” Chris laughs. “There is no oldest if you’re twins, plus I’m taller!” Kevin jokingly replies. They continue with their practice and Sean sings through the microphone, “Hey, hey, we are a band, we play our music loud.” The practice is brief, lasting only thirty minutes, long enough only to quickly run through three songs. Sean is off to play drums at a practice with the church’s worship band, Chris to work, and Kevin to do homework.

The history of The Graves goes back essentially to their birth. Born on May 2, 1989, Chris and Kevin were put into movies at an early by their parents, Jerry and Joyce Graves. “We had a friend in the movie industry, and he told us that they really needed young child twin actors,” says Joyce. The twins appeared in television shows such as The Bold and the Beautiful, Life Goes On, and most famously, Cheers, in which they played Frasier and Lillith’s baby Frederick Crane. Sean, born July 21, 1990, followed in his brother’s footsteps, appearing in films such as Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Catch Me If You Can. From these films, a bond was developed between Sean and Assistant Director Dave Venghaus, who worked on the previously mentioned films as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and The Terminal. This friendship grew, culminating with a proposal by Dave in 2008. That summer he approached the Graves family and asked if the three brothers were willing to make a mockumentary about a band that was just beginning. There were no distributors or studios that were behind the idea, it was just Dave. The hope was that they would film a few episodes, maybe post them online, and then pitch the show to a studio such as Disney or Nickelodeon and see where it went from there. What ended up happening was a little bit different. They filmed a few episodes, and even pitched them to a couple television executives, but it never took off the way they wanted to, and the year 2009 came and went in much the same fashion.
In late 2009 and early 2010, the three brothers had an opportunity to work on the film Valentine’s Day with Garry Marshall, the director of movies such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. The plan was for them to have a song in the film, but when the studio’s decision overruled Garry Marshall’s, that went out the window. However, they still had an extra role in the film and, more importantly, developed a connection with Marshall when he invited them to jam at the place he was filming. “At one point, Marshall strolled in there and was jamming around on drums with us,” Sean recalls, more than a year later still giddy about the experience. The high point continued, as the band was invited to play at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, a famous nightclub on the Sunset Strip that has hosted such artists as Neil Young, Genesis, and Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Graves were added to this list, and played the venue a total of three times in 2010, culminating in an opening performance for Jonas Brothers label-mates Honor Society on December 9. “That show was amazing,” says Sean. “I’ve never seen people get so excited so see an opening band. When the curtain went up, there were 300 people screaming, it was pretty crazy!” The Graves sound engineer in the studio, Joe Fikany, was in attendance, filming them on his digital camera. “When that curtain went up and everyone was screaming, I felt like a proud father. They have worked so hard, and they really deserved that reception.” The Roxy show resulted in discussions with Jonas Records, the label for artists such as Honor Society and the Jonas Brothers. Although nothing definite has resulted yet from those discussions, Hollywood Records has hinted that they want the Graves to tour with Honor Society at some point in the future. “They asked, ‘Hypothetically, would you join the tour with us [Honor Society] if we asked you?’ So we just took that to mean that they would ask us,” Kevin says. Also in 2010, the brothers started work on their first official album, professionally recording it at an intimate home studio in Los Angeles. Now, in March 2011, they are finishing up the album and anticipating the next step in their hopeful careers.

Being brothers, The Graves are also highly influenced by their familial ties and interpersonal relationships. At a young age, they learned to play music by way of their dad. A graphic designer, Jerry Graves also has an affinity for musical instruments, and so there have been instruments in the house. “For as long as I can remember, there have been acoustic guitars and keyboards in our house,” says Sean. This of course fueled their passion for music, as well as their musical ability, as they learned both from his passion for playing music, as well as his time commitment in practicing it. From the time they were toddlers, the three brothers were beginning their musical careers, sitting at a keyboard and messing around. The brothers also all go to the same church in which they were raised, and now play on the worship band there. They share the same friends and go to the same community college, and being in a band together has only strengthened that bond. “We’ve learned a lot about each other, and grown closer together because of the band,” says Chris. “Just all of the frustrating and stressful moments where we’ve had to pull together have brought us closer.” Sean says, “We have been pursuing the band stuff pretty steadily for the past three years or so, and there have been lots of times when people have told us they would sign us, or put us in their show, or something like that, but obviously nothing has ever happened.” “Ya, that has been very frustrating,” says Kevin, but I feel that since we’re brothers it has been much more bearable. I don’t know if I could have dealt with all of those ups and downs if it wasn’t my brothers I was in a band with.” But this year could be the year where they are pulled apart.

Sean calls 2011 the bands “make or break year.” There are a number of opportunities for them on the horizon. Gary Marshall is currently filming his next movie in New York City and has asked the band to be a part of this one also, and in an even bigger capacity, casting them in a small role as an up and coming band that is working with a the lead character. “We’re only going to be in one scene,” says Kevin “but it’s cool, they sent us some posters they made up of us that will be in the background. It says ‘Graves World Tour.’” Sean adds, “It will definitely be a lot of exposure for the band…as long as the scene doesn’t get cut!” The band is also finishing up recording their new album, hoping for completion in the next month, after which they will release the album on iTunes. And of course, the hope of touring with a band, any band, whether Honor Society or not, still looms. If all of this doesn’t work out, the brothers plan to move on with the rest of their lives, pursuing an education and moving the band to the backburner. Chris wants to study film at the University of Southern California, Kevin wants to major in geography at University of Colorado at Boulder, and Sean wants to intern with a local music studio learning about music production. And with album and concert ticket sales on the decline for the past number of years, it will indeed be difficult for the band to make it big. As a few big record labels have given way to a large number of smaller, independent labels, the music industry has become more easily accessible, but at the same time more crowded, increasing the number of bands competing for the listeners ear, which has in turn heightened the importance of social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and Twitter. The Graves have widely utilized all of these resources and more, changing their band name on all of their social networking sites from “Diggin’ The Graves” to just “The Graves” in an attempt to be more focused and taken more seriously. But with so much competition, no matter how focused or serious about success they are, they still struggle to be heard and have a long road ahead of them.

The practice comes to a close. Sean quickly un-straps his white Fender guitar, Chris turns off his keyboard, and Kevin puts his bass in its case and closes it. All three of them are headed in opposite directions, off to their respective places and duties. They talk to each other about what they are doing as they wrap up, “What time are you off?” Kevin asks Chris, “Four,” he replies. “When are you done with practice?” Chris asks Sean, “Five.” “Hey let’s do something after you guys are done!” Kevin adds. “Maybe watch a movie?” “That sounds good!” Chris and Sean both say in unison. Kevin adds, “We can’t stay up too late though, we have to record early tomorrow morning.”

Reporting Notes:

-The Grave’s YouTube

-The Grave’s Twitter

-The Grave’s Facebook

-Chris IMDB page

-Kevin IMDB page

-Dave Venghaus IMDB page

-Gary Marshall IMDB page

-The Roxy Wikipedia

-Jonas Records Wikipedia

-Chris Personal Facebook

-Kevin Personal Facebook

- Sean Personal Facebook

-Extended Q&A with the three brothers

-Short Q&A with Joyce Graves

-Five hours of observation at their house, both of practice in the garage and normal, daily routine.

-Attended an hour and a half church service with the three brothers and saw Sean play drums here.

-Short conversation with Joe Fikany


  1. Great article! Christopher and Kevin were so adorable in "Cheers". I have an Yahoo Group dedicated to them at: http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/xfilestwins/

    I didn't know Sean was an actor too! I tried to find his name on the net but couldn't find anything! What are the names of his characters in "Minority Report", "A.I. Artificial Intelligence", and "Catch Me If You Can"? I saw all these movies but I don't remember him!

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