Q&A: Sad Cops- Grayson Harris,Christian Meyer, Nathan Fox, and Mills Chaiken
Written by Bianca Smith
“Can you do me a solid and make sure I don’t swear in this interview?” Grayson Harris, 18, lead singer and guitarist of Sad Cops says. “Replace it with fun words, like Spaghetti-O’s.”
Christian Meyer, 19, bassist, clarifies: “He’s baptist and from Texas.”
“Same with me! I can get fired from both of my jobs,” Nathan Fox, 21, new drummer and Sad Cops fan chimes in.
Mills Chaiken, 20, guitarist, smiles and takes in their playful banter off to the side of the screen. The guys say that he’s the type that doesn’t say much often, but when he does, it’s always ground-breaking.
Between their goofy interjections lies a true passion for creation. Genre conventions aside (the consensus was tweenmo, even though no one in the band is a tween), Sad Cops exemplifies what it means to be young. Raw, honest and unapologetic, their 11-track EP Liam Murphy Holt prompts listeners to confront their own delusions, using Liam’s stories as a guide.
Shredded: How did you all meet?
GH: Tinder. (Everyone girdles out a deep-bellied laugh) We’re a very serious band.
CM: Sorry about this.
GH: I haven’t been to college yet, I don’t know what beer looks like.
CM: Grayson wrote the first EP and then came to me to start a live band, right?
CM: We had another drummer, Taylor Goode, and then we picked up Mills at UNT. He lived two doors down from me and Taylor Goode. And we picked up Nathan recently, he’s our new drummer.
GH: So Mills, how long have you been in here? Month and a half, two months?
MC: I’d say two months.
GH: And Nathan’s been in here for a week.
NF: One week!
Shredded: If you had to describe the person to your right in one sentence, how would you describe them?
(Everyone “ooo’s” in unision)
CM: In one sentence?
GH: Can it be a run-on sentence?
Shredded: Go for it. I’ll edit it down.
CM: Here are three key words for Grayson Harris. Ankle braces, child, baby face. *Added later: Child actor*
GH: That’s nice. Okay, father-in-law. He’s my father-in-law. I’m getting ready to marry his daughter Melissa.
CM: He’s made an entire identity for Nathan’s future daughter.
Shredded: I feel like this might tear the band apart.
CM: I’m afraid it will, I’m afraid that imaginary Melissa—
GH: Wait I still get one more. Youth pastor. No, I’m going to replace that! I’m the leader of this band, I can do whatever I want.
CM: This is the child part.
GH: This is really good though. Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
(Everyone screams “yes!”)
NF: This is hard for Mills.
MC: I don’t have a personality—
NF: He’s not a real person. I’ve known him for like eight years and I still don’t know who he is as a person. Should I do it like a dating website? I’m going to go with knee high socks, sensitive, and deep-thinking.
CM: He drives a hell of a whip. It’s a Mazda, it looks like a compact car but it has doors on the back and it’s the dopest thing.
Shredded: I’m going to include a photo of it in the piece. Poor Mills. What color?
MC: It’s red. It’s pretty bad.
GH: I dig it.
MC: I’m going to do one for Christian, and I’m going to say he’s like Beyonce but nicer.
Shredded: Mills, what do you have against Beyonce?
NF: I don’t know what that means but that’s good.
GH: You know what we should do to keep things interesting? Fire one of you, every single week. You’re next!
Shredded: Well, Grayson, I have a question for you. Can you unpackage Liam for me? I know he took up two years of your time, but why denial and delusions?
GH: When I first started writing, I didn’t write about real things. I didn’t have any real problems— when I started writing I was 14 or 15, I was in high school and I lived in a suburb of Dallas so I had everything going for me. White privilege to-a-T. I came up with a bunch of characters— there was Liam Murphy Holt; Mr. Octopus who I still write about but I don’t call him that anymore because people think that’s— I mean I dig it but— Mr. Octopus is super chill. But I started writing about Liam and had never stopped. The first EP that we did, it wasn’t at all about Liam but I had all of this material that I had written over the years and I was still writing about him. I came up with about 10 songs only about him the summer after that EP. He’s someone who has really interested me—
CM: The next album is going to be about Melissa.
GH: Oh boy.
Shredded: And the title is going to be, “Father-in-law.”
GH: I always make puns that Melissa is going to be a Fox, because his last name is Fox.
Shredded: They’re bullying you Nathan! Since it’s been awhile — you’ve been writing about Liam since you were 14 and now we’re here four years later — have you seen a progression in his character as you’ve grown older?
GM: Yes. He was a reflection of someone in my life who has struggled with mental illness— delusions specifically. I really cared about that person. As I watched them progress, I saw myself progressing because I think there’s a bit of me in Liam too. Liam has changed. He’s gone from— there’s earlier material where Liam kind of hangs around high school girls although he’s not in high school. We all know those dudes, right?
Shredded: Nathan, since you’re so new, how do you relate to everything that Grayson is saying? It’s a four-year-old project for him but you’ve been around for a week.
NF: I understand commitment to art and a concept. Something that I really like is that everything that he just told you was the first time I heard it, but you can tell through his lyrics that it’s more than him— it’s a character. I was super down with that. I believe that we as people get to build our own characters in the choices we make so it’s something that I understand and enjoy. I also like the music a lot— I’ve always wanted to play in a jingle-pop band.
(Everyone laughs, GH says “what!”)
NF: A jingle-indie-pop-rock band. Most of my projects right now are jazz-focused, which is the opposite of this. The back and forth is fun.
Shredded: That brings up a point of curiosity for me— When I think of Denton and Coppell, I don't think of tweenmo or power pop. Can you describe the moment where you were like, “this is us— f*** what anyone else thinks?
CM: We haven’t faced a lot of, “You don’t really fit in here.” Mostly people have been pretty excited about it.
NF: I have different impressions on that. Mills and I in the past eight years of our lives have had a lot of conversations about how we want to build a musical persona. I have one hundred percent settled on that being, a band being true to itself is when the individuals are being true to themselves.
NF: So hopefully, when I’m playing, I’m being true to myself but I’m still being true to the record.
GH: He’s an incredible drummer. He didn’t play on the record or on the EP but some of the stuff he’s doing is so amazing—
CM: This is after one rehearsal, by the way.
GH: I don’t care, I’m so into what he does. Same with Mills, he’s a jazz major and he’s an incredible guitarist.
CM: I’m the worst musician in the band. They make me feel bad about myself. I play bass though so I can hold my own.
Shredded: You can hear your tweenmo personality splitting throughout Liam Murphy Holt, though. Dirty Sheets has this rawness that I love about a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel tracks, where your ballad Silence Suddenly turns folk by the last minute of the song. Walk me through the process you all go through when crafting your sound.
GH: The high-energy guitar-driven tracks are preferred by our listeners—
NF: (In a British accent) More rock n’ roll—
GH: But with that being said, I grew up listening to a lot of melancholy music so—
NF: Veggie Tales!
CM: Rock day one.
GH: No, I listened to Sounder. Do you know them?
CM: You listened to Sounder in the fourth grade?
Shredded: He came out of the womb listening to Brand New.
NF: My favorite band in the fourth grade was Rascal Flatts.
GH: I write this stuff in an exercise room that doesn’t get used in my house. A lot of the songs that were written, the more melancholy stuff, were probably written during the fall or the winter of my freshman year.
Shredded: How many people have been in love with you?
GH: I’d say at least six.
NF: I had a few people stalk me.
CM: I don’t know if that’s a brag though—
GH: I think it’s a brag.
Shredded: What about you Christian?
CM: I have a girlfriend, and she’s the best. She’s super supportive and I love her mucho.
Shredded: And Mills? You’ve been quiet. What does the band mean to you?
MC: I mean, at first I was just curious as to what was going to happen. Like, these two dudes just showed up at my door one day saying, “Hey, do you like indie music?” I said, “You’re going to have to be a thousand times more specific.”
CM: Before that happened, I had maybe had five words with him. We lived in the same hallway so we saw each other at hall meetings and when we’d go to the bathroom everyday, which is a special bond to have with someone. But we knew who each other was and I knew he was a jazz guitarist. So I went to his room, because we're like, “yeah, we could add a fourth, that could help out at shows—”
MC: I’ve been meaning to ask you this, and I feel like now is a pretty good time. So, were you planning on me being there, or did it matter? Because I lived with another jazz guitar player—
CM: Can we tell you about the conversation we had before we went over? It went something like this: “There’s these two jazz musicians down the hall—”
CM: “We can just knock on the door.” I’m glad we went with you though.
NF: I got the gig because Mills got the gig.
Shredded: Do you see this as a long-term get up?
MC: Yeah, I do. I really like the music a lot. And that was the thing— if these two dudes showed up and they showed me their shitty band, I would be like, “No.”
MC: They showed me [their music] and I was super stoked about it. I said, “Hell yeah.”
Shredded: What’s in the works? I know you just came out with Liam Murphy Holt— do you plan on touring, jumping into a new album?
CM: I’m trying out for the Dallas Mavericks and then I know that Grayson is trying out for the NBA.
NF: But that’s because they don’t have a CNBA which is the Children’s National Basketball Association.
GH: I’m about to clean house right now.
NF: Grayson keeps threatening to fire us.
CM: That’s his running bit.
GH: Well, we just put in a drummer. And we have a new-ish guitarist. So we’re going to keep working on these guys right here for a couple of weeks. Then, we’re going to play shows. Maybe go to Austin or something?
CM: Can you get us a show in Chicago?
GH: I think we’re definitely a Bernie [Sanders] band.
NF: I’m a Christian.
GH: So you’re definitely [Donald] Trump.
NF: No! I’m a Christian.
GH: Oh, so you’re Hillary [Clinton]?
NF: No! I’m Bernie.
CM: You are?
NF: No, I’m a Christian. What are you Mills?
MC: It’s f***ed, I don’t know.
CM: He’s right.
NF: I wanna see— keep going.
Shredded: No, that can be this conversation. Music is political and I think—
GH: We have political songs. We have three of them!
NF: I was actually planning on this band being the next Rage Against The Machine.
GH: No, we’re going more of an Audioslave thing.
GH: Dude, I thought for such a long time that I got flagged from the NSA because when I was a sophomore or junior I went through a huge anarchist Christian thing. I read so much Leo Tolstoy. Basically, I was super idealist. Like, if everybody— and this is not messed up at all, okay? If everybody followed the word of God, there would be no government and no need for it. But that’s kind of messed up because everybody has to be Christian, right? But then it was this thing where if everyone was a part of an Abrahamic religion, then, everyone could live with no government. I didn’t like the government because they kill black people a lot. They still do. But then I was like that’s still messed up because what about those people who don’t want to believe in a God. What about people who don’t want to have morals, and just— freedom of choice. I don’t believe that anyone has free will but that’s another conversation...We all have worked in churches and Christian’s name is Christian, so.
Shredded: Is that a big part of your life?
CM: Nathan’s for sure.
NF: It’s probably the biggest part in my life. I’m on production staff at a big church in Dallas and I’m also a post-production surround-sound mixer engineer for Day-Star television network, which is the second largest Christian television network in the world.
Shredded: I’m sure you know what the general idea of what being a Christian entails. What do you say to that?
NF: Whenever I talk to people— at least at home, my friends know me. I think that I’ve portrayed Christianity in a decent way. For me, I would say that I’m a conservative christian when it comes to theology but I’m a cool person when it comes to politics. There isn’t a black and white divide. The more that I make God be bigger, the less that man becomes important. Man-made institutions become less important. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean that I can’t have a tattoo or I can’t play in a tweenmo band. It can be thoughtful and loving but isn’t damning— I work at a Christian television network. And I realize if you put Christian in front of anything — Christian television, Christian music, Christian comedy — it automatically means less quality...it’s weird working at Day-star because most of the Televangelists that come through, I don’t line up [with their beliefs] at all. Most of them are liberal in their theology but conservative in everything else— I’m the opposite. I believe in a powerful God, I don’t believe in a God that’s going to give me money if I love him.
GH: That’s what I thought you meant by “liberal theology.” Where I come from—
(Everyone breaks out in song, singing Beverly Hills by Weezer)
Shredded: When you are talking with people who are not faithful in the same way, what’s your response?
NF: Just love, that’s it really. A lot of my friends aren’t Christian. That’s because of the way Christianity was presented to them when they were kids.
GH: I abandoned Christianity from middle school— in the 10th grade I had an epiphany where I was like, I can be Christian and I don’t have to deny science. I don’t have to hate my uncle who is gay. I don’t have to believe anything preachers are saying, I can have my own form of Christianity where I attain some of what they’re saying but I don’t have to buy into every single one of their beliefs. My own interpretation of the Bible is— well, a very personal thing.
CM: Many like to circulate generalities— and that happens to every religion, really. With those generalities come this very black and white, all or nothing mentality. Just because someone is Christian doesn’t mean they’re a homophobe or close-minded.
GH: I guess it’s just coming to terms with your faith. I could never 100% not believe in the Bible but I could also not ever dismiss what’s in my science textbook. I see this stuff in the real world and you’re asking me to believe in— I mean I know you’re probably a hardcore creation dude—
NF: I’m pretty close.
GH: I’m into this dude who believes that God put evolution in place— you know what I’m talking about?
NF: So my thoughts on that is that that isn’t’ a salvation topic, so, you can believe whatever you want.
CM: That’s gnarly.
GH: I’ve never heard someone say it like that.
NF: If I believe in Jesus and you believe in Jesus but you don’t believe in creationism, then that’s still not a salvation topic. A salvation topic is Jesus.
(GH and NF High-five each other)
GH: Woo! That is good. That’s fantastic. I’ve never heard anyone say that before.
You can find Sad Cops' music on their Bandcamp page.