Le Grotto puts it all out there with their newest track. “Blue Swallow Inn,” about the death of Le Grotto frontman Laith Scherer’s abusive father, is a cathartic mix of grief and painful memories, beautifully laid out through song.
“[He passed away] five years ago now … last year I kept having these wild flashbacks of this motel we stayed at once as a family when I was younger,” Scherer tells BTRtoday.
Though the track overall is slower and more delicate than Le Grotto’s usual gritty garage sound, about a minute in, the tempo speeds up and guttural vocals hit hard before returning to the quiet feel of the intro. Then, another minute later, it goes back into a whirlwind of punk rock chaos.
Though “Blue Swallow Inn” might be Le Grottos’ most emotionally soaked track, the trio—Scherer (guitar/vocals), Will Willard (bass) and Alek Gayton (drums)—is comfortable wearing their hearts on their sleeves. “I think we are pretty vulnerable, exposed people,” Scherer says. “Any change in our life gets reflected in our music.”
Listen to “Blue Swallow Inn” premiering below and read the entire interview with frontman Scherer below.
BTRtoday (BTR): How did you all meet and come to form Le Grotto?
Laith Scherer (LS): I moved to Olympia three years ago and met Will at some bonfire, I think. We didn’t talk much about music, mostly stupid jokes. Then I ran into him at a bar a few days later where I told him I wanted to start a band. He wanted to be a part of it, but didn’t know how to play bass, so I said I’d teach him—turned out he was a natural at it and didn’t need much help.
We played a show with a band that Alek was in and enjoyed his playing so much that we asked if he would join Le Grotto. We met in Alek’s basement almost everyday and just started writing songs. As it turns out, we are also really great friends and care a lot about each other.
BTR: Why the name Le Grotto? Google says a grotto “is a natural or artificial cave used by humans in both modern times and antiquity, and historically or prehistorically” does that mean anything to the band?
LS: Someone I was seeing had recurring dreams of a grotto, so we looked it up in some dream dictionary where it said a grotto, in dream form, represents sexual suppression. I thought that was an interesting idea, being that most of “20-something” interactions and decisions I was around had to do with underlying sexual tensions. So that started an interest in the name, but we didn’t choose it until I started realizing how it was a perfect image of where we lived. Olympia is dark and wet most of the year, but always teaming with life and energy—it’s always changing every time the tide comes in.
BTR: What kind of music scene does Olympia, WA have?
LS: Olympia is one of the craziest places I’ve been. It’s such a supportive and awesome place to make music. I think my favorite part is how extreme the artists I’ve met here have been. It’s the whole spectrum in a tiny place, so you are always able to experience new sounds and new community. There’s not just one thing there, although, grunge and punk are the staples. It kind of feels like there’s always an underlying sadness and chaos that’s hard to explain.
BTR: How do you think your music has evolved in sound and style since you started playing as Le Grotto?
LS: I like to think we are growing as musicians and our influences are always changing. We don’t want to make the same song twice. I think we are pretty vulnerable, exposed people, so any change in our life gets reflected in our music.
BTR: Tell me about this song premiering, “Blue Swallow Inn.” What’s the story behind it?
LS: “Blue Swallow Inn” is a lot about my Dad passing away (five years ago now) and being left to deal with our family dynamics that were pretty abusive. My Dad was a hitter and I just thought that’s how Dad’s were. Last year, I kept having these wild flashbacks of this motel we stayed at once as a family when I was younger. I just remembered the bizarre arguments. It feels therapeutic to express that and hopefully addresses some of the taboos we have about death and the grieving process. We try to just let songs happen. So someone starts playing something and we just build off it til it feels done.
BTR: Can you paint me a little picture of what your live shows are like?
LS: We try to make it as exciting as possible. We love to have fun and I think that energy shows up most of the time. I never want people to feel uncomfortable or stiff at our shows—there’s always lots of beer and sweaty legs and too many cigs.
BTR: Who or what are some of your inspirations musically and just in general?
LS: Inspirations at the moment: Neil Young (constant), Krill, Heat Shimmer, Spellbinder by Gabor Szabo, and Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon
BTR: What are some other projects you guys work on other than Le Grotto?
LS: My solo project SOB DYLAN and being a good person. Will got in a motorcycle accident a few months back. He’s almost fully recovered and gets his cast off this week, so he’s probably going to be using his left hand a bunch. Is that a project?
BTR: What should we be keeping an eye out for in the future of Le Grotto?
LS: We are touring to the east coast at the end of August. We will be at a few festivals, Otis and Lincoln Calling, on that stretch. We have this song and more coming ‘atcha soon, so be on the lookout and follow us on whatever social media account blah, blah, blah.