The past 12 months have been quite a ride for New-Jersey-born, Toronto-raised Jordan Benjamin. The alt-rock singer-songwriter, who performs as Grandson, opened for artists like Young the Giant and Smashing Pumpkins, released two-volume EP A Modern Tragedy, and is now embarking on his first national headlining tour—a nearly sold-out endeavor. Grandson sat down with RIFF to look back at the journey in the newest episode of RIFF RADIO.
“I’m really overwhelmed by the support that we’ve had this year,” Grandson said. “I’m trying to just meet what I feel to be incredibly good luck and good fortune with preparation and work.”
For Grandson, music is only part of the story. He finds the message of social justice and positive social change to be just as important as the songs themselves. Across his recent releases, Grandson reacts to gun violence, police brutality, the opioid crisis, government corruption and a host of topical hot-button issues. After watching the world change following the 2016 election, Grandson found new value in using his artistic voice and platform toward a direction of affecting social change.
The politically minded artist expressed his surprise at the lack of urgency and aggression in rock and alternative music, not only given the divisive political culture in the country but also the genre’s early roots in protest, disruption and counter culture.
“What you do with that space that you occupy in a recording studio [and] on stage speaks volumes, even if you fill that space with silence,” Benjamin said. “In 2019, with all of the fascist or populist rhetoric, with a very deliberate campaign to keep people disengaged … your apathy or silence speaks just as loud.”
Grandson is quick to point out that the next generation of rock is trending in the right direction with artists like Badflower, FEVER 333 and Yungblud the future is bright for rock music with a purpose.
The Grandson sound brings together the crossroads of a number of influences, from to classic rock to hip-hop and electronica, all tied together with the urgency and forcefulness of Rage Against the Machine. It’s a raw energy that comes to life, bringing the urgency and immediacy that feels as though the revolution is about to arrive right there and then.
“My intention is to be in, some ways, provocative and let people draw their own conclusions,” Benjamin said of his live show. “One of the big things that we want to foster in people, whether or not they agree or they disagree, is to think critically about what they’re consuming.”
On stage he minces no words. The message is clear, and the power of the music and Grandson’s band underscore the point. The goal of the Grandson experience is not to pander to the widest possible audience, but to to encourage discourse and debate the issues that become the catalyst of conversation.
Grandson has taken his commitment to activism one step further, partnering with community organizations in each city along his tour to coordinate meet-and-greets based on either donations or engagement with the organizations to foster positive social change. The idea was hatched out of seeing the VIP experience become little more than an additional revenue stream for artists. By encouraging fans to engage with their communities, Grandson believes that the ‘Grandkids’ fanbase can help bring about social change.
With another election cycle right around the corner in 2020, is Grandson feeling more or less optimistic about the next generation?
“I’ve talked to so many people across North America and beyond who are fired up. When I hear those conversations you can’t help but feel there is a grassroots progressive movement coming,” he said, while offering one caveat. “Unless we’re able to hold accountable our legislators, to try to troubleshoot a broken system, I do still think that we have a lot of work to do. … I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’ll just say that we have a lot of angry songs still lined up.”
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.