JUNE FEATURE: SULLIVAN KING & GRABBITZ
· Artist Features
Sullivan King and Grabbitz - two of our sickest acts are redefining crazy in their latest collaboration.
Sullivan King and Grabbitz are two of the most exciting and charismatic artists to ever release on Monstercat. They have also been good friends for years. Sullivan King is well-versed in the way of the thrash, while Grabbitz is the kind of tunesmith that can make an ear-catching and melodic banger appear out of thin air. They ordinarily work on their own projects, orchestrating everything from the songwriting process all the way down to the final edits. With “Crazy as You”, they channel everything they both excel at and pour it all out.
Sullivan King’s metal heavy drops and in-your-face vocals were first introduced to Monstercat fans in the form of "Sight of Your Soul" back in 2017, a collaborative venture with Dirtyphonics. Since then, he’s not only been on an absolute tear, but he’s been exploring other facets of his musical capability. Learning how to adapt his approach to music-making has been a big part of his success. One of the ways he’s evolved as an artist is though diversifying his vocal performances: something you’ll witness in his latest collaborative release, “Crazy as You.”
Grabbitz needs no introduction. Making his Monstercat debut back in 2014 with "Here With You Now," he took the scene by storm and never let go. As one of the longest standing and most well-known members of the Monstercat family, whenever word gets out that he’s working on a new project all heads turn in his direction. His masterful display of instinct-driven talent as a producer, songwriter, singer, and instrumentalist have delighted fans in the community for years. With “Crazy as You,” he proves, once again, that he’s not slowing down in the slightest.
Sullivan King and Grabbitz are here with us now to catch us up on their latest collaborative project!
What is a typical day in the life like for you guys?
Grabbitz: My typical day in the life is wake up, exercise, eat—and then whatever’s on the queue for the day. A lot of different projects going on all the time, a lot of different little tasks going on. I’ll probably try and do emails and daily routines before I do any music. Then it’s just music all day until my body needs food and then I’ll feed it, and then I go back to doing whatever is required. Mostly I like to save my real fun musical stuff for the evening. Get everything that needs to be done out of the way during the day and then I get to play at night. It’s still technically work but I don’t consider it work.
Sullivan King: I get up, I make my coffee, I get to my emails in the morning, social media, all that administrative stuff, and then what he does. Save the music for a nice big block and then hammer away at lots of weird, disgusting sounds. That would be a home day. A tour day would be wake up, get on a plane, fly, get to a hotel, sound check, meet and greets, hanging out with fans and friends in the city, try the new food, play a show, do it all over again.
What are some of the things you like to do outside of the studio?
Grabbitz: I like to exercise. Basically take care of my body. I like to cook, I like to eat. I like a lot of food. I like trying new restaurants and shit. Friends. Just breaking up the work with seeing friends. We mess around, like we’ll go and get a cocktail and some food and try out places. What else do I like? I don’t know. My whole life revolves around music, basically, so there’s not a lot of outside shit, honestly.
Sullivan King: I’m the same way. I love to cook. Art. Anything artistic or creative is really what I try to put my time into. It’s kind of the same thing. I just moved to Miami last week, so I’ve been doing a lot of exploring. Like today, went and found a really wicked guitar shop... and then trying new coffee at different places. Just exploring.
So you just moved to Miami. What’s that been like? What triggered that and did you move from L.A.?
Sullivan King: I was born and raised in L.A. and, after 24 years of—and it was more so when I started touring—traffic, the airport, the cost of living, everything, I was just like this is stupid. I’m done. I hate it. I hated the weather...plus Grabbitz is there. I was like Miami is about as far as I can get in the States. But yeah, all my family is there. Miami was a new chapter. New place. Place to write.
Grabbitz: And it’s just fuckin’ beautiful there!
Sullivan King: Yeah, I mean, it’s gorgeous for what I get here. I’ll walk you over—if you can see it, I moved across from the water here. Waking up to this view, as opposed to a parking lot in Los Angeles, it’s just… total, total views everywhere.
How did you guys first come up with your artist names?
Sullivan King: Sullivan is the last name of Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, drummer for Avenged Sevenfold who passed away in 2009, and King sounded cool. I wanted to do something that was metal-related and I felt that that was a decent choice.
Grabbitz: I didn’t choose Grabbitz, Grabbitz chose me, to be completely honest. It came to me in a vision and it came to me at the right time in my life when I was contemplating a lot of things, at age 15. Basically, Grabbitz was my alter ego. It was the only way that I could feel comfortable putting whatever I wanted into my music, with a separation from myself. It’s the only way I could talk about shit that I wouldn’t want to talk about, myself.
How did you guys first meet and how long have you known each other?
Sullivan King: We met because [Grabbitz] was doing this acoustic video for one of his songs called “Way Too Deep” back in 2015. His manager was a mutual friend of my manager and one day I got a call that said come do this acoustic thing and be a guitar player for this Grabbitz guy, and I was like he sounds like a dick. I went in and recorded the thing and he was a dick!
Grabbitz: It’s actually funny how we became such good friends when, really, I was quite frustrated that day with [Sullivan King]’s playing.
Sullivan King: He was very upset with my guitar playing because I couldn’t get this one picking down on the acoustic thing ‘cause the timing was weird and it was just like off notes. It was this weird, polyrhythmic thing… I hadn’t even been told what to do, and I just go in and, on the second take, [Grabbitz] is in front of me and he’s like “WE’VE GOTTA FIX THE PICKING!” I was just like oh, this guy’s a piece of shit.
Grabbitz: I did not scream it, but I was definitely sweating. I was definitely like “We need to get this taken care of.”
Sullivan King: I think it is on camera somewhere and you straight up were just like “We’ve gotta fix the picking!” And you turned back and then totally like bit my balls off, and I was like, oh, this guy’s really… not a nice person.
Grabbitz: Well, we were doing a live take. It was all one shot, and then we were actually recording it live, so, you know, gotta be perfect. You know? Gotta be perfect.
What was the first song of each other’s that you heard? What’s your favourite song from each other?
Sullivan King: First song of [Grabbitz] that I heard was… I want to say "Here With You Now." The first one that I heard that I was actually into and was like this is a good song was “Float Away.” Maybe? No, it couldn’t have been “Float Away,” it had to have been something else ‘cause it was like April 2015 and I met you in December. I would say probably “Way Too Deep” was a good song. That was the first one that I heard that I really liked all the way through.
Grabbitz: I’d rather just answer the question with my favourite Sullivan King song, which would probably be “Lie.” That’s going off pure instinct. I have a lot of respect for a lot of the songs, but like on pure “I want to replay this,” it would have to be “Lie.”
How would you say both of your music styles complement each other?
Grabbitz: I know [Sullivan King] has been singing a lot lately, and I know that he’s been trying to expand out from just the dubstep realm and the heavy realm. Obviously, his guitar is like his third arm, so I guess I would say that. His contribution is very strong with the guitar lead. You’ve got that rock essence coming in and then when I open the song with these softer vocals, that’s like my little stamp. Then the guitar comes back in and you hear Sully’s vocals, and it’s just this marriage of I want to sing and what he wants to sing. We literally put all the shit that we’re good at into one song.
Sullivan King: I’d say with [Grabbitz], really great vocal melodies, especially lyrically. Instrumentally, what I brought in was knowing how to build and structure the kind of track. We complement each other in that way. He is—melodically, vocally so strong, and then me, on the instrumental side. We both bring in something that the other hasn’t even done or tried out as much. I came up with the guitar lead for the drop, and he came up with the •sings lyrics• like that whole melody was [Grabbitz]. We know how to make things work in that regard.
Grabbitz: I feel like we knew exactly what we wanted to make for that song, and then a few hours later we sat down and I had a MIDI keyboard on my lap and I was just like “Yo, these chords would be cool,” and he was like “Oh, no way! Play those ones again. Loop that again,” I’m like okay and we kind of laid some chords down, and then Sully, in like five seconds, was like we should do a verse and then this build thing and then we’ll do it so that it works as a drop too, but it’s also just more of a chorus at the same time as a drop. He knows more than I do about what kind of stuff moves the crowd in that sense. Then, all of a sudden, we were just jamming.
Sullivan King: It went by so quick, I didn’t even really think about it. It really was like we sat down after dinner at 7 o’clock, and [Grabbitz] was like let’s do something melodic. I would play it on the piano, then mic up that piano. The D-tuned piano in the intro and at the end is this super old upright piano that [Grabbitz] has at his house. We worked with that and manipulated the sound a lot, and that’s how we built and set the tone for the record. It comes in and it’s this beautiful chord structure that he wrote, but it’s this really wavering tone and everything that is not perfect. It sets this very beautiful dissonance for the track that I think is kind of exactly what our styles are too, which I like.
Grabbitz: A lot of times, when you work with other musicians—you’ll throw an idea out, they’ll throw back a contrasting idea, and the whole goal is to find someplace in the middle. Sometimes artists don’t waver a lot on their ideas, but it’s cool working with Sully because, usually, there will be like two to three back and forths, max, before there is an agreed upon thing.
Sullivan King: We tend to agree with each other. We can sit back and be less passionate and be a little more analytical about a situation. Sometimes you’re really attached to something, but it’s ‘what does the song the most justice?’ He and I are both really good at that. Being able to look at the other person and go, rather than what do I hear, it’s how is he hearing this and why is he reacting differently?
What aspect of Grabbitz are you trying to bring out in the collaboration?
Sullivan King: [Grabbitz] has such an incredible way of structuring chords and making things interesting and really wanting you to be a part of something that doesn’t sound like okay, cool, here’s what’s been in every track for the last 40 years. It’s why I love writing with [Grabbitz] is that he can always dream something that makes you go “Wait, what?” That’s just something that instantly catches your ear. I think that’s what made it really cool to work with him and obviously get to write on top of what he started.
What was the most challenging thing about working together, and how did it help you grow as artists?
Grabbitz: We’ve worked together on a lot of stuff, actually, and there has been times when we’ve come to major disagreements, but it’s the kind of thing that always helps you grow. In the process you might lose sight that the goal is to make the best song. It’s not about what you think is best or what you see. It’s a collaborative effort, and every time I work together with anyone, let alone being able to work with Sully, is you learn to get better at that. You basically grow as an artist because you learn everything from the person that you’re working with. I’ve learned so much just sitting behind him while he’s clicking. Incessantly clicking. I’m just like “oh, he put that kickdrum there.” I just download the knowledge and incorporate it into my own writing.
When did you get the idea for “Crazy as You”?
Sullivan King: It was a gloomy day in Buffalo, New York on March 12th, and it was after dinner at 7:34pm where [Grabbitz] and I entered the studio. The initial idea was basically… it’s funny ‘cause I want to say that it was something crazy... [Grabbitz] said “Let’s do a melodic dubstep thing, I like the stuff that you did like ‘Wake Up’ and some other things, so let’s just do something.” I said alright, “grab a keyboard. Start going.”
It’s funny, Deadmau5 talks about this in a master class that he did, where he’s just like I can make a 16-bar loop and it’s done. For me in my head, I know where all the rest of the pieces go. Once we have that first drop with the guitar line on top and the chord, that’s the idea. It’s all there.
That’s basically what we started with, and then [Grabbitz] was like “Get the fuck out” because he writes ideas usually on his own. So he started writing his verse, I went to go poop, and then I thought of my verse while I was pooping. I’m not even going to sugarcoat it.
Grabbitz: So true. He came in and he goes “Hey, how would you feel about me singin’ the second verse?” and I’m like “Alright, you got something written?” and he’s just like “Yeah, I got the verse written,” and I’m just like “O-okay!”
Sullivan King: I came out and I was just refreshed. I just jumped on the mic and I did my verse in 30 minutes. Then, from there, you nitpick at that point. You just kind of say Alright, what if we take a guitar out here… what if we just change this… The initial idea is an hour and a half. Cool guitar line, cool little vocal line, and you’re done.
It came together pretty quick! How were you guys able to fit everything into that short of a timeframe?
Sullivan King: I think writing doesn’t have to take long. Most ideas, and I’d say the best ideas are the ones where there’s not a lot of consideration, it’s just light and easy to just get into a room and go, alright cool, melody? That’s a melody. That works. Move on, next thing. You don’t worry about if this the best possible melody you could have right here. As soon as you have something that you like, you keep building on it. It gets better and better and then you write a line that you think is cool. Then you get the mix right, and then you make the drop impactful. It’ll become an easy thing and you can take as much time as you want. It’s the creative process that goes super quickly in my opinion.
What’s the message or theme that you want to convey through “Crazy as You”?
Grabbitz: I think just the word “crazy.” I think every once in a while, everybody has a little fit where they think they’re fuckin’ crazy for this reason or for that reason, or maybe I’m different or maybe I’m mysterious or maybe I’m not like everybody else… and then, pretty much, the other character comes in. [Sullivan King] comes in, or Sully comes in, and basically says it’s all good. I’m gonna keep trying to help you out, I’m gonna keep trying to be your support because we’re all crazy. It’s that kind of gig, there’s no real grand meaning. Everyone feels crazy every now and then, and that’s just part of it.
Sullivan King: It’s also just when it comes to stuff like this, you can make it whatever you want to make out of it. The story communicates to you however it communicates to you. The lyrics I put in came from a personal emotion at the time for me. Half the songs that I’ve written, I don’t remember what I was writing about because it’s in the moment. I go line by line. Most of my stuff, and [Grabbitz] is the same way, where we just kind of freestyle our lyrics for the most part. You just go oh that’s cool. That’s rad. That makes sense. I like that. I remember this thing. Boom, and everything just gets thrown together. Sometimes you write a song and you don’t know what the song’s about. You can figure it out in your own way, it’s just something that’s poetic and you get to find a meaning. That’s kind of part of the game, and it’s how I listen to lyrics. I wasn’t literally like Okay, I’m crazy, and I’m this person who feels crazy because of this other person. The lines just made sense at the time and I kept it at that.
Grabbitz: Sometimes, even if one line comes from a certain place or a certain sentiment, and then a different line comes from a different sentiment, that even further contributes to the crazy idea. It’s just like “Hey, I’m a mystery. Why don’t you solve me?” Take a listen to the ground while I’m walking, pen and paper to write down your clues. It’s fuckin’ weird man.
Sullivan King: It’s just poetic, and I like letting an audience just say oh my god, like—’cause everybody feels different. If I say this song is about this, then it’s only going to be about that. Someone might be like “Oh my dog, died. ‘Crazy as You’ reminds me of my dog.” If I say, well, it’s not about a dog, then you ruin it for them.
Grabbitz: That’s been my motto through my whole lyric-writing career, is to just make it personal but keep it broad enough to where it can be somebody else’s personal. That’s it.
What are some of the things you did differently for this song as a collab versus songs you do individually?
Sullivan King: What was different about the process? Me having more of a producer perspective. What a producer will do, for the most part, is overlook what’s going on. You know, he kind of sits and says “Alright, play something. Bring me a song or an idea,” to an artist or a writer, and the writer says “Okay… (A), (B), (C), (D)” and [The Producer] goes “Okay, cool. Now what I want you to do is move (D) to (A) and (A) over here.” The producer is this director of the room.
When you’re doing it personally, you’re playing all these different roles. You might be playing the mixing engineer and the writer and the creator and the sound designer and the engineer—and you’re doing all these things at once. It’s nice to step out of that and kind of be each other’s producer.
Grabbitz: That was really cool. That’s definitely what was different for me, ‘cause normally I work—so does [Sullivan King]—we work on our own shit. I produce my own records. So sitting, just communicating the ideas rather than actually punching them in and doing the things was definitely a change, but it was really refreshing and cool to do.
Using “Crazy as You” as a kind of measuring stick, how does this latest track compare with the music you released when you were first starting out?
Sullivan King: Well, this one doesn’t sound like absolute shit in a garbage disposal… and I think that this song especially, has just evolved in a way from what I used to do. When I first-first started out, it was how do I make the heaviest, grimiest, grossest shit I possibly can with breakdowns and solos and screams, and you don’t grow out of that. You definitely just kind of go ‘what would be a way to challenge myself’ because I can do that well and I can scream.
[Grabbitz], especially, had gone “Hey, if you’re going to sing this song, you need to get as soft as you possibly can, and you need to really have as much warmth and tonality,” which is something that I don’t usually do. I think that some of the bigger vocal songs I have, which was on Monstercat, “Sight of Your Soul,” or my Excision collab—even with those, I’m still giving a lot of energy behind the performance. [Grabbitz] was like “You need to strip this back as much as you can and really just get more intimate with the lyrics and the vocals,” and that’s something that I just don’t do. I noticed this was the first time I actually did that. So I think that that’s pretty much the best evolution that I’ve had in music… It changed songwriting for me forever.
Grabbitz: It was really cool, actually, because a couple days prior to even coming up with the idea, we were recording one of his other songs and he actually allowed me to be the producer on his vocals. That was really fun because those vocals came out really, really good and I think [Sullivan King] tapped into a little bit of that more intimate, softer vocal side, which I really enjoyed. That’s what spawned me being like, “Bro, you need to do that again.”
Sullivan King: It’s true, it was a very sort of Bring Me The Horizon-almost evolution of like Oh shit, I can do this now? Alright, cool. I think most metal artists also go through that. To have longevity, they learn to be more versatile vocally and all that. I think that that goes for many bands from Avenged Sevenfold to the Metallicas of the world. They learn to widen their spectrum of what they’re willing to do in the studio, and that’s what “Crazy as You” and working with [Grabbitz] in general has done.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Sullivan King: Be willing to hear other peoples’ ideas. Obviously I have tons of advice for people, but I’m going to say, specifically in relation to this piece, that, in collaborations, be willing to hear everyone’s ideas no matter if it seems stupid or whatever at the time, because it can always spawn something better. That’s the hardest thing for people to think about.
Grabbitz: I think, just to contrast that one, I would say always be willing to hear what other people have to say—but also, you gotta be really confident in your artistic vision. Always. Or else you won’t develop a sound that’s uniquely yours.
Sullivan King: I agree with that, and I also think that, to put those two together, is if you guys are in a studio and you’re disagreeing, you try both ideas out and you sit on it for a day. I think that’s the other thing, patience with a song. Sometimes a song isn’t gonna be done in a day or two. “Crazy as You” is, again, one of those examples where it was done quickly. That’s sometimes how it goes, and there are other times where you sit on something for a year or two. I have collaborations from 2017, 2018 that are still not done. It just takes what it takes.
BONUS FAN QUESTION:
Why do you guys keep your hair longer? Would you ever decide to go with shorter hair?
Sullivan King: I like it because it’s just fun, and it’s pretty, and it’s metal as fuck. That’s pretty much it. And if I would ever cut it… it’d have to be like for some huge movie role or some crazy shit and they’re like “You gotta cut your hair.”
Grabbitz: I don’t know what it’s like to not have long hair anymore.
Sullivan King: I don’t either, that’s the thing. I really don’t remember what it’s like to have short hair.
Grabbitz: I was always one extreme or the other. My hair was either this long or I would buzz it all off and give it to Locks of Love and it would just be completely buzzed. I went to my high school prom completely buzzed. I definitely would consider, though, cuttin’ it all off.
Sullivan King: I would, ‘cause hair can grow back if you’re not too old.
We would like to give a crazy huge shoutout to these two showstoppers!
When it comes to creative musical artistry, very few can even come close to what Sullivan King and Grabbitz are able to pull off on the daily. Their motivation doesn’t come from some sort of need to produce something new, but an undying love for what they do. Whenever they work together both as friends and top-end talents, they are always able to learn something from each other that will help them grow and become better artists. We can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us next!