Hometown: New Orleans
Band Members: Ted Joyner (vocals, guitar), Grant Widmer (guitars, vocals)
For Fans Of: Apples In Stereo, Dr. Dog, The Strokes
New Orleans indie-pop duo Generationals released their second full-length album, Actor-Caster, several months before we talked to him for our “Best of What’s Next” issue. But guitarist/vocalist Grant Widmer, while flattered by the recognition, isn’t even sure what the title means: “Is that something that’s usually used to describe a debut album or something? It definitely feels cool, though—better than being ‘Best of What Used to Be.’”
Even though Generationals (which also includes vocalist/guitarist Ted Joyner) have technically been around since 2008—with two studio albums and an EP to their credit—it really feels like they’re just getting started. After years of playing second fiddle as opening acts to bigger name indie-rock bands, they’re now fresh off their first headlining tour, where they’ve been able to spend time choreographing stage and lighting elements to match their winsome, ’60s-indebted tunes. But hell, it’s been nice just to have a little time to tune up.
“As an opening band, your job is different,” Widmer says. “As the headliner, the pressure’s on you, and if no one comes, it’s on your neck, but you also get to do it exactly the way you want. As a support, it’s just a different role. You’re there to play for a half-hour, not get in anybody else’s way, take up as little room as possible, and not drink the main band’s beer.”
The two post-grads earned the success of Actor-Caster and the headlining the old-fashioned (and, often, difficult) way. Widmer and Joyner have been friends since early high school, but it was during their college careers at LSU that they truly bonded over songwriting. Disillusioned by a mediocre college music scene, the duo spent their free time collaborating on four-track demos in their dorm rooms. They eventually formed The Eames Era, a short-lived indie-pop act rounded out by a pair of Joyner’s architecture school buddies—but graduation, as it often does, became a time of division, and, ultimately, new beginnings.
While their bandmates chose to pursue the nine-to-five, Widmer and Joyner instinctively knew they’d carry onward. “We just kind of hit a wall,” says Widmer, “but Ted and I just realized we wanted to keep going; we were willing to take jobs that we could quit periodically to go and do tours. That ended up transitioning into us working in films here in New Orleans, kind of project-based, where we could work, save up some money, and go record and go tour without having to worry about asking time off from our jobs. We kind of structured our lives in such a way to where we could work really hard in shorter bursts, save money, then spend the money on trying to put a record together and buying a van, stuff like that. It was never a question of whether we could keep going; it was just how are we going to be able to do it. It just sort of worked itself out.”
Their full-length debut, Con Law, introduced the band’s trademark style: Dan Black’s Phil Spector throwback production, breezy hooks delivered in sleepy-eyed sighs amid a colorful, R&B-influenced overdub swirl—but the album never really took off, polarizing critics and failing to stand out from the late ’00s indie heap. Actor-Caster is the sound of a more mature, confident act, tracks like the Motown-garage hybrid singalong “I Promise” and the retro-synth ballad “Yours Forever” demonstrating the full scope of their songcraft.
As musical partners, they have a connection that’s deeper than ever. But, as Widmer attests, being in a band with your best friend “is a tricky balance to walk. I definitely think it would be easier sometimes to have two people who have a sheerly professional relationship—because then there wouldn’t be any reason not to just lay it all out there. And I think we did have to navigate through that when we first started. But where we are now, we have confidence in what we’re doing that no amount of criticism from the other guy is going to wound our egos that much. … We’ve kind of joined our artistic visions to the point where, if there’s any kind of criticism, it’s coming from the place of trying to make sure the vision is clear and that the album that comes out is going to be as good as possible.”