“It was painful to have to do it,” drummer Tyler Smith says, “but we just couldn’t have that name anymore.”
By May 2020, Richmond-based rock band Drook, known to that point as She, had reached an impasse. Its EP from that year, “TRL 2004,” signaled exciting things on the horizon, with a propulsive sound and passionate singing from lyricist Liza Grishaeva. Listeners were taking notice, but the group had hit a virtual wall when it came to growing that fanbase with She as the band’s name.
“It was really easy to say, quick to share, felt good rolling off the tongue,” Smith says. "The only thing wrong with it was that it was really hard to find [where] it mattered. Instagram, Spotify. Ultimately, that is one of the most important things in being a band, if you want longevity.”
Fortunately, Drook is no stranger to change. Songs cross genre borders with ease, pulling together sounds from the indie, pop and alternative realms. It’s moving music in both emotional and stylistic senses. That versatility is essential, as Liza Grishaeva describes it: “I think that we all have pretty eclectic tastes. We all listen to so much different music. I think that we all would feel really bored if we were to stick to one thing.”
Their latest single is a triumph of reinvention. “She” was originally released on “TRL 2004,” but the recent remake — part of a six-track EP titled “Life in Estates” that’s due out Sept. 30 — gives a window into the band’s production progress, and into Grishaeva’s growth as a vocalist. Unchanged is the vivid image of substance abuse painted by the lyrics, which convey outward concern at the same time they hold a mirror up to Grishaeva’s internal experience.
Style: What was the motivation behind recording “She” a second time?
Liza Grishaeva: We revisited the song because we like it, but for me, the big thing was I wanted to update my vocals on it. When I was younger, I was coming from a more angry place, and the entirety of “TRL ” is kind of me yelling … I think I also just became a much better singer, and I wanted to show that. Having the skills that we have now, in terms of being our own producers… We honestly just learned a lot more from the time when we recorded on “TRL.” I think we wanted to bring that song up with us because we believe in it a lot, but we wanted it to fit with who we are now; honestly, just a more polished band, at the end of the day.
The lyrical themes on “She” are heavy. Did the words come from a place of personal inspiration or were they observational?
LG: I didn’t feel like writing about self-sabotaging in first person, so I wrote it as an observer, but I was definitely still referencing myself… I was also feeling a bit comedic and ridiculous, because I almost am poking fun at what is going on. I wouldn’t say I’m romanticizing it, but I definitely am being kind of ridiculous by calling this person “cool” that I was writing about. It was just what I was seeing at the time. Everyone I was around had a bunch of problems, and everyone was dealing with it [by] consuming substances, but that was [considered] cool. Nobody was perceiving it as a cry for help, whereas it definitely was.
Is everyone in the band located in Richmond?
Tyler Smith: We all went to school at VCU, so we moved here at different times, but all ended up staying, obviously, once the band became a thing. But all of us having a vested interest in doing something in Richmond in one way or another, we just never had a reason to leave. We all love this city. We live in Randolph, currently. It’s my favorite neighborhood in the entire city, and everything we need is here.
What was the experience of changing the band’s name like?
TS: It took us probably 12 months to commit to the name change alone, because it was so painful. It began as procedural thing — a really painful, boring, procedural thing — and now it’s heralded in the official external change from one band to another, which is true to what has happened with new songs and new members, with Matthew [Shultz] and Kaelan [Brown] joining in the fall of 2020. It may have been a procedural move, but it has significance beyond that, thankfully… It’s a scary thing to rebrand when you have so much momentum, but that’s essentially what happened.
You’ve had some momentum-building shows recently. How was opening for Beabadoobee at the National?
LG: The National was like a dream come true for us. I think that we’ve all wanted to play the National ever since we were kids. To open up for an artist like Beabadoobee who we all really respect [was] crazy… It was the best-fitting show I think we’ve ever played in regards to opening up for someone. It’s kind of difficult for us to feel like we match with someone we open up with because we go across so many genres, but the fact that her demographic was really young — I think that younger generations don’t care as much about genre, so they just really accepted us… People seem to gravitate to the fact that we participate in so many genres, and we go across sonic landscapes within [the] 45 minutes of our set.
Speaking of changing things up, what’s the motivation behind having the video for “She” transition into the one for the previous single, “Soap”?
TS: It’s part of a larger project that we’re still working on. We’re really interested in trying to make one cohesive piece out of six different parts.
LG: Everything is going to be tied together on the record in a similar fashion as “She” is. It’s all going to be like that, which is really cool. [We’re] finding a way to tie in everything that we’re doing right now.
To hear “She,” visit drook.bandcamp.com. The “Life in Estates” EP is out Sept. 30.