WAHKIAKUM CO., Wash. - Krist Novoselic walks into the once-abandoned creamery near a small town in rural Washington and locks the door behind him. His Chihuahua, Pompey, follows the 6-foot-7 rock star past instruments, speakers, mismatched chairs.
“I bought [the creamery] at a tax auction from the county and I just opened it up because it was very dark, suffocating, damp,” Novoselic says. “So our band uses it; it’s a good spot. It’s kind of a central spot here in Wahkiakum County.”
Novoselic is most well-known as one of the founding members of Nirvana, but 25 years after the death of Kurt Cobain, he can be found here, jamming with his new band, Giants in the Trees. He prefers the town not be named. Curious fans already wander by, asking if he’s the former bassist for Nirvana, so Novoselic often locks the door so his band can practice in peace.
This is his fifth band since Nirvana disbanded after Cobain’s death, and it seems to be sticking. In 2016, Novoselic met Jillian Raye, Erik Friend, and Ray Prestegard met at a Washington Grange meeting. The four started jamming, instantly realizing their chemistry as musicians.
Since then, the band has released its debut album, opened for the Foo Fighters -- with former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl -- and is getting ready to release its sophomore album. Novoselic says the biggest thing for building up the band, or any band for that matter, is connecting with the audience because it takes time, especially for bands like Giants in the Trees, who are “fiercely independent.”
“There’s a price for that because we’re not in these mainstream promotional channels as much as we could be,” Novoselic says, with Pompey curled up in his lap. “People don’t really know us and they come to a show and they say ‘Oh there’s that bass player [from] Nirvana. What’s his name again?’”
Novoselic says that, despite this, the band holds audiences’ attention, and he credits that to how they switch things up. Raye sings and plays a number of instruments, including banjo and bass, and Novoselic’s accordion has been a part of the band since day one.
“You notice more and more people singing along that know the songs or [are] yelling out requests,” Novoselic says. “Bands come and go; they can be a flash in the pan. But we’re on our second record now, which is good for me because all the other bands I’ve been in since Nirvana never made a second record; I’ve realized that.”
Mid-way through the interview, Novoselic walks downstairs to check a bucket he’s placed below the sink in the creamery’s tucked-away bathroom. They’re working on the plumbing. Pompey trots right alongside him, nails clicking on the wood floors.
There’s a wall stocked with shelves full of books on The Grange, rock and roll, beat writers, and electoral systems. There’s one on electing the senate, one on proportional representation in Ohio, another on Japanese election systems. There’s even a textbook on comparative politics from his studies at Washington State University, where he got his degree in social sciences.
Novoselic returns and talks about his first band, Nirvana. He met Kurt Cobain through basement hang-outs with a band called The Melvins and the two decided to start their own band.
“[Kurt] was very interesting, [a] great artist, open-minded, funny,” Novoselic said. “We thought, well why don’t we start a band? Kurt was already writing songs and developing as a songwriter, just a talented artist.”
They bonded over what most people didn’t: the underground.
“We were outsiders. We were bored with society, television, music, film, anything [that] was just mainstream and kinda lame. We were enchanted by the underground,” Novoselic says. “We were into bands like Black Flag and the Butthole Surfers and the Meat Puppets and we felt that was the true music and we faulted society for not recognizing that. It was through that punk rock music scene where we found each other and not only connected with each other, but we connected with a whole community of people that supported us.”
Novoselic says the community that formed around Nirvana and the punk rock and, eventually, grunge scenes found common ground to share needs and values outside of what was mainstream at the time. He says without the clubs and the community that supported punk rock and grunge, there wouldn’t have been a Nirvana.
“It was like an association of people, and it was outside of the state, outside of corporations or the mainstream delivery structure of media,” Novoselic says. “It was before social media and the Internet, so it was human association. It was just people who shared a certain world view.”
A quarter-century later, Novoselic is still at the grind and finding that human association with Giant in the Trees’ audiences. On top of the release of their second record, Giants in the Trees is playing the McMenamins Elks Temple opening in Tacoma, Washington, on April 26.
Kari Jakobsen is a senior in journalism and media production at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
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