Interview with Adam Greuel of Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Karin McLaughlin
By Karin McLaughlin / December 5, 2018
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

​Ahead of their return to D.C., Adam Greuel talked with ​us and shared details about the new album and what it's like on the road for HHG.  Appeasing the ​playful, laid back nature of the band, we also played a game that lead to a pretty classic band story about fame.  It's not what you think....catch them Thursday, December 6 at Gypsy Sally's.  This is one fun-loving band that you don't want to miss!

Karin McLaughlin: Adam, thank you so much for taking the time ​to talk with us - we're excited to have you guys back in DC ​at Gypsy Sally's.​  ​ Just for anybody who might not be familiar, can you ​give us the backstory of Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and ​the history of the band, maybe in a bit of a nutshell?

Adam Greuel: Sure - ​Horseshoes met when we were all coming of age ​in our college experiences.  We kind of just slowly but surely got to know one another​ as we were attending University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.  The band really sort of came out of friendships, more than, being sort of a calculated attempt at creating a band.  We just were in the same ​friends group and all really enjoyed playing music.  The, sort of, catalyst was that we would get together and play music ​at house parties and bonfires​ and things like that.​  We just loved doing it and it got better and better and then there was​ this bluegrass open mic​ about 35 minutes ​from where we were and we started going out there, ripping it up,​ and next thing we knew, people were trying to book us everywhere and it was like, the coolest thing ever.  The ability to do something that we loved and make money doing it with our buddies was this crazy, mind blowing experience (laughs).  So we kept doing that​ through college and the years went by​, our music evolved and we all got closer as friends.   Towards the end of college​, we were touring far outside of Wisconsin, while ​most of us retained another job and we​re trying to get our degree.  When we all graduated, we thought, "Well, we've go​t our degrees and could go in our fields of study, but ​this is really fun and it's going really well, maybe we should just see where ​this takes us."  We've been a band now for eight years and things have sort of evolved in ways, but we're lucky to still be five really good friends who get together and travel around and play music and have a really good time doing it.

KM: Y​ou mentioned​ that you guys​ came together in college, not on purpose necessarily, but that it worked really well. I also read that each of you ​has a very different background in music - you've got kind of a blues and polka and ​all these different blends of music that you guys have, maybe roots in -​ how did you guys ​figure out that this was the type of music that you were going to stick with​ and how did it ​come to be that you started playing this kind of bluegrass jammy stuff? 

AG: Well, it wasn't very calculated, it was more like​ just being open​.  You know, when you're close friends and you don't set out to be a band ​for better for worse, there's less intent to the process.  It was ​more of a go-with-the-flow kind of thing.   That allowed for all of these musical influences​ to sort of permeate our music and​ as a result, it led us to this kind of acoustic music that's not necessarily bluegrass, ​not necessarily old time and not necessarily jam grass - it​ just is​ what it is​ (laughs) and hopefully​, it's unique. ​ You hear from a lot of bands that ​they picked up acoustic instruments​ because it's nice to walk around and not have to lug an amp and you don't have that need for power - you can just start playing whenever, wherever.  That suited us in the very beginning and still suits us today, but ​you know, everybody brought these different things from their upbringing to the band just ​naturally.   It's not like we said, "Sam (Odin) - okay, you bring a jazz influence, Dave (Lynch) you bring blues and Adam, you ​bring your Grateful​ Dead vibe."   It wasn't a calculated thing​ like that.  Possibly the ​biggest aspect was Collin (Mettelka), having been interested in old time music, sort of convinced Russell (Pedersen) to take up the banjo and they sort of started playing more old time stuff together. ​ I had been really interested in and was already playing in a bluegrass band​ previous to that, so​ that maybe made the foundation that lead us in this direction.  When people ask us to define our sound I actually just say, 'new time, old time' - it's really rooted in old time music because of the style that ​Collin plays and the style of banjo that Russell plays. ​ 

KM: You​ guys also use the one mic for sound quite often - how, how difficult is that? ​ ​ How do you find space for each other and make sure that you ​respect each other's space, as far as a musician, when you have to​ condense yourself around that mic?  Do you ever find that challenging?

AG: I think that we typically see the single mic as being ​a unifying factor, it sort of creates an energetic center on stage and in many ways, it's helpful.  Sometimes now, when we've gone to the traditional, sort of bluegrass method of lining up straight across the stage with y​our own ​mic,​ ​​it almost feels like you're in like you cubicles.   Not to say that either method is right or wrong, it's just how it feels after performing around a centralized location.​  It's similar to how it all started for us, which was standing in a circle at a party playing.  I do feel like sometimes bands who are used to doing it the other way and are forced to, for whatever reason, play around a single ​mic, maybe in a band competition sort of a situation, they usually look pretty weird and uncomfortable about​ where they're supposed to stand and things like that. ​ To us it kind of, I think out of habit​, evolved into​ almost like a dance, you know​ - you know your moves, you know your steps and on a good night, it all works together and looks kind of cool.   Now on a bad night, you might get a guitar​ to you nose. (laughs) 

KM:  So, forgive my slow nature, I tend to notice a lot of things, but then sometimes I'm completely oblivious to​ stuff for a long time.  So Greensky Bluegrass was ​my first introduction into, you know, the jam grass​ and the bluegrass world and I swear to God, I had said their name, told people about them, listened to them, seen them for years and literally a light bulb just went off this past summer w​ith the green sky and blue grass and ​word association ​with the opposites.   ​It's been the same thing with ​you guys.  I saw you guys years ago at Delfest​, really enjoyed you guys​ and I've been following you since then, but again, doing​ a little bit of research for this article or this interview, I was like, "Oh, horseshoes and hand grenades!"  you know, the two things where - what's the saying between them - it's the only thing where inches matter or something like that, right?   

AG: ​It's the only thing where ​close enough counts. (laughs)

KM: Right! ​​​So how did you guys kind of come up with that name for the band? ​

AG: You know, it's one of those things where if you asked all five band members, you are going to get five different answers.  The way that I tell the story is that - and it's honestly the way I recall it - for some reason, Russell had a piece of paper, and I can even remember what the piece of paper looked like, but that it needed to be filled in with our name​ for some show early on.   At that time, we were just kind of known as the band, but of course, you couldn't be The Band, The Band already exists.  So we had a house party as we often did (laughs) come the weekend or week day and the word quickly spread and it was, as I recall it, a particularly large party that night.  Word spread that we needed a name, so it sort of became ​one of the focuses of the party, you know, throwing around names.  So all the other stuff happens, ​and the focus of the party rarely remains the focus and come the morning light, when the smoke settled and it was time to clean up the disheveled household (laughs), there w​ere only a few names that we could remember - one of them being Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.  ​We were like, "Wel​p, either way, we gotta turn this piece of paper in so it's that or one of the other ones."  I think Russ wrote down ​Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and that's what it's remained ever since (laughs).

KM:  There you go - some things are just meant to be. 

AG: That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

KM:  You guys also have recently put a new album out, The Ode, and I read that you guys ​holed yourselves up in Minnesota to do the recording for that.  How was the process for this album?  You guys being all together out there, I heard​ you were kind of in the middle of nowhere, how was the recording process related to that fact for this album?

AG: You know, Pachyderm (Studios) is an amazing location.  You're kind of driving through Minnesota farm country, or depending which way you come from, Wisconsin farm country and suddenly you kind of drop into this little holler and at the bottom of the holler in this little river valley is Pachyderm.  It's got this crazy energy and kind of unique history that includes​ Nirvana recording their last record there, when they were trying to get away from people essentially.   So it's got some really, really interesting energy and it's been renovated in recent years after it kind of fell into disrepair and there was a bunch of squatters living there - crazy, crazy stories behind it.   The experience, these studios where you stay there and you record there, are pretty conducive to us because it sort of creates the feeling that you're working on a project, you know, and it's also really comfortable.  There's no stress ever, nobody has to think about stuff like, "Alright, we gotta drive thirty minutes to the hotel after this,."  It just kind of gives you the ability to really hunker down with your friends and be on a little mini vacation.  The house that's attached to it is really, really wonderful.  I can't remember who planned and built it, but it's almost a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, so it's got a really, really cool style to it. There's a pool and a sauna and stuff, it's really neat.  So the space itself is really cool and then there's the second part, which was the people that were around, you know, it was the band and then this great engineer named Nick ​Tveitbakk, who is the house engineer​ at Pachyderm and then our friend, Dave Simonett, from Trampled by Turtles, the singer and songwriter for that ​band came and produced it.  He ​lent a great hand and great vibes.   He's been a good friend of mine for a long time ​and he definitely has a great ear and he's got a great musical intuition.  When you mix that with ​our sort of good-time affinity and love for making music, it just sort of felt like a really good situation and had really, really good vibes.  One thing that I always remember about it, being somebody who's ​curious about astrology and those sorts of things, is that it culminated the days leading up to a full moon.  I didn't know that at the time and on the final day, after we cut the last track and we were​ starting the mixing process, and I walk out and see this giant full moon rising.  It was huge and orange ​looking all crazy and just like seem really special and to me it just, it was such a great​ testament to what had occurred and all this energy.  Full moons are supposed to, you know, signal a culmination and just the way it felt, it was​ really serendipitous.  So yeah, it was a really cool musical experience and I like to think that we bottled up our emotions and our energy and put it in a little present for the people.

KM: You released the album on Tape Time, which is the (String)Dusters label, how was that?  I know you guys have done touring with the Dusters and you're friends with them - how is it getting to be on a label of some fellow musicians that are ​like cohorts of yours and friends?   How is it different from maybe any other project that you guys have done? 

AG: Well, I mean, the Dusters are​ some of the most inspiring and frankly, just excellent people that we've ever gotten to ​know.  They're all so dedicated to their craft and ​committed to being ambassadors for the music as well.  They're supportive, ​they're creative, and ​they're open minded.   We had cut this record, but we weren't totally sure how we're going to release it, a couple things sort of fell through or felt funny and right as I was sort of starting to become​ agitated about how we were going to release it, one of the Dusters - I can't remember who it was -told me, "Hey, we're thinking about starting a record label," and I was like, "Well, funny thing, we've got a pending record here," - and we were both thinking, "Ah, that is a funny thing."   So, we actually ended up being the first release on Tape Time and it's been a really cool experience. ​They made that label with the intent of making it more artist friendly.  The modern label climate's really complex and, at times, difficult for the artist and they had struggled a little bit with that.  So they set out to create a new label that was sort of by artists, for artists and it's been a positive experience to be part of and certainly working with the Dusters is​ just always a joy.  I actually went and saw them the other night and sat in for a tune and then we sat and talked about label stuff for many hours. ​ For a band that's of their size, they're are some of the most down-to-Earth people in the world, who are willing to have difficult discussions​ and willing to sort of shop ideas around.   There's just not an unhealthy level of pride there and the degree to which they're open-minded is super cool to see and a good reminder for us as people too.

KM: Yeah,​ you always hear about, being obviously a person that's not in the business myself, ​just the kind of disgruntledness that goes on between labels and artists and how they're not really conducive to each other and one's wanting one thing​ and the other is wanting another, so it's probably a huge breath of fresh air to have an artist label that understands ​all of that and can kind of give guidance to other bands as far as both sides the coin.

AG: Yeah, I think that's true, you know economically, it's really difficult to be a young band.  ​Like around Stevens Point, where we came from, we'll sell a ton of tickets here and I think there's a misconception in town like, 'Those guys just must be rolling in the dough!'  The reality is that we're not (laughs).  We do our best to get by but we're not at a level yet where we could support a family or anything like that. ​ Labels, of course, they cost money to run and making records costs money, working with the right publicist and radio costs money.  And so, you know, it's always a sensitive thing, working with a label, because you need to see results in order to feel like you're not just dropping money into the forest.   ​So that's an interesting thing​ to be part of.  It's been good being with ​Tape Time, because we're able to see tangible results working with ​a label.  That's one of the main things, sometimes you work with a labe​l and your money from the record is going back to the label, but you're not really sure exactly what you're getting out of it, aside from it being on your record that you're working with a label, which always​ looks good. So yeah, it's an interesting process. 

KM:  You guys had a pretty nice summer.  Looking back now that summer's over and we're heading sadly into winter, was there a highlight of yours that you had for 2018 summer? Did you guys play something that you'd been kind of wanting to play or maybe there was a festival that ​stands out as a lot of fun? ​

AG: Well, it's all fun and really interesting, really cool (laughs).  The most fun part about being in a band is traveling around and seeing new places, meeting new people and having new experiences, so most of it is really fun and really enjoyable. ​We got down to Floyd Fest this year and Suwanee which just happened this fall was really fun, Blue Ox, which is at home is always great.  But you know, years ago we first became a band, we took the first big leap of faith in Horseshoes which was to go travel out to Colorado play in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival's band competition. ​  It was really a good sort of team building exercise.  I remember years before that when I first went to ​Telluride, which was before I was in the band, I drove past the sign on the interstate that says Red Rocks Amphitheatre and I thought to myself, "I've heard so much about that. I'd love to go see it," and in my head  - this is gonna sound cliche but - I was like, "I want to go there for the first time when I walk on that stage."   It was a weird thing to have that thought before even being in a band.   So that, of course, was one big highlight of the summer, going out and playing with the Infamous Stringdusters and Yonder Mountain Stringband, who I've been listening to since I was ​twelve years old (laughs).  So to open up for those guys out at Red Rocks is ​a pretty special experience for sure.

KM: Yeah, I was trying everything in my power to make that trip happen for that show, but it just could not come together.

AG: There'll be more!   

KM: Yeah, I'm hoping.  I literally did a 36 hour Denver trip out there ​to see some music and it was rough on my soul but also really, really fun.  Actually, more rough on my body, good for my soul, maybe I'll say that.

AG: (laughs) Yeah and somewhere in the middle for your​ mind.  

KM: Yeah, I mean, ​ I thought the best approach should be "We're just going to go hard. We're going to stay up for 36 hours straight and then I'll just sleep on the plane."  Holy sh*# that  was a mistake!

AG:  Oh man, we've done that.  We had one weekend in the past that we've done for several years where we played Northwest String Summit and Gray Fox up in upstate New York ​the same weekend. ​One year it was ​Northwest String Summit, Gray Fox ​in New York and a Denver show all in the same weekend and when that one got done, we all were like, "Ok, we can't."

KM: Yikes - you need to detox and scrub your soul after something like that.

AG: Yeah, exactly, wash off the funk (laughs).

​KM: Right.  Now, you guys are about to head out again, on some tour dates -you're coming to DC next week to play at Gypsy Sally's and then you guys are doing two of the ​Winter Wondergrass dates.   So you're doing the first east coast version in Vermont and then you're doing Tahoe, right?

AG: Yep, that's correct.  Winter Wondergrass has been really good through these years to us as a band, it's just such a wonderful festival.  ​You put a beautiful place, a lot of good bands​ and some of the best fans in the country ​together and it's going to be a damn good time and every one of them has been memorable.  I'm really excited to see how this one goes in Vermont.  Vermont is really beautiful and the scene has always been good up there, so looking forward to being part of that.  Also getting back to D.C.  Our first show there was actually with Greensky Bluegrass at the 9:30 Club and then our second show was at Gypsy Sally's which was awesome and I think it sold out so I'm excited for this next ​one.   D.C is one of those places where we've never had an undesirable ​show (laughs).  It's always been really, really fun.

KM: Well, that's a good thing to hear. ​ And you you talk about playing with Greensky - you guys are doing a New Year's run with ​those guys, right?

AG: Yeah, we're on one of those shows, it's a crazy run actually.  So on the 29th, we're doing this really small, intimate show that's sort of attached to our New Year's proper show, and it's playing underneath the Miller Brewery in these caves, where they used to store the beer in the summer when the brewery was just starting, so that's really exciting. Then on the 30th, we'll boogie down with the Greensky guys and play down there.  Then the 31st is our big New Year's, sort of, home state show.  Two of the guys come from Milwaukee, so we'll be doing the Pabst Theater down there, which we've done in the past and it's always really fun.  It's a beautiful big room and got really good energy.

KM: It seems like Horseshoes and Hand Grenades goes really well with beer (laughs).

AG: Yeah, one could say that.

KM:  So just talking about tour and the fact that you guys are all friends, this kind of is a question that I've asked other bands, but it's a little bit different.  Is there something that you guys kind of collectively have to have on the road with you whenever you go out on tour, other than obviously music necessities​.  Is there something that you guys ​have as a tradition for your ​group of friends in ​or the band, that you always make sure you never leave home without?

AG: You know, a lot of ​bands that are approximately our size in the music industry, travel in Sprinter Vans or even just like a seventeen person Econoline type vans.   The personalities in Horseshoes, that would never work.  There has to be the ability to move, we can't just sit still for a long time. So I would say the the most important thing for us to travel with is the thing that we travel in, which is  Babe the Blue Ox, our airport airport hangar shuttle bus that we renovated.  I can't remember where it came from.  I think I was actually getting like ridiculously anxious in vans but it was like, once you get over that like for hour threshold, it's just so difficult.  So we got this big airport hangar thing you know, because we couldn't make the jump - we still can't do it, to one of your traditional touring buses, like a big one - but we could make the jump to this.  Collin and his dad went in and renovated it so there's six bunks in there and a hanging out area in the front, so I'd say that's what we really need.  If we have Babe the Blue Ox, everything is going to be ok.  The other thing is people comfort.  We really love our tour manager Lynn and our soundman Aaron and when they're there, all is fly, all is calm.

KM: All's well.  So being that you guys kind of formed in college and we've got the nicely blended Horseshoes and Hand Grenades beer thing going on, my last kind of bit of info I wanted was to see if we can play a little bit of a game.  Have you ever heard of Drunk, Stoned or Stupid by any chance? 

AG: No, I don't think so.

KM: Ok, well it's kind of along the same lines as Cards Against Humanity, but a little bit different.  Basically there are cards that have totally random or crazy things on them and you kind of call out the person in the group that is most likely to have done that or do that.   So for this interview based on a few Horseshoes facts, I kind of made up a few of my own and since there's five of you guys in the band, I've got five questions or cards .  I just all say what it is and you say which member of the band would win that card if we were playing the game? Does that work?

AG:  (laughs) Sounds good.

KM: Okay, so the person most likely to miss sound check.

​AG: Dave.

KM: Person that can hold their liquor or alcohol the best.

AG: Me.

KM: Who has a hidden talent and what is it?

AG: Sammy and farming (laughs).

KM: (laughing) Who's most likely to get lost at a festival?

AG: Sammy.

KM: Last - since you guys went to college together, who would have been the most likely to go streaking in the quad?

AG: (Just laughs)

KM: I have a feeling this might have happened to with that laugh you just gave me.  It could be a collective effort if there's more than one.

​AG: Yeah well that's the thing.... I would say Sammy, except for the fact that there's this thing called - you ever hear about the shirtless guy from Wisconsin thing?

KM:  No.

​AG: Oh, you should YouTube it. It's Dave.  We were in Nashville and with Greensky and there was a "snow storm" which was really just three inches of snow but it looked like the apocalypse in Nashville.  I remember driving down the road and people had abandoned their cars in the middle of the highway.

KM:  Oh yeah, I went to school in North Carolina and trust me I know about the South in snow (laughs).

AG: Oh my god, it was so weird for us, we're just like, "Where did these people go once they leave their cars?!"   But anyhow, as a result, Greensky cancelled their show which we were supporting and you know, us being from Wisconsin and thinking it was ridiculous, we got the smart ass idea to do a pop up show on Broadway.   So we did that, we got there and just really didn't know what was going to happen so we just bellied up to the bar and started drinking pitchers and chillin.  Davey went outside for a cigarette with our our friend Chris Forsberg and we're all sitting there kind of watching the coverage of the snowstorm on TV and it turns out that, unbeknownst to us, that this was going on -  this newscast - right outside the bar and it's live.  So they apparently see this and start talking about it and Chris dares Dave, for like five bucks, to take off his shirt and walk past the camera.  Dave is a hairy chest fellow you know, I mean he looks like a Wisconsinite.  He takes off his shirt after some some coaxing and walks past - people think this is scripted, but it honestly wasn't - he walks past and the news reporter sees him somehow and turns to him and goes, "Hey man, aren't you cold?" and Dave goes, "Nah, man - I'm from Wisconsin." and then just carries on.  So we all see this happen on live TV and everybody's losing it, like it's just the funniest thing ever.  After he said, "Nah man. I'm from Wisconsin,"  the reporter turns to the camera and is  like, "Well, there you have it, he's from Wisconsin." The guy turns it back to the newsroom and one of the female reporter goes, "Well you can always go honkey tonkin!"  So we go on stage and we're playing the show and a little bit before set break, our friend Chris walks on stage and he's goes, "Dude, you guys are going viral!" (laughs).  None of us even knew what that meant, we were just like, "Yeah, okay - whatever that means."  Well then during set break he brings it up on the phone and it's got like 4 million views. 

KM: Oh, my lord.

AG: Yeah, that was just like, overnight, you know, so it was like Dave was essentially famous (laughs).

KM: (laughing) That's hilarious.

​AG: Pretty premium funny.  So yeah, you can go on type in, "Nah, man - I'm from Wisconsin" and find it.

KM: That's so funny.  So Dave would win the award for that one though?

AG: Yeah, I think so, on account of that. 

KM: Well, Adam, thank you so much for the entertainment and taking the time looking real forward to seeing you guys at Gypsy Sally's, so we will see you then.

AG: Awesome. Thanks so much for doing this, I really appreciate it. ​ Have a good one​.

​Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

​The Plate Scrapers

Performance Details



​Thursday, December 6th

Doors: ​7:00PM

Show: ​8:30PM

Gypsy Sally's

3401 K Street Northwest (Water St.)

Washington, DC 20007

(Google Maps Link)

$12 - In Advance

$15 - Day of Performance

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.