Despite their name, San Diego's Grand Ole Party have nothing to do with the Republican Party; instead, they play tough, no-frills indie rock energized by the rich, wildly passionate vocals of drummer and lead singer Kristin Gundred. Grand Ole Party were formed in 2005 by Gundred, guitarist John Paul Labno, and bassist Mike Krechnyak while all three were students at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Labno's grew up in the San Francisco area, where his dad made a living playing music and repairing instruments; Labno formed a punk band with some friends when he was 13, and a later group, Staircase, earned a big enough following in Santa Cruz to get an offer to sign with Epitaph Records, though the band had already broken up by the time the A&R man made the call. When Labno heard Gundred sing, he was immediately impressed with her vocal abilities, and invited her to sit in with his band, the Virgin Suite. Gundred, a literature student who was born in Alameda County and raised by school teachers who gave her violin lessons as a child, soon joined the group and Krechnyak, who quit a lucrative career in computer programming to study philosophy, became a passionate fan who briefly managed the group.
When the Virgin Suite broke up, Labno, Gundred, and Krechnyak began jamming together, and when Krechnyak relocated to San Diego, Labno and Gundred shortly followed. The trio moved from playing as a casual pastime to something more serious when they recorded a demo tape and adopted the name Grand Ole Party, and when Aaron Swanton (ex-Scarlet Symphony) needed an opening act for a show by his new band UV Tigers, he offered GOP the gig, giving them their first paying job. Soon Grand Ole Party were playing regularly in San Diego and gaining a fan following, and after Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley heard a few songs they uploaded to MySpace, he posted an enthusiastic comment and became a friend and supporter of the young band. Sennett's management company signed a deal with Grand Ole Party; Sennett agreed to produce their debut album, and Humanimals was released less than three years after the band first arrived in San Diego. ~ Mark Deming