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Go to any neighborhood in Brooklyn where young people have settled and you'll recognize a variety of hipster whose outward appearance signifies that this person yearns to rock. Grand Mal is not a mere throwback to big 70's glam or paean to guitar worship, but the soundtrack to the true rock and roll lifestyle.

Grand Mal was founded by former St. Johnny main-man Bill Whitten in 1996 and he handles guitar and lead vocals. Steve Borgerding, plays lead guitar and keyboards. Jonathan Toubin plays bass and Parker Kindred plays drums and vocals.

We posed some questions to Bill Whitten about being a band in Brooklyn, band vans,
and subway performers...

Free Williamsburg:
Is Brooklyn Better?

Bill Whitten: Yeah, sure. It's a great place, if you can turn a blind eye to the forces of gentrification that are constantly at work, creeping ever further and further, deeper and deeper into the gritty, working-class heart of Brooklyn. If you can do that, then it's cool.

It seems like most people who play in NYC bands live and rehearse in Brooklyn. Almost everyone you see walking down the street look like rock'n'rollers. It'll be great while it lasts, until it is fully transformed into an upper middle-class bohemian enclave like the East Village. I ended up here after being forced out of Manhattan and Long Island City by skyrocketing rents. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before I have to leave Brooklyn (next stop Staten island?).

NYC rolls on...tearing down landmarks, steam-rolling neighborhoods, displacing people, but it's always been that way and we all love it. It beats Hartford,CT or Des Moines...or Chicago.

Free Williamsburg:
Who's your favorite subway platform performer?

Bill Whitten:
The Kagle Family. They are a bunch of young siblings who seem to be vastly talented, and cute, and have better chops than most bands in NYC.

Free Williamsburg:
Does Grand Mal have a Band Van?

Bill Whitten:
Our band van was abandoned during a blizzard in Toledo,OH last January, 2001. It was filled with garbage and covered in graffiti, a '72' vandura I believe. I am glad it is gone. It was like a mobile gas chamber.

Grand Mal is recording an album in October.2001 with producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips,Mogwai, Sparklehorse etc.)...it will be released in 2002 on ArenaRockRecordings....it is to be called "Bad Timing".

For more Grand Mal news, reviews, and info on upcoming shows, go to their website grandmal.com.

-Bret Nicely
Free Williamsburg