BRIDGEPORT — Grandkids don’t take cues from your grandparents.
Started by singer/songwriter Vivian McConnell while at University of Illinois in Urbana, the four-person band just released their first album, "Timeshare," in March. The band plays a set at Logan Square’s Township, 2200 N. California Ave., at 8 p.m. Thursday.
McConnell, who recently moved to Bridgeport, sat down with DNAinfo at Pleasant House Bakery to talk about her love for songwriting, Joni Mitchell, and — most importantly — Pleasant House’s Chicken Balti Pie.
Where does the name come from?
We actually just kind of locked ourselves in our drummer’s bedroom and all just sat on the bed and listened to music and sat on the bed talking about band names. And “Grandkids” came up and we kind of liked the familial aspect of it. I’ve found nowadays, especially with naming songs, you can’t think too hard about names.
You’re also in Santah, a band started by your brother Stan McConnell.
Yeah, it just kind of made sense. You know, my brother and I’s voices blend so nicely. He’s been such an inspiration to me. When I was in high school, I watched him start Santah and I was so stoked and just thought, "Oh man, I want to start a band when I’m in college." He’s really taught me a lot. He’s taught me how to be a great performer.
You started writing songs when you were 16 and you’ve written nine of the 10 songs on "Timeshare." What’s your songwriting process like?
It’s always kind of a catharsis when I write songs. There’s just one or two days a week where I sit down and start playing. And I just kind of let, naturally, things comes out. I don’t exactly have a technique, but I’ll often write lyrics, maybe just jot something down on the bus when I’m thinking about something, and then I’ll go home and expand on that. It’s a lot of throwing away of ideas though which I don’t think a lot of people think about.
The sound of your voice is really distinct. Have you always been a singer?
Honestly I think it was kind of an accident. I tried out for the musical "Singing in the Rain" in high school. Right after I got the role, I found out I had to get my tonsils out. I was a 17-year-old and actually that changed my voice a little bit. I remember my mom said, "You sound different." I think it’s for the better, I think it made my voice a little deeper. You know, it just feels right to sing and I’ve had a lot of people tell me, "I could listen to your voice all day, keep doing it."
What bands/artists influence you as a writer?
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Sharon Van Etten. But in general, I mean, Neil Young is always a go to. Someone who, when I turned 18 I absolutely fell in live with was Joni Mitchell and she just kind of changed my perception of songwriting.
How do you like living in Bridgeport? What do you think of this Pleasant House pie?
I just really like the sense of community in Bridgeport. I feel more like I’m in a neighborhood. This is my favorite restaurant in Chicago. The Chicken Balti with the coriander chutney on top is where it’s at. This is the kind of place where, you know you might need a little energy for the whole day…pie up, pie down. Get down on the chutney (laughs).
What’s next for the band?
We’ve already written close to six or seven new songs, so it’s like we’re feeling real antsy to get in the studio again. We might just have to record a more inexpensive record and do it a little more DIY, but we’re all kind of really excited about that, because we have our name out there, and we’re ready to just do it.
Download the album Timeshare — or snag a vinyl copy — on Grandkids' website, here.