Three cords and several years ago, the incarnation currently known as Grapevine played their first gig. O.K., so it was early January 1997. Even though they had a fifth member at the time, Chris, Jean-Marc, Ken and Kevin took to the stage for their virgin experience, opening up for the Clarks at Seven Springs.
Drummer Chris Jamison remembers the show as somewhat of a "culture shock", since the previous bands he'd been in never played before a crowd like the one in Champion. The last of the current line-up to officially come on board, Chris auditioned for Grapevine one day and was offered the job the next.
Ken Pardiny, Jamison's partner in Grapevine's rhythm section, had been playing bass for some time in the area and formed a bond with local guitarist Kevin McDonald. In fact, Ken has been working with Kevin "longer than anyone else in the music business."
A self-proclaimed "band player" who believes that the song is the most important aspect of Grapevine, Kevin McDonald honed his skills from a very young age. With influences from The Edge to Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kevin's writing and playing styles exude both grace and raw energy.
When he was five years-old, lead singer Jean-Marc Azoury knew his future: "I wanted to be Paul Stanley." For a man who grew up listening to and idolizing the likes of Led Zeppelin (his #1 favorite band), Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Rainbow, it's no wonder that Jean-Marc has been laying down vocal tracks in the recording studio since the age of 13. He considers Joe Lynn Turner to be one of his greatest influences.
The Chemistry Brothers:
Talk with any of the four members of Grapevine and you soon realize why they work so well as a band. "We love what we do," proudly states Jean-Marc. "This isn't just a job for us; it's who we are."
Comprised of four individuals who like to "hang out" as much as play music, Grapevine, in the words of Kevin, are "legitimately best friends. We aren't just clocking in on the weekends." Chris considers the band "not only the best group of musicians I've ever worked with but also the best group of guys I've ever worked with. And the music's really good!" Ken sees Grapevine and his band mates as a "friendship as well as a musicianship", all the while insisting that "playing music is my favorite thing to do."
Grapevine was recently picked as semi-finalists in the Disk Makers Mid-Atlantic Independent Music World Series for their song Comfortable. Of the 800 acts who entered, they were selected by an independent group of A&R reps, radio programmers, music managers, and other industry heavies as one of the top 7%. Additionally, Grapevine was one of only two Pittsburgh bands selected for the overall competition.
With the release of Star on August 7, 1999, Grapevine's first studio album has caught the attention of both the media and their music industry brethren. Beth Danford of the Rock 'n Roll Reporter classifies Grapevine as "one of the most promising local bands to surface in Pittsburgh in quite a while." Danford goes on to proclaim that the band not only "has the ability to go far" but that Star "is an excellent starting point."
"After we heard 'Star'," said Scott Blasey of The Clarks, whose King Mouse label released the Grapevine record, "no matter how much we liked them as friends, we were knocked out by it."
While some bands have the drive and the determination to achieve their goals, not all bands see their dreams come to fruition. Grapevine plans to keep growing and expanding musically. All four members hope that the band will soon be their only full-time gig. If hard work and persistence were indications of "success", Grapevine would have to look no further than their current situation to realize the fruits of their labor.