A talk with David Grandouiller of Meek House about his debut album, isolation, affection, religion, and existential crises.
DT McCrea (they/she) is a trans-anarchist poet, a reader for Flypaper Lit, and Pushcart Prize nominee. They love the NBA and know the lyrics to every Saintseneca song. Her work can be found in Indianapolis Review, Gordon Square Review, Honey & Lime, mutiny!, Stone of Madness Press and others.
David Grandouiller (he/him) is a writing coach and editor by day and a singer-songwriter by night. He's been releasing music under the project Meek House since 2018, and his full-length self-titled debut has been out since April. A three-song EP called Seven Parties is coming in the fall.
Check out David's website: davidgrandouiller.com
Follow Meek House on IG: @meek_house_music
Listen to Meek House on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0uAD5GQmz4EYCFwDqMzk3A?si=ofeTDIR2RF2omcam0TdBAQ&dl_branch=1
In April of 2021, David Grandouiller released his debut, self-titled album under the moniker Meek House. So far, its my album of the year. It’s a project that means a lot to me not just because the title and band name is taken from a house David and I shared for a year (a long with two other dear friends) on Meek Avenue in Columbus Ohio, but also because it touches on number of ideas (from isolation to affection to faith and doubt) that I wrestle with daily. I recently sat down with David to discuss the album and it’s many themes.
DT: I know that you started this project and wrote a lot of these songs before the pandemic. As
someone who was close to you when you were starting this project, I see a lot of the shared
social life we had (house parties, concerts, living with roommates, grad school, etc.). The album
also certainly speaks to isolation, though maybe a different kind than what many of us have
experienced over the last year plus. I’m wondering what it feels like to see this album that started
in what—to many people—feels like a different world, and then come to fruition in the world
we’re living in now. How did your relationship to the album change over that time?
DG: Yeah, it was a weird thing because the album took me a lot longer to finish than I thought it
would. And that mostly didn’t have to do with Covid. There just kept being new things to fix or
re-record or new things to add or whatever. But I feel like that kind of paid off in some way
because so much of the album is about like living in community or desiring community but also
about a lot of isolation and feelings of loneliness. So, when I was finishing the album during the
pandemic it felt apropos. It felt like the songs were about that time for me, even more than they
were about previous times. So, it was kind of auspicious in that way.
DT: That’s interesting too, the album not just speaking to the isolation of the pandemic, but
specifically isolation in relationship to community and the desire for community. Like, you
wrote the songs from a place of living in community but experiencing some form of emotional
isolation. And then as you finished the project it was speaking to a pretty universal experience of
a lot of people desiring community that in a number of ways had become less accessible.
DT: You’re an essayist as well as a musician, and this album has a number of literary references
on it. I bring that up because I’m interested in hearing about your musical influences, and I’m
also interested in hearing about the writers and artists outside of music who influenced this
DG: That’s a good question. I think I’m really into collage in literature, and I’ve started doing
that a lot in my songs too. I don’t know that I can point to anyone specific here, but I read a lot of
lyric essays (while making this album) and that kind of laid the foundation for me thinking about
how a song can work structurally if you have a bunch of disparate parts that you want to kind of
merge into one.
I also think, in terms of themes, I was drawing a lot from writers who are really body-focused. I
think a lot of Bernard Cooper and his book Maps to Anywhere, and when I think about that book
I think about physicality and affection. Those are a couple of the things I sort of have in the front
of my mind when I’m song-writing: How can I make this song physical, and how can I make it
in some way affectionate? Even if it’s a darker song or a sad song how can I use it to show
affection. And I feel like I draw that from Bernard Cooper a lot. And to some degree other
writers too. I don’t know what came first exactly but I think I often look for that in other writers
too. I think of Ross Gay. How he seems to often look for ways of expressing affection or joy, as
you and I have talked about.
DT: That leads really well into my next question which is; something I love about this album is
how often it portrays intimacy and tenderness. I’m particularly interested in how the album
displays intimacy between men. I’m thinking especially of the song “Survive”. You sort of just
answered this, but I’m wondering if concepts like intimacy or tenderness were consciously on
your mind when you were writing any of these songs, and how you think they relate to the
DG: Definitely. Definitely. I’m often looking for ways to put the listener into physical contact
with the character or the speaker of the song, or to put characters in the songs into physical
contact with one another in healing ways. I think I’m particularly interested in that with
masculinity. With like a tender masculinity, or like a vulnerable and physically intimate
masculinity and trying to make that concrete someway, which is focused on in the song
“Survive” more than elsewhere in the album, but I feel like it comes up in other places to
because it’s something I was thinking about a lot. Although “Survive” was one of the later songs
I wrote for the album, so maybe I was consciously thinking of it as much earlier in the process, I
can’t really remember.
DT: I mean, there’s certainly affection between the characters of the songs and an invitation for
affection to the listener in most of the album. I mean “Birthday Song” is very affectionate and
it’s, as far as I know, one of the earliest songs you wrote for the album. But yeah, I think
“Survive” stands out as a description of physical intimacy in particular.
DT: Another thing that’s peppered throughout this album (one of the things that draws me to it
so strongly) is a number of references to the bible and Christian imagery, and also a lot of what
seems to me very earnest declarations of both faith and doubt. I was wondering if you could
speak to how those two things—faith and doubt—come into play in your music and your
DG: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think there are a couple of different ways that faith comes
into the writing process. On a more surface level, in terms of imagery and theme, I find it really
interesting—and I know you do this a lot too in your poetry—to use biblical illusions as material
and kind of like twist them in interesting ways, or like retell them, or expand them, or even just
like modernize them. There are lots of different ways of riffing on familiar Christian imagery,
and I really like doing that.
On a deeper level, there’s a lot in the album that’s very personal about faith for me. Having been
raised in a very Evangelical Christian setting and having struggled with that for a long time, not
totally feeling like I belonged in that environment or aligned with that community. I’ve just spent
a long-time sort of redefining what I believe, and there’s a lot that’s disorienting or isolating
about that process and I think that comes out in a lot of the songs. Like in “What are friends
for…” there’s a line there It’s no consolation / when you tell me be at peace / I need a vacation /
put me under doctor please / I need a heavy dose of true religion
DT: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite parts of the whole album.
DG: Yeah, me too, me too. Thanks
DG: Yeah, and then I say don’t you confuse me with your good intentions. I think that
encapsulates my relationship with the Evangelical Church. I want faith, and I want religion to
some degree, if I can find it in a way that is true to my experience and is life giving. But it’s
difficult because I’ve encountered so many instances where it doesn’t do that, where it
undermines those things. So, it’s this ongoing dialogue with Christianity where I’m still open to
faith and listening, but I’m also expressing a certain amount of challenge and skepticism towards
faith communities. But that’s all over the album, like “Claustrophobe” is all about conflict with
DT: Everything you’re talking about aligns with things I got from the album and know from our
personal relationship and discussions. I think too, something I read into the album and our
conversations is a general; questioning of experience and life that plays into your wrestling with
faith and with religious communities. I’m thinking again of “Survive” a moment that strikes me
so much in this album is the final verse that features the line it’s time I stop pretending to know
anything. I guess I wonder if you could speak a little bit to a general questioning in the album.
Like what does that line mean to you, it’s time to stop pretending that I know anything?
DG: Yeah, It’s sort of like I can’t believe—or I have trouble believing—anything that my
experience hasn’t told me is true. But then that’s in tension with the fact that your experience
can’t show you everything. The majority of life and truth is beyond your experience. And if
you’re going to remain… functioning…
DG: …you have to accept a lot of things for granted that you haven’t tested. A lot of that is true
for empathy to, and just like knowing other people and caring for other people. You have to be
willing to let other people tell you what is true in their experience and just accepting that if you
haven’t entered into that kind of experience yourself. And I think all of that is really difficult for
In many ways that’s where my questioning of faith began. As I grew into adulthood, I started
encountering lots of ways in which I understood that I had an enormous lack of awareness of
things going on around me. It was challenging because it showed me how impossible it is to be
completely aware. That we’re constantly unaware of so many things, and consequently how can
we possibly have an accurate understanding of our place in the world and how we’re interacting
with our environment and how are environment is interacting with us. That can really easily
become a though spiral that’s just paralyzing. So, my crisis of faith in college really began as an
existential crisis where I felt like I couldn’t know anything. There was a period where I couldn’t
make even the most basic, daily decisions without feeling paralyzed, because I just felt like What
does it matter? I don’t have the most basic information to make this decision. I don’t have any
DT: We’ll end with a much easier subject. Well, maybe.
DT: If you could recommend one album for anyone reading this interview to listen to what
would it be?
DG: Oh man. I feel like I want to recommend several. I’ll stick with things that feel related to
the Meek house album in some way.
One of my favorite albums I’ve been listening to lately is M. Ward’s Transfiguration of Vincent
from 2003. It does a sort of similar thing with religion as what I’m trying to do, where it engages
with religious imagery in a really honest, interesting, and fresh way. I like M. Ward a lot. His
song writing is amazing. He’s a great musician. The production is incredible on all his albums,
there’s so much rich texture. And he’s someone I really look up to because he’s doing a lot of the
things I’m trying to do in his lyrics and music. So, I guess I’ll leave it at that album. Just one.
malady and melody
features staff writers from Flypaper and select music critics invited to review projects and write guest articles. To be released sporadically.