She was possessed by the spirit of a devilish Appalachian woman, and she is here with her motley trio of Victorian psychopaths to rock your world with a head-trip blend of heavyweight guitar theatrics, a shriek of down-home fiddle, and Granny’s own musty roar. She doesn’t pretend to be anything but an old woman who’s somehow fronting a rock band — armed with a bun of ivory hair, a gothic parlor shawl and a silver-tipped cane. So it’s an interesting experience, says Granny, when her project, Granny 4 Barrel, hits a venue filled with people who aren’t sure what they’re getting into. There’s nothing quite like greeting a bulwark of suspicious metalheads with some southern hospitality.
“It is jaw-dropping. We went on the road last year for two months with Texas Hippie Coalition, and most of the clubs didn’t even know we were coming,” she says. “We just showed up as another band. So that’s a true test of whether or not Granny is going to be accepted. It’s a lot of anticipation, but I like adrenaline, I like jumping off a ledge.”
In essence, Granny 4 Barrel is “shock rock,” an originally derisive term summoned up by the moral-panic arbiters of the Seventies and Eighties, which Granny has learned to embrace. Her heroes are David Bowie, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and any other troubadour who bent norms — and bent gender — in order to kick up dust and put audiences on their heels. “We’re crushing stereotypes. When you’re a certain age, you have a certain stigma attached to you, people don’t expect an old woman is gonna be fronting a rock band,” Granny adds.
So how much of this is real? Exactly none of it. Granny is a showwoman, but the man behind the moldy shroud is an ordinary guy from Upstate New York, who’s kept the vast majority of his biographical details secret. For now, he continues to do all of his interviews in character, where he’ll toe the line of his true identity and perspectives, while making sure they’re parsed in Granny’s diction. As a band, Granny 4 Barrel have been around since 2017, and they currently have three songs to their name. Their most recent, “Nitro Sexy,” is a down-tuned spiral to hell, equipped with a music video featuring a Mad Max death race, a cadre of post-apocalyptic strippers, and an extended sequence where Granny’s chair is mounted to the top of a vehicle. (It was produced by heavy-music maestro David Bendeth, and Granny is promising four more songs from those sessions before the end of the year.)
The first thing you’ll notice about Granny 4 Barrel’s sound is the violin that pierces through the mix. It’s become a linchpin of their sonic edge; solidifying both the vaudeville gimmick at the center of the band’s appeal, and delivering a surprising amount of heaviness to secure the band’s place on some of the gnarliest metal bills in the country. Ask her about that aesthetic choice, and you’ll find one of the few times that talking to Granny yields both her own, and her character’s perspective. This old Appalachian woman loves the fiddle, and so does the man propping her up.
“The thing I like most of all, besides heavy metal, is bluegrass, because those boys can shred. Any guitar player you know, ask them what they think of bluegrass and they’ll be like, ‘Fuck! Those guys are badass,'” she says. “I just like to fuse it. Bluegrass is upbeat, and I’m not saying we have a bluegrass sound, but there’s a little dusting, a little icing on the cake is in our music. And when you see a live show, you’re gonna get a full assault you’ve never seen before. It’s nothing for those bluegrass guys to be playing 200 beats per minute. That’s a ballad in bluegrass.”
For the most part, Granny 4 Barrel’s act is pure escapism, a way to teleport a rock club into the distant reaches of human imagination in a single set, which is the sort of thing that heavy metal is uniquely equipped to do. But it’s hard not to be curious if there’s any political wrinkle to Granny’s posture: Last year, after all, the band recruited Stormy Daniels to direct their “She Likes Guns” video, which was quite a thing to do considering the porn actress was in the midst of disclosing one of the more salacious affairs in modern political history. Granny herself is a matriarch who counts Ziggy Stardust as a personal idol, so is there greater purpose at play here? Is becoming Granny a commentary on the mess we’ve found ourselves in? Naturally, she gave an answer you could expect from a grandmother.
“My political bent is logic and reason. You’ve got the left and the right. I don’t stay on each side, but each side has some elements that appeal to me. But to me, it seems like money, power and greed is wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” she concludes. “I’m just trying to look for truth … I like to say I take the wisdom of the past, and mix it with the awareness and relevance of the present, and we take that into the uncharted freedom of the future. I don’t know what’s next, but we’re gonna create it as we go.”