If you’re a band releasing new music, do you plan a hometown release show, or maybe a two-week tour somewhere? Or do you do something else entirely?
In January, before the COVID pandemic hit Pennsylvania, members of the rock band Wallace started recording the first tracks of what would become “Grapefruit” – a series of music videos that interconnect with a film. The band, which features two members originally hailing from Lancaster, is now based in Philadelphia.
Ten months later, the idea to premiere the new EP in an inherently digital way makes the trio look downright clairvoyant.
Wallace is comprised of guitarist and singer Wallace Gerdy, 25, bassist Hannah Pugh, 26, and drummer Adam Figurelle, 25. Gerdy and Pugh are Lancaster natives.
After teasing out singles on a bi-weekly basis throughout October and November, the fifth and last song on “Grapefruit” drops on Friday, Dec. 4. The day before that, the band will host the premiere of the film “Grapefruit” on Facebook Live at 9 p.m.
The first four chapters of the movie have been told through the single releases of “DYSLM,” “New Friends,” “Weak Palms” and “Icarus.” Band members said they were nervous to release the EP all at once, fearing that even the relatively brief runtime of 18 minutes might be too much all at once for modern attention spans.
“Grapefruit,” shot in Philadelphia and in a Conestoga Township barn, tells the familiar tale of the heartbreak of a failed relationship, but through Wallace’s brand of pensive rock.
“It’s been a lot of grinding and scheduling and organizing,” explains Gerdy. “Obviously, that stuff is not as fun as playing the music live, and it’s been hard not having the sort of reprieve of playing shows all the time, because that’s what it’s all about, playing music. But it’s still been fun to create in this way.”
When the band entered Lancaster city’s Thornwall Studios in January, the power trio knew they wanted to do something special for the concept EP, but didn’t know exactly what. That’s when Jon Sambrick, recording mastermind of Thornwall, came into the picture.
“We were recording what would be the last song [on ‘Grapefruit’] and Jon said something like, ‘I picture an operating room or hospital bed for this song,’” Gerdy says. “As soon as he said that, I feel like the whole thing came together. We thought it was so beautiful and cinematic and there’s something there that we can link into the concept of the album that already exists.”
Along with his skills behind a mixing board, Sambrick doubles as a videographer. After Sambrick produced Wallace’s eponymous 2018 full-length album, the band saw him as a natural fit not only to record the follow-up, but to collaborate visually.
“I feel like as much as we trust Jon to do what we need to, he also trusts us to lead him in a certain direction that will make the best product for both sides of the team,” Pugh says.
The trio storyboarded the videos and hired an actress – Gerdy’s real-life manager at the Philadelphia Barber Company, Lauren Lister-Man – for the shoot. Bringing the total “crew” number to five, the band says it was relatively simple to keep shooting conditions COVID-19 safe.
Shooting took place over the course of five days spread across the summer months in Lancaster and Philadelphia. Gerdy and Pugh moved from Lancaster to Philadelphia in 2014 and 2018, respectively, while Delaware County resident Figurelle joined them in 2019. In the first video, for lead-off track “DYSLM” (short for “Do You Still Love Me”), the band filmed in the Lancaster apartment of a certain Music for Everyone executive director – and Gerdy’s dad – John Gerdy.
“He volunteered his apartment and cleaned it out and even left to keep it COVID safe so we could film there,” Gerdy says.
Similarly, Gerdy’s mom, Follin Smith, volunteered the family’s Conestoga Township barn as the setting for “Fighting a Ghost.”
The budget for the self-financed project led to creative solutions. For example, Figurelle – whose apartment is also featured – created the fake blood that permeates throughout the film.
“It was a lot of water with Karo syrup, chocolate syrup and red food coloring,” says Figurelle. “It’s delicious, and sticky.”
The striking visual style of “Grapefruit” is imbued with bright colors and bold iconography, all thanks to the band’s “in-house design team,” bassist Pugh.
“I am a graphic designer by day, so with this ‘Grapefruit’ project, I really got the opportunity to dig my graphic design fingers into band merch, which I’ve never really done before,” explains Pugh. “Creating the mockups for the website, the electronic press kit…”
Gerdy interjects excitingly.
“…and everything!” Gerdy says with a laugh. “The album cover, everything that we post on the internet, Hannah has literally done everything, it’s been so dope. We really only went into it with the idea that we wanted everything to be pastel colored. That was the only guidance, and Hannah crushed it.”
Of course, no matter how pleasing the whole project is to the eye, “Grapefruit” would falter without strong music to compliment the visuals. The trio delivers, as songs like “Icarus” and “Weak Palms” grab you from the initial seconds with ringing guitars and Gerdy’s commanding vocals.
With no tours or even a requisite record release show, Wallace’s “Grapefruit” film stands as a proper showcase for the music and the band that created it in an equal measure.
“We decided to make a film before COVID became a presence in the world, and I think we were so lucky to have a media-based project that we can show people in lieu of shows,” says Gerdy. “We just so happened to create a piece of art that works so well for a time when people are just at home staring at their phones.”