When the Creators of Veep Vetted Magrudergrind
Sunday marks the premiere of Veep, the HBO comedy series that stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vice president of the United States, and in the coming days there will no doubt be a slew of stories recalling the show's filming in the area. The Baltimore Sun had one great tale involving a scene filmed at Ottobar: Veep will include a guest appearance by D.C. grindcore trio Magrudergrind.
Magrudergrind singer Avi Kulawy says last year a producer e-mailed him to see if the group had any interest in performing on Veep. Kulawy, intrigued and curious, asked to find out a little more about the gig and why HBO wanted his band in particular. The reason, he found out, was severalfold: The folks behind the show liked Magrudergrind's sound and that the trio had a local presence. They also liked the way Kulawy and guitarist R.J. Ober looked—or rather, didn't look. "We don't really look like metalheads," Kulawy says.
Kulawy and Ober's clean-cut appearance was crucial to HBO's initial decision to reach out to Magrudergrind, because the original idea was to write them into the show as bit parts. "The whole idea is that RJ and myself are colleagues that work on Capitol Hill," Kulawy says. "We're in this super high-level position within the government, and it's real stressful." So to blow off steam after work, the pair rip things up as part of a grindcore band. Kulawy and Ober might have even had some lines had the original concept worked out, but "they flew that idea out the window."
According to Kulawy, the high-profile-government-worker-interested-in-extreme-music angle remained, but now, one of Veep's recurring characters is a grindcore fan rather than a musician. That still provided Magrudergrind with a spot on the show, and in the fall the group trekked out to Ottobar to film the short scene.
The Veep staff meticulously mapped out every detail of the scene, from the artificial flyers for the club, which is named "The Labyrinth" on the show, to how the band members buttoned their shirts. They picked out Magrudergrind's song too: "Lyrical Ammunition for Scene Warfare." It's a ripper of a tune and an excellent example of the trio's sound, but, at 59-seconds long, it also posed a curious problem.
"The duration of the scene is a lot longer than the actual song is, which is kind of funny," Kulawy says. And Magrudergrind had only been contracted to play that one song. "We had to repeat the song over and over." Kulawy isn't sure why the folks behind Veep picked "Lyrical Ammunition for Scene Warfare," though he says it's one of the easier Magrudergrind songs to find on the Internet. Thematically, it's a solid choice: The song's lyrics—about disregarding scene politics—would certainly resonate with an extreme-metal fan working in one of the highest offices of government, which is one career that won't get anyone cred in the orthodox grindcore community.
It'll be a little while until the public at large actually gets to see how Magrudergrind's spot in Veep works out: Kulawy says they're scheduled to appear in the fifth episode of the series, which, if everything goes according to plan, means the band will be on HBO on May 20.
In the meantime, Kulawy and his bandmates are writing their next full-length record, which he says is a bit of a slow process: Kulawy has lived in New York for more than a year and Ober recently made the move to the city, as well, leaving drummer Chris Moore the lone member living in the D.C. area. Magrudergrind recently wrapped up a European tour and they only have a couple out-of-town dates scheduled at the moment, so that Veep episode will have to fill the void until the next time they roll through town.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery