Unexpected Expert : Al Griggs

The Expert: Alexander Griggs, Red Riders

His Expertise: Vintage shopping

Interview by Georgia Clark

Sydney-based quartet Red Riders are well known for their infectious Cars-meets-Clash upbeat indie rock. Al Griggs is well known for his Kramer-esque quaff and hip-swivelling onstage antics in his role as lead singer slash guitarist extraordinaire. What’s not so known about Mr Griggs is his exhaustive knowledge vintage shopping. Always up for an excuse to kick back with a hipster chic rock boy, Cleo decided to investigate.

What qualifies you to be an expert in all things vintage?

Well I’m pretty sure the moment that Cleo asks you to interview you is when you officially become qualified enough for Cleo to ask in the first place. It’s one of those chicken or the egg situations. Plus when the band’s having down time I can be found moonlighting behind the desk at everyone’s favourite second-hand-store Cream on Crown/King in Sydney.

First vintage purchase?

I think it would have been at Glebe markets when I was in Year 9 and it was a pair of brown corduroy flairs.

Did you pull it off?

If by “pull it off” you mean get called a hippy and/or a fag by almost everybody at school, then yes I pulled it off with great success.

Indie rock has long gone hand-in-hand with second hand. Why?

Poverty. Plus indie music, from The Smiths to The Arcade Fire, is often a celebration of the past or something that has been lost in contemporary music/society and often has a cynical attitude towards the present. Just cos something’s new doesn’t necessarily make it good, y’know? It’s the same with fashion. A lot of new clothes are terrible, so people go back and get the lost gems no one’s smart enough to make anymore.

Is there a difference between ‘vintage’ and ‘overpriced second hand clothes’? Be honest.

I think anything pre-1979 is vintage and then everything from then on is just used. “Vintage” means you can hoist up the price a bit, but also people seem to have a crazy aversion to buying “second hand” clothes because they’re worried people will look down on them, but buying “vintage” sounds oh so au courant.

Lots of wacky cheap stuff or one really good buy – what’s the prognosis, and where should I make the purchase?

The cool thing about touring, apart from being cooped up in an odd smelling van that’s about to fall apart, surrounded by fast food wrappers and assorted junk because one of your band mate insists on using it as a portable storage unit, is you get to raid all the out of town Salvos and Vinnies. That’s where the crazy hits are and also where you’re gonna find all stuff that’ll make your friends jealous (or laugh really hard). And for cheap.

Fave vintage buy ever, and why?

This nautical-themed cardigan I bought years ago at Cream. I wear it everywhere. It’s kind of like my signature move. I like rocking up somewhere and knowing no one else is going to be dressed like me.

Wackiest trend you’ve seen the kids embrace?

Ice. But seriously the kids can do no wrong these days. The stuff that used to get you beat up in high school gets you into the social pages now. It’s a topsy turvy world we live in.

What do you think this decade will be remembered as, fashion-wise?

The time when everything – music, trends, clothes – was being recycled. It’s funny that we’re getting to the end of the decade and we’re kinda back in the 90s. In the future, people will be like, ‘This is so 2000’, but it’s really something from the 80s.

Fave muso who rocks vintage with flair?

Maybe Kirin from Mercy Arms. He rocks “crazy” with flair. Him and all of The Strokes. Y’know people forget that The Strokes basically started this whole second hand, downtown boho chic thing anyway. Back in the day, bands like The Smiths and The Replacements had awesome style.

The plug! What Red Riders getting up to these days?

We’re hard at work on our second album, tentatively titled “Drown In Colour” and it’s all about riffs, escapism and Mad-chester. The first single’s gonna be out later this year. You should check it. www.myspace.com/redridersmusic or www.redriders.net.

Let’s Go (Online) Shopping!

Look hard enough and you’ll find second-hand stores stuffed with treasures and quirky markets groaning with bargains hidden somewhere in your hometown. However if you’re the kind of shopper who prefers clicks to changerooms, head to stores.ebay.com/indie-cult-vintage. Not as cheap as buying threads by the kilo, but an excellent source for that one-in-a-million Dior dinner jacket, complete with mad 80s shoulder pads.

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About Georgia

I'm a young adult novelist with a weakness for hot nerds and cheese platters, not necessarily in that order. I am currently working on my third novel. I'm pretty excited about having just turned 30 because it means I can justify spending a lot of time thinking about homewares.
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