Benjamin Laub, better known by his stage name Grieves, is one of the youngest artists on burgeoning hip-hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment. A tall, slim white kid with a quick wit and a whole lot to say, he's been out on tour promoting latest album Together/Apart for the better part of a year with creative and live show partner Budo. The album concludes 3 years of self discovery and sees Grieves trying to come to terms with the absence of trust, addiction, acceptance and not forgetting his roots, whilst Budo creates some of the most interesting and diverse beats and instrumentals you're likely to hear on a hip hop album. We caught up with them on their recent tour of the UK at the Roadhouse in Manchester supporting Brother Ali.

How has the tour with Brother Ali been going so far?

Yesterday in London at XOYO was the first day of the tour so I'm still a bit jetlagged, but the show was great. It was sold out, a really fun crowd and it was my second time ever in London but people were singing along. This is my first time in Manchester and I love the UK - I'm just happy to be out of the US!

How would you describe your particular brand of hip hop to people who haven't heard you before?

Our music is a really honest, melodic approach to hip hop. We stopped using samples and we started creating our own little soundscapes. I wouldn't say it's radically different than anything you're going to hear but it's definitely in the vein of other Rhymesayers artists.

Do you think that honesty was already prevalent in your music or has it been nurtured by the label?

I've always been making music like this and I've always been influenced by Rhymesayers artists. There's always likeminded-ness in peoples decisions I think.

There's a lot of mention on your debut album Together/Apart of addiction and self reflection, is that something you struggle with personally?

Yeah definitely, there's been points in my life where that's been a big issue. When I was writing Together/Apart I was struggling with substance abuse. Whether it's a thing or a person or an idea that you're addicted to, I was struggling with trying to break free with a lot of that. I never sit down and pick my subjects before I write so it's pretty interesting how all that stuff came out on that record.

The man behind the music on the album is multi-instrumentalist Budo (who's currently belting through a soundcheck). It's a very musically diverse album so what are some of your other influences outside of the hip hop genre?

Budo has a really wide array of stuff that he listens to, if weren't in such a jam for time he'd be in here too, but I think that's what brings a lot of the melody and structure that we put into our music. Lately I've been struggling with the idea that I just don't listen to hip hop anymore and I don't want it to be that way. I think it's because I'm always rapping and at rap shows and when I get home I just don't want to hear that. It's not that I don't appreciate it, there's just so much other stuff that can put me in the mood. I'm a big NOFX fan.

How do you go about translating quite a complex album to a two man live show?

Budo plays keyboards, guitar, trumpet, percussion, Ableton...tonnes of stuff. When we got together we didn't want to do the standard DJ/rapper thing because it doesn't go with his talents. Scratching records is not his thing but the dude is like a little Swiss Army Knife! Pulling all these different things out on stage adds to the show, he's an energetic little fireball on stage and the fans love it.

You did the whole of Warped Tour last year, it's not necessarily your usual crowd so how did you find it?

The crowds were...interesting. There were kids there that if you approached them before the show and said "Hey I'm playing hip hop music on the Skull Candy stage at 4.30" they'd be like "fuck you, go fuck yourself" so we had to work on creating an atmosphere that meant they had to stop and listen. So we'd start with maybe 20 of our fans who were at Warped anyway, which is kind of embarrassing, but then you'd get halfway through and we'd be telling jokes and having fun and people would come over and by the end you've got 300 people hanging out which is cool. It took us a while to figure out how to get that right, some days we just didn't get it; it's kind of like fishing. I got to meet a lot of cool artists that I wouldn't have gotten to meet otherwise. I hung out with this band called Pepper, Of Mice And Men, The Devil Wears Prada – they were bands I would never have gotten to know. I'm not trying to sugar coat it; it was hell on wheels man. It was hot, there were 90 buses, 50 vans, 30 RV's, you're taking a shit in a port-a-potty every day. It sucks. But ya'know, you get the good with the bad.

You've obviously been busy touring for the past year, have you had time to get to work on the next album?

Yeah, we've been working so hard and been on the road so much that it's been hard to get to the studio and focus. There's a song here and a song there but no real direction or attitude to the songs. We're trying to get that ball rolling and get that back in our lives but it's going to take a little downtime. Hopefully this summer after a couple of European festivals we can just hang out, that'll be writing time.


Together/Apart is released on June 4th via Rhymesayers