Storie Grubb has always tinkered with different stage names and alter egos.
"My moniker right before Storie Grubb was 'Harry Tracy,' which was based on a real outlaw who died in 1902 or something like that," said Grubb, who was born Sean Kelly. "He died in Washington somewhere in the hills. But he rampaged in Portland and Seattle and broke out of Salem [Oregon State] Penitentiary. I think it was 1902. He died in August. He killed himself; he shot himself through the eye."
But his current pseudonym came from a more internal place.
"The name [made me think of] brain food," he said. "You know, like fodder for the imagination. That's what I've always equated it to."
Grubb's art does provide food for thought. His music combines polished, catchy melodies and punk-like raucousness with lyrics that are by turns sardonic, cryptic and disarmingly vulnerable. A prolific visual artist as well, Grubb's paintings--stark, intricate, grotesque images that call to mind Robert Crumb and pop surrealist artist Gary Panter--have been displayed at the Fulton Street Showroom, Visual Arts Collective and various local coffee shops. Grubb has also designed posters for several local concerts over the past couple of years.
After being on hiatus for a few months, Grubb and his band, The Holy Wars, returned with a set at Treefort 2014 on March 20. The group also recently finished its eponymous debut album, which will include a small comic book drawn by Grubb, and released a split 7-inch EP with local indie-rock band A Seasonal Disguise. Both releases are available at The Record Exchange.
Raised in Chico, Calif., Grubb started playing guitar at age 15, inspired by musicians like Kurt Cobain and Neil Young. He moved to Boise after spending a few years in Ashland, Ore.; Grants Pass, Ore.; and Portland, Ore.
Grubb never acclimated to Portland's music scene.
"I'm convinced that it's me, now," he said with a laugh. "But I just didn't feel very welcomed."
He took to Boise right away, though.
He started The Holy Wars in 2008 and met accordion player Mathew Vorhies by chance at Neurolux and drummer Bruce Maurey at the Knitting Factory's Art in the Bar. In 2011, Grubb met Evil Wine promoter Wes Malvini, who now considers Grubb "one of my closest friends and biggest inspirations artistically."
Through Evil Wine, Grubb met Dustin Jones, who plays bass with the band and produced the tracks for Storie Grubb and The Holy Wars. Jones also recommended working with A Seasonal Disguise leader Z.V. House, who produced the 7-inch EP and mixed Storie Grubb and The Holy Wars.
"Poor Zach got just handfuls and handfuls of tracks," Jones said. "I think I put six microphones on the upright bass."
"And then we ended up not using any of it," Grubb added.
One notable absence from the current lineup is Luna Michelle, who performed with the band from 2008-2013 and whose backup vocals appear throughout the album. Michelle said that she isn't sure exactly why the band let her go.
"The whole ordeal was painful as I was a member from day one, so I didn't really prod for the real reason," Michelle explained. Instead, she concluded "that there must have been differences and that it was time for me to move on to something new. I'm currently looking forward to projects of my own and wish [the band] the best of luck with their endeavors."
For his part, Grubb declined to explain why Michelle was dropped, but did say that the band cared for her and wished her the best, showing that sentiment by contributing artwork to a March 7 benefit for Michelle to help her pay medical bills.
In addition to releasing the new records and playing Treefort, the band has an upcoming show at The Crux on Friday, April 18, opening for the young local pop-rock group Fivestar at its CD release. Grubb also hopes to stage a musical based on his songs later this year. He has started asking local musicians to participate, including multi-instrumentalist Andy Rayborn; Jeremy Jensen, from indie-pop group The Very Most, and Rebecca Noel, from the now-defunct hardcore band Little Miss and The No Names; and the new punk band Ball Torcher.
Regardless of whether or not the plans for the musical come together, Grubb will continue making art.
"Even if I'm working at a pet shop the rest of my life or pumping gas or whatever I'm doing, I'm never going to stop writing music. I'm never going to stop drawing. Because it would kill me, you know? I would rather be dead," he said.