Grins and Lies. Credit: Esther Sanchez

The Coachella Valley has a surplus of bad-ass metal bands, including When Tides Turn, Robotic Humans, and Ormus. But there’s always room for more.

Enter Grins and Lies, a band that started crafting a mix of metal and melodic in late 2019. Stevie Jane Lee fronts the band and plays guitar, backed by Nick Hales (guitar), Derek Wade Timmons (bass) and Luiz “Lalo” Carranza (drums). The band’s next show is on Saturday, Jan. 22, at Audiowild Studios in Idyllwild, for Brian “Puke” Parnell’s 40th Birthday Show, alongside Sleazy Cortez and The People of the Sun. You can also catch the group’s upcoming livestream, premiering at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5, on WildCat Guitars’ YouTube channel.

Grins and Lies recently made its recording debut on the Grown Up X-Mas Party Record, a local Christmas album organized by Timmons that features bands including Sticky Doll, Throw the Goat, Sleazy Cortez and others.

“We’ve started recording a couple times for the (debut Grins and Lies) album—and then pandemics happen, and studios change,” said Timmons. “I’d been wanting to make this Christmas album for a long time, and we had the Christmas song ready to go, so it just ended up being ready to go at the right time.”

While the band has wanted to record an album for a while, the members are determined not to rush the process.

“We started at one studio, and did, like, three tracks,” Lee said. “They were super-busy at the time, so we were recording them weeks and weeks apart, and they just ended up sounding too different. We decided to start over again with Puke, and he was coming down here and recording us. We did a couple of tracks that way—and then some of the guys got some new amps and equipment, and again, we’re sounding different. Now we’re going to keep on doing it, and we figured out a way that works really well for us: We like recording live, with all of us playing together. A live recording was actually what ended up on the Christmas album.”

Lee, originally from Utah, moved to the Coachella Valley in 2018—and has been holding on to some of the band’s upcoming releases for a long time.

“Since I was 15,” Lee said. “There’s a good mix of stuff I brought that I had beforehand, but they totally revamped (the songs) and made them way better. … Then there’s stuff that we’ve come up with together, because I’m pretty sick of my own stuff at this point.”

Writing songs as a group can be difficult … but what about writing songs with your partner? Lee and Timmons got married in late 2021.

“It’s been easy,” Timmons said. “It’s probably one of the easiest bands I’ve ever been in as far as the different personalities and styles coming together to make something completely new. Most of the stuff we come up with is unlike anything any of us would do or have done in previous bands.”

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The blend of styles can be definitely heard on “K Is for Krampus,” the band’s Christmas-record track. Lee and Hales’ respective vocal and guitar lines create a melodic and sonic experience, while Timmons and Carranza’s heavy-hitting bass and beats round the sound out with a dark ambience.

“One of my favorite aspects of the writing process with us is that Lalo and I tend to be more of the metalheads in the band, whereas Nick and Derek are a little bit more funky,” Lee said. “I feel like you don’t get those two things combined very often, so I really like that dynamic.”

Added Hales: “I used to play in Fist Full of Glass, as well as Robotic Humans. Those early metal influences definitely helped me, as now I get to get out the metal bug again.”

The trio of Hales, Timmons and Carranza have engaged in a bit of band roulette, as all three have been in both Robotic Humans (separately) and Sleazy Cortez (together, twice). While it’s easy to draw parallels between Grins and Lies and Sleazy Cortez, a clear line is being drawn.

“With Grins and Lies, we try to be—I don’t want to say theatrical, but slightly more of something than just trashy dudes stomping around,” said Timmons. “We have to make sure that (the bands) are a little different, even though it’s a lot of the same people involved.”

Lee admitted she had reservations about the aforementioned band roulette. “I don’t want Grins and Lies to be seen as an afterthought: ‘Oh, and then there’s this thing that we’re doing with my girlfriend over here,’” Lee said.

Theatrics is an appropriate word, because when the band plays live, there’s a strong chance the members will be donning masks—and not the COVID-19 kind.

“It’s been my lifelong ambition to be in an anonymous band,” Lee said. “I always liked that it made it about the music and not about anything else. It’s really hard in this music scene, in the desert, because everybody knows all of us. At this point, it’s more for fun, because everybody actually knows who we are. At first, I was really serious about nobody knowing who is in this band, and I had to let it go a little bit. Maybe when we travel and go play other places, where people don’t know us, I’d like to be a little bit more serious about it.”

Added Timmons: “We could just claim to be our roadies, setting up for the band, and telling everybody how cool they are. We change in the bathrooms of bars—and there we are, the band.”

Even the name stems from the idea of masking or pretending.

“The band name is from a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem, ‘We Wear the Mask,’” said Lee. “He uses Grins and Lies as a euphemism for a social mask, pretending you’re OK when you’re not. That’s kind of like a running theme throughout all of my lyrics, and so it just seemed fitting—and also, nobody else had it.”

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Grins and Lies, unmasked.

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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