Featured Artist: Maddi Gruber talks musical influences, Green Day and upcoming solo work


Chloe Denson

Courtesy of Maddi Gruber

Maddi Gruber is a local punk rock musician who is both a solo artist and band frontwoman for The Viles.

She cites Jack White as one of her biggest musical inspirations, and like White’s former band The White Stripes, The Viles are a two-piece band,made up of Gruber and drummer Justin Almazan.

The pair coordinate long-distance, with Gruber based in Chico and Almazan in the Bay Area. They come together to work on material and record — sometimes in Chico, sometimes in the Bay Area and sometimes in Gruber’s father’s hometown of Auburn, a convenient halfway point between Chico and the Bay Area.

I caught up with the green-haired and charismatic Gruber recently over Zoom and she was enthusiastic and excited, telling me about her influences, accomplishments and some awesome opportunities she’s had — including her upcoming solo album.

Q: How long have you been a musician?

A: I’ve been a musician for, like, seven years. I released my first album in 2016, but I was releasing a few things before that.

Q: Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?

A: Yeah, I play mandolin, drums. I play bass and a little bit of piano.

Q: What got you interested in music and becoming a musician?

A: I’ve just always really liked music. And I was a really big fan of Jack White when I was a kid and watching him perform on stage (I) was like, “Ooh, I want to do that!” So, basically, Jack White got me into music.

Q: Which came first — your band (The Viles) or your solo stuff?

A: My solo stuff, for sure. Bands come and go, but having a solo career is pretty stable.

Q: How did The Viles form? How did you get together?

A: I met them in LA. So it’s just me and the drummer, Justin. We had two other band members, but they just went off. We’ve been a band since, like, February of 2019. We’ve been playing together since 2018, but we coined the term The Viles in 2019.

Maddi Gruber with her bandmate, drummer Justin Almazan

Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?

A: Other than Jack White, of course, I love everyone from CBGB (venue in New York City), that’s like, my idols. Iggy Pop. The Riot Grrl movement, too. 

Q: What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

A: Organizing a tour up and down California by myself. That was really fun and awesome. And I want to do that again after COVID’s over. It was about a month long. It took me about six months to get all of it together. And I toured with another band called Crash 45, kind of teaming up, just trying to get as many shows as we could.

Q: What’s the biggest goal you have for your music?

A: That’s always changing. I guess I’d say right now it’s just to tour and release another album. And then whatever happens after that happens. But yeah, pretty much just release as much music as I can.

Q: What was your first show at Gilman (music venue in Berkeley) like? Green Day started out there, AFI started out there, so many really good bands. It’s a big deal for people to get to play there, right?

A: I’ve always wanted to play there since I was a kid, so having the chance to play there was a big deal. It was cool. It’s awesome. It’s so fun there.

Q: I saw the video of you performing (a cover of the song “Knowledge” by Operation Ivy) with Green Day on stage. What was that like? Where was that show?

A: That was in Oakland. They were on their “Revolution Radio” tour and it was their home show, so they were making it a big deal. I was super excited to play that show.

Q: You got to keep the guitar you played that day, right? Do you ever play it or do you just keep it on display?

A: My dad has (that guitar) hanging up in his house. I’ll let him have it. They all signed it, too.

Q: Was it just by chance that they picked you out of the audience? I know that it’s a tradition for them to pick people out of the audience to come up and play “Knowledge,” but for you since you’re a musician already, was it kind of orchestrated? I didn’t know if it’s kind of rigged who gets to go and then they just act like it’s random.

A: No, it actually wasn’t (orchestrated or rigged). They were just asking, “Who plays guitar?” and a few people raised their hands and he (frontman Billie Joe Armstrong) just picked me. A lot of people think it was staged. I even thought it was staged before, like with the other times that they did that, but I was like, “Oh, I guess it’s not. They’ll literally just pull anyone up.”

Q: Do you have any new music coming out, solo or with The Viles?

Gruber performing at the famous 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley

A: Not with The Viles. I’m working on a solo album. Since COVID started, me and Justin haven’t really connected much and I’ve been having medical problems, so everything’s been on hold. So, soon, I do have plans for it to come out.

Both Gruber and The Viles have a large social media presence and offer several platforms to listen to their music. Gruber has a Bandcamp, Instagram, Spotify, Twitter and a YouTube channel featuring her solo music and The Viles’ music. The Viles can be found on Instagram and Spotify.

Kelsey Ogle can be reached at [email protected]