Indie rock duo Alyssa and Doug Graham, known simply as The Grahams, are the ultimate couple goals. The two met in the suburbs of New Jersey when Alyssa was just 7 years old and Doug was 10, and as they shared during a recent phone call with Substream from their Nashville home, the rest was history. “We’ve spent probably 24 hours a day together since we left our parents’ homes,” Alyssa said. “So, we’ve learned how to navigate and respect each other.”
For the past several years, the two have been on a musical journey across America. It all started with their debut album, Riverman’s Daughter, which was written during a trek along the Mississippi River; they then took to the railways, which resulted in Glory Bound. Logically, the iconic Route 66 was where they went looking for their latest adventure.
“We were on this alliteration trip [e.g. river, railways, Route 66],” Doug recalled, with a laugh. “But since we’re a band, we travel on the road cross-country non-stop, so we were like ‘how could we do it differently?’”
They toyed with the idea of setting out on motorcycles to spice things up. The only catch – neither one of them had any experience riding one.
“Then all of a sudden, we were taking a class to learn how to drive a motorcycle,” said Doug.
“And two weeks later, we hit the road to ride across the country,” Alyssa added.
The Grahams had the road trip of a lifetime that summer as they rode their motorcycles 2,300 miles across the country, hoping to catch a glimpse of America in its heyday. The trip coincided with the height of the 2016 presidential election, when tensions were high everywhere.
“The climate in our country was shifting,” Alyssa recalled. “I think a lot of people who travel Route 66 will find that it used to be the road to the land of milk and honey. Now it’s a forgotten road really, and it’s kind of sad and somewhat painting a picture of what’s going on in our country in general.”
The pair met a variety of people along the way, from artists and musicians, to small business owners, including the owner of a curiosity shop in Erick, Oklahoma.
“We spent the whole day hanging out, smoking weed, having a good time, and playing guitar,” Doug told us.
“We spoke to people from all walks of life,” Alyssa added.
“Their perspective on America is definitely a peek into what became the America we live in now,” Doug continued.
The 12 tracks on their latest album Kids Like Us are the fruits of these adventures – each one drenched in nostalgic Americana, along with layers of poignancy.
The couple initially conceptualized their powerful pop anthem “Just What You Deserve” as a “somber ballad.” They wrote the lyrics during their journey across Route 66, but the music and orchestration came later – while staying with a friend in Austin.
“We were waking up from our South by Southwest hangover,” Doug told us.
“It’s a song that a lot of people can relate to in that it’s speaking to the perspective of somebody who’s been jilted and hurt but refusing to admit it,” Alyssa shared. “And they’re being stoic and ignoring that they have turned into exactly the kind of person they loathe.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Keep listening until the end for a sweet love song, “Mr. G.”
“When we took this journey, we were really jaded about this country. We were really angry and we were trying to escape all this hate, anger and frustration,” said Alyssa. “At the end of the day, we realized we just wanna love each other and sing about love.”
The album officially dropped on March 27 and was supposed to be followed by a European tour, which like everything else right now, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We worked on this record for like three years, so having it come out right when shelter in place started was a little upsetting,” said Alyssa. “But there’s a lot of people who have it a lot worse than us.”
The Grahams are making the best out of the situation though, both professionally and in their personal lives. We can learn from them – especially those of us who may have found ourselves spending a lot more time with our significant others.
“There’s two things that are really great to do in this sort of forced downtime,” Alyssa told us. “Try to do a lot of exercise together, whether that’s in the house or outside. And have a ton of sex! I mean, what else can you ask for right now? That’s the way to stay in a healthy relationship while you’re quarantined together.”
Her husband seemed to agree. “Good one, Alyssa,” he said. “Also, adding structure to our life has definitely helped keep us a little more sane. And we remind ourselves that there are people who normally would wake up and shovel hot ash all day and then come home and have time to eat and go to sleep. We have it a lot better than that right now.”