Music Profile | Greys

Outer Heaven really does feel celestial with the more dreamy, atmospheric, noise sound that punk band Greys have created in this latest album. Outer Heaven is multi-faceted and textured while keeping to the band's roots that are tied to a heart of punk and noise. The album tells many different stories — raging against our apathy — from current events, to their own relationships and life experiences. It is a rare talent that can take such powerful, often dark, haunting lyrics and breath life into them to create a sound that is so diverse.

The Greys just had their album release for Outer Heaven in Toronto last week, kicking off their tour. Be sure to get rowdy with them at one of their tour stops across Canada (see tour dates below) and immerse yourself within their tapestry of sound.  Frontman Shehzaad Jiwani was rad enough to take time out of the tour chaos to answer some questions about the band and their latest album.

You guys just had your album release show for Outer Heaven. How did it go? What was the atmosphere like in the venue? How was the crowd and your feelings while performing the new songs? 

It was a really fun time. I had a fever, so I felt sort of cagey all night, didn't really talk to anybody and tried to conserve my voice, but we let it all out on stage, I think. It was a really positive vibe and a great crowd. It was crazy to sell out our favourite club in our hometown and see a bunch of people singing along. It was also insanely sweaty. I was very happy to see so many women, people from different backgrounds and non binary bodies at the show because I'd hate to be the kind of punk band that only appeals to one demographic. Also, TV Freaks and Casper Skulls were amazing. It was a seriously wonderful time. I am still coming down from it, and fighting that cold.

There has been bit of a change in the sound with the latest album. The previous albums seem to have a more classic punk sound while this one moved toward a more atmospheric sound, still with the noise and punk elements. Why do you think you headed in this direction with the album? Was there any specific inspiration or was it just a natural progression?

It was both inspired and a natural evolution, I think. We knew we wanted to do something different, and we don't usually go in one direction -- we like to go in every direction at once. It was just a matter of doing that in a way that was still cohesive. I think the record is all over the place but still sounds like us. It probably establishes what sounding like "us" is better than anything we've ever done.

What is your creative process when writing the lyrics and combining the sound in the songs?

It comes from all over the place. Usually it's just something I am thinking about that day or that week. Every time I try to remember how a song came together, I can't do it. It just hits and I run with it. I've gotten better at directing the inspiration when it hits, but you can never force it. It just happens.

How does the band collaborate together to create the album?

Usually I'll have an idea of what I want to do and we'll jam it out a bunch and everyone will flesh out their parts and we will bounce ideas off each other. We're all pretty imaginative so we try to visualize what the finished product will be for each song and how we can arrange it and layer it a certain way to get the end result we want. Mike Rocha, our producer, also helps us get from point A to B once we're in the studio. He's great at taking the ideas we have in our head and getting them on tape.

What was the difference when creating the sound in this album compared to your last?

We had less of an idea of what it would end up being. The first record was very much trying to capture what it was like to see us live and what four guys sounded like in a room together. I feel we accomplished that and couldn't really do that again, so we embraced the studio and experimented a lot more. I think the songs still work in a live setting, but I liked the idea of having the live show and the record exist as two different experiences, whereas we very much wanted the earlier material to be one and the same. I think that just stems from us listening to more involved records at this point, so reconciling the atmospheric stuff that we like with the more visceral punk sound that we have becomes the goal.

Some of the songs in the album are reactions to things happening in the world. I think you've done a really great job at expressing your reactions and feelings to events from your point of view. In “No Star” you speak about race and I read that it was inspired by the Paris Shootings. What prompted you to write about that specific event? Can you tell me what you want people to take away from or understand from this song?

We were on tour when the shootings happened and were watching the news very closely. It was very jarring for us. I hate that it took something like this happening at a rock club for us to pay attention to this kind of thing, but that is what happened. And moreso, the reaction to that is what the song is about, and people's manipulation of those events to further their own personal and political agendas. Racists are bad, but people who want to use the fight against it as their own personal platform are also part of the problem if they don't consider the thoughts and feelings of those who these issues directly affect. I don't like people speaking for me, and that's what the song is partially about.

"Cruelty" was another song inspired by an event. Can you tell me what it's about? What moved you about this story that made you want to write song about it?

It's about a news story that Colin read us on the way to practice where a group of teenagers lured a classmate into the woods and attacked him with a machete, buried him alive, and then had sex on his grave. I remember being horrified at the thought of this. I wanted to juxtapose the brutal subject matter with something that sounded tranquil. It just fit.

Your lyrics contain so much emotion. Would you say writing lyrics and music is therapeutic for you?

I think subconsciously it probably is, but to me, it's what I like to do. It's a job that I love. I am an extremely opinionated person, so it comes fairly easily to me, and I don't look at it as therapeutic so much as just a natural extension of myself and how I communicate with people. Playing live is more cathartic for me, I think. I usually feel a lot better after we've played a set than before.

There is such a broad spectrum of songs in this album. Can you explain a bit about where your head was at when your were writing these different songs?

All we knew was that we didn't want to repeat ourselves and that we didn't want to say "no" to any ideas, however strange they might have sounded. The first record seemed like it was on rails after we'd played those songs a thousand times because we knew exactly what we wanted it to be. With this one, we were lost in the woods during the writing and recording, so to speak, so it was a more spontaneous process for us and we just went with our gut about what felt right. I am very happy with it, as a result. That spontaneity is what makes it interesting, to me.

To get back to the roots, how did the band originally form?

Cam and I wanted to start a band that sounded like the noise rock that we listened to that wasn't really happening here in Toronto, or elsewhere for all we knew. We wrote a bunch of songs and played with a few drummers and bassists while Cam was still in University. We met Braeden and he just clicked really easily with us, musically and personally, so we decided to take it more seriously and start touring after that. We put out our first EP five years ago and just kept going.

When did you first start really getting into music? Who were your early inspirations?

I got into music at a very young age. My first favourite bands were the Rolling Stones, Guns n' Roses, Metallica and Nirvana.

What drives you to continue making music?

I like to yell at people, a lot.

When you get really tired out from making and playing music, what do you do to rejuvenate your creativity? Any hobbies or any special rituals?

I try to watch a lot of movies and talk to my friends about anything that isn't music-related so that I can come back to it and give a shit about it again. Working at record stores and writing for magazines as a kid, I feel pretty burnt out from music real easily these days. I like to cook a lot.

Are you excited about your upcoming tour? What do you like a dislike about touring? If you could play a show anywhere in the world where would you want to go?

I have some chronic pain issues so that becomes a bit of a drag on tour, but other than that, we love it. I'd go to Seattle so we could eat Rancho Bravo burritos.

 Is there anything I didnt cover that you would like to say or like people to know?

Barry is single.


Check out greysband.com for more info.

05/27 Sudbury, ON @ The Asylum

 

05/29 Winnipeg, MB @ Handsome Daughter 
05/30 Saskatoon, SK @ Vangelis 
05/31 Edmonton, AB @ The Buckingham 
06/01 Calgary, AB @ Broken City 
06/03 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt 
06/04 Seattle, WA @ Black Lodge 
06/06 Portland, OR @ Valentine’s 
06/08 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern 
06/10 Los Angeles, CA @ La Cita 
06/11 San Diego @ The Merrow 
06/13 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive 
06/14 Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot 
06/15 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

 

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