Greys Interview: “None Of Us Wanted To Repeat Ourselves”

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greys interview

New Album Outer Heaven  Out Now Via Carpark Records.

With their debut album If Anything, Toronto post hardcore punks Greys marked themselves out as a band with aggression and self awareness. Now they’re back with the follow up, Outer Heaven. When we first heard it here at Overblown, we were quite taken aback at it’s relative calmness and willingness to push the boundaries of the blueprint they had laid down with their debut. We recommend.

Shehzaad Jiwani, singer with the quartet, was good enough to spare us some time to tell us about the decision behind the change of direction on the new album, finding his voice, and being misconstrued. Read it below, under the upcoming Greys tour dates.

Greys Tour Dates:

04/21 Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
04/22 Allston, MA @ O’Brien’s
04/23 Philadelphia, PA @ First United Church
04/24 Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong
04/25 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
04/26 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
04/27 Detroit, MI @ PJ’s Lager House
04/28 Kalamazoo, MI @ Millhouse
04/29 Chicago, IL @ Mousetrap
05/13 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
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
06/04 Seattle, WA @ Black Lodge
06/06 Portland, OR @ Valentine’s
06/08 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
06/09 Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell
06/11 San Diego @ The Merrow
06/13 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
06/14 Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot
06/15 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

Overblown: Your new album Outer Heaven sees you take quite a large stylistic step away from the post hardcore of your debut If Anything. What inspired this change in approach? Was there any opposition within the band to the change in direction?

Greys: I think after touring behind the record for the majority of 2014, we were pretty burnt out on those songs and that way of playing. When we started the band, there weren’t a lot of current bands doing the same thing we were doing. At this point, it seems like a lot more bands have the same influences that we had when we started Greys, so we kind of wanted to move away from that. Those bands have it covered. We were very much on the same page about moving away from the quote unquote “90s” thing, certainly. It was a unanimous decision. None of us wanted to repeat ourselves in any way.

O: After such a big change is it a relief that the new album has been getting good notices? Or is that even something you concern yourself with?

G: I don’t think any of us pay that kind of thing any mind while we are in the writing process. I never really expect people to like anything we do, so it’s nice when people respond positively, but that in no way informs our creative decisions. If it did, we probably wouldn’t have so much guitar feedback all over the record.

O: After If Anything was so well received, was there a temptation to follow the formula established on that record?

G: Definitely not. Maybe there would have been if we became the biggest band in the world, but for a band that still does basically everything DIY, we want to make sure we are satisfied before we try to satisfy anyone else.

O: On If Anything you had a song called ‘Chick Singer’, which was a sardonic take on sexism in the music scene. Do you feel that sexism remains a prominent issue in the Canadian music scene? Did you worry that the song would be misconstrued?

G: I can’t really speak for Canada as a whole. I think Toronto is a very progressive city and I don’t always experience any sort of prejudice against people at shows here, but it certainly exists. That song came about due to an experience I had in Toronto, so it’s not like it isn’t a thing here. It’s still a thing everywhere. I was sort of worried that people might not realize the song was written from a satirical point of view.

O: You (Shehzaad) have stated that the song ‘No Star’ was written in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris last year and explores your relationship with being a person of colour who grew up in a largely white community. Was this search for a voice a part of why you began playing and writing music in the first place? Does the band and the local music scene help provide you with such a voice?

G: I mean, I think it helps me share my voice with a lot of people but you by no means need to be in a rock band to have a voice and speak your mind on issues that you find important. That definitely is not why I started playing in a rock band. I never really wanted to address this kind of thing until recently. My band is very loving and supportive of me and by extension of that the community I am from is also very kind and compassionate towards me. I am very fortunate to be around such people. But by no means do I use the band as some sort of platform for my own personal views outside of my lyrics. If that happens, it’s because those are the questions I get asked in interviews. I am just as happy to write a song about a sandwich as I am singing about my views on race relations.

greys interview

O: The artwork for the new album is quite unusual. Who created the artwork? What is the concept behind it?

G: Myself and our go-to designer, Andy Slater, were quite taken with images from the North Korean Arirang festival. It’s a photograph of part of the ceremony. It’s a gigantic performance that celebrates the life of the Supreme Leader and the birth of North Korea as a nation. The image, to me, communicates this ability to create something beautiful in the face of adversity. There’s something apocalyptic about it and the festival itself that resonates with a lot of the ideas present in the lyrics on the record.

O: You have upcoming gigs with some amazing bands like Big Ups, Odonis Odonis, The Dirty Nil, and Two Inch Astronaut. Is it exciting to share the bill with bands like those? Do you have to up your live game?

G: I don’t really see it as a competition in any way, but it’s great to play with bands you respect and admire because it makes us motivated to go out there and kill it every night so we can be worthy of sharing the stage with artists we like.

O: You did a small tour with Viet Cong last September. What do you make of the controversy surrounding their band name?

G: They changed it, so that’s a good thing for everybody, I think.

O: What’s on the horizon for Greys?

G: More touring, please. Maybe a nap.

O: Pineapple on a pizza. Yay or nay?

G: Pineapple is one of my top five favourite fruits and the very idea of it being bastardized on pizza is offensive to me.

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