Grey Hairs – ‘Serious Business’ | Track by Track

grey hairs

Serious Business is out now.

Hailing from Nottingham in England, Grey Hairs explore a brand of post-hardcore that focuses on tension rather than ferociousness. Their stock in trade is taut and melodic blasts of cathartic anger. Think Fugazi but sans the funk. Last January, they released their most recent album Serious Business. A collection of 11 tracks, it is a master class in how to create music imbued with sparse vitality.

We had a sit down with the band, that’s Amy (bass), Chris (guitars), Dave (drums) and James (vocals), to have some banter about the record. Expect growing older, The Muskehounds, and bizarre superstitions.

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Serious Business

James: This song is about the Yin Yang of boozing. The heady rise of the session. The freeing of inhibitions, the plateau of fun that usually precedes the hellish downward spiral to the bottom of the glass. Nobody’s gonna feel good after shitting themselves on their doorstep because they couldn’t get the key in the hole. It’s not a celebration of excess. We are not Turbojugend. Boozing is a serious business. It has heaven and hell contained within.

Chris: Dave came up with the ‘One for all and all for one, Muskahounds are always ready’ drumbeat (if you’re my age you’ll know what I mean…) and mutated this into a rocker. I could never work out what fret to start the riff on and on the demo I changed my mind and switched it as the bass came in. We found out the Breeders had the same issue on Cannonball so we kept it in tribute. I’m not sure they’d be honoured but it’s a sincere tribute.

Man is a Kitchen

James: I’m still not sure what Man is a Kitchen is really about. Reading the words properly today for the first time since we recorded it I’m going with ‘intersection between food and virility’ or some pretentious bullshit like that.

Chris: We have 2 types of song, broadly: the knuckle-draggers and the bendy weirdos. This started as a knuckle dragger and ended up somewhere between the two. The riff’s kind of a Stickmen With Rayguns/Flipper type thing. But because we’re scumbags pretending to be nice-guys (not nice-guys pretending to be scumbags) we sweetened it up. A bit.

2:36am

James: This is standard Hairsian mid-life crisis drama about feeling like a loser because it’s 2:36am on a Tuesday and you’ve got work in the morning and you hate your work so you accidentally drank too many cans and now you’re rebelling against your own bed instead because you really hate your job and you’re too deep in a Youtube vortex to care. We got our mates Cai and Lucy from Kagoule to sing on it. They’re bonafide youth. They’re barely into their 20s so it seemed fun to ask them to sing something on a record by a band called Grey Hairs on a song dealing with this sort of thing that’s half a lifetime away (if at all).

Chris: For over a year this had the working title “Wipers”. I love Greg Sage’s guitar playing. Not sure I’d pull off wearing a doo-rag though. Time will tell. This is Matt Gringo’s favourite Grey Hairs song.

Backwards

James: Grey Hairs are weirdly superstitious. We developed an obsession with spotting a tiny wooden horse that sits on the windowsill of a flat on the Holloway Road whenever we drive to central London to play shows. It’s not far from the Joe Meek stencil on the other side of the road which is another totem that’s got to be seen. If we don’t see that horse then the chances are the gig’s going to blow. If we had sense we’d turnaround right away and head home. We’re not like that though. We never do. We’d rather turn it down than risk not seeing the horse. Chris is so obsessed with the horse that he wrote to the owner.

Chris: It’s true. She wrote back as well.

On and Off

James: This one’s a bit of a confessional. A reminder of how much of a little prick I used to be. Back in the 90s, very young and typically cretinous, I got a National Express coach with a couple of mates to Glastonbury. We got bored as teenagers from Corby are wont to do and accidentally dabbed our way through the entire drugs stash we had for the festival on the bus. All discretion went out the window. We jabbered incessant shit, gurned, shouted and played awful music out load (probably Clawfinger or similar) all the way down. Just as things couldn’t get any worse for the poor bastards stuck on the bus with us it broke down for hours on the hard shoulder. We cheered and danced and made them listen to Josh Wink on repeat. I have no idea to this day why we didn’t get our heads kicked in.

Chris: We tried this for the first album and we hadn’t quite got it sorted until Dave switched the beat to something more “motorik”. I think we’d been ODing on the Can box set. I always think of this as a tribute to the great men of the band Obits for some reason.

Misophonic

James: Misophonia literally means ‘hatred of sound’ so it seemed like a funny title for a song. The sound in question here is those awful mouth sounds that some people make when they eat. Fuck that! Don’t talk to me about that ‘nom’ thing that people say either. That has the opposite effect on me. If I see someone’s put a picture of a nice sandwich on Instagram and someone’s written nom in the comments I’m gonna boke. It’s gonna undo the sandwich picture.

Chris: Occasionally I get to ‘be’ Ricky Wilson in a B52s tribute band and sometimes that stuff sneaks into Hairs. This is Dave’s favourite Grey Hairs song. It’s good to play live too as it’s a bit of a rest and we do get tired easily.

Sausage

James: The words are supposed to be like one of those self-help tapes that tells you nice things about not giving up hope and remaining positive like a mantra and then it goes all existential crisis about circles and living in the past in a feedback loop and memories that haunt.

Someone said it sounded a bit like Oasis once and Chris’s speed of agreement was really surprising.

Chris: I can’t see the Oasis thing. Maybe I was being polite. I think the words to this are excellent. When we play it live I try and do Van Halen divebombs at the end to make Dave and Amy laugh but they’re never paying attention. The title comes from this being our most Sausagey song, obviously (though our new one ‘Sausagest’ challenges this).

Pat Was Right

James: Standard Hairs fare. Usual themes. Being perplexed by modern technologies. Being lost in a digital feedback loop. Finally being defeated by the smallest of things like a broken shoelace or trying to set up Apple Pay on a phone. Here’s the Charles Bukowski quote that inspired the song: ‘With each broken shoelace out of one hundred broken shoelaces, one man, one woman, one thing enters a madhouse. so be careful when you bend over.’

Chris: Another knuckle-dragger. The title came from the time a few of us went to a gig by a couple of solo performers. Somehow a local drinking enthusiast had managed to avoid the door tax and was in the gig boozing and shouting to himself. He was having a blast. The guy playing (anti-folk artist Lach) called him out on it and a bit of an altercation broke out that ended with the drunk being ejected. I went out to find out if he was OK and he’d gone to pick a quid up off the floor of the bogs and knocked himself out on the hand drier when he stood up. The barman told me his name was Pat. James’ partner Angie is often our spiritual guide and she seemed troubled by the events. The following day she texted me: “I think Pat was right”. I think maybe he was, but I don’t know why. It’s complex. Apologies to Lach.

Red Paint

James: A doff of the hat to the late Rowland S Howard from guitarist Chris. Lyrically it’s the sort of psychosexual drama that you might associate with a gyrating Tracy Pew. I also saw that William Eggleston photo The Red Ceiling for the first time around the time we were writing this and that found its way in there too. It’s a bit of an anomaly in the Hairs canon this one but it’s fun to play live.

Chris: I’d like to thank the MXR company for inventing the Blue Box pedal and to my friend Ross Nisbet for deciding he didn’t like it and needed £30. I really like this one.

The Chin (Parts 1 & 2)

Two songs in one. Chin one is butt rock repetition with lazy lyrics where 50% of the line is the word black. This video sums it up accurately.

Part 2 is sung by Amy…

Amy: It’s about being aware of one’s mortality and the monotonous daily chore of cutting the wheat from the chaff…

Chris: We tacked 3 song ideas together and in tribute to this odyssey approach we named it after The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (but changed to reflect concerns about our own weight gain – double chin, get it?). The second part live is like going for a testing jog (and I’m not one for exercise).

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  • I think this was a gig in Nottingham at Guitar Bar that you guys refer to in Pat Was Right? If so, I remember it well. The guy was in a bit of a drunk ‘grey out’ and was talking loudly and abusively through the set and I indeed called him out on it. Fuck that noise. But later he sincerely apologized and it turned out he was having some tough personal difficulties. I wished him the best and I really hope things worked out for the better. He was a nice guy but was just in a bad way that night and decided to take it out on me in that moment. It was a learning point for me to try to make compassion my default setting in those situations rather than confrontation. Though sometimes confrontation is the compassionate move, in that night’s case, turns out it was. Pat Is Right is a cool song though and I’m digging the album with my coffee this morning! – Cheers, Lach

    • Gordon Summerlin

      Cheers Lach!
      It’s complex. I’m not sure why Pat was right. I think it’s that – because of his situation that evening – he found himself in another world to the one he expected. He was drinking in a pub (in his head) but he was actually at a gig. I guess expecting him to modify his behaviour is wrong. But so is annoying everyone who has paid to get into a gig. The thing that grated on me was that it was only you who spoke up until the situation was under control and Pat was leaving – it was then that a young guy (living out his Ian MacKaye fantasies) shouted to the back of Pat’s head “Yeah, fuck off!”. It annoyed me a lot. I was on my feet and trying to help Pat out and that almost made him turn round and become violent. It was *that* bit that especially made me think he was ‘right’. If I had to pick a side between Pat or the kid telling Pat to fuck off, I’d pick Pat.
      Anyway – good to complete this circle! Chris / GH