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Interview with The Grey Scales
Formed in 2018, The Grey Scales are a 4-piece rock band based in New York City pushing the boundaries of today's musical landscape. With a focus on melody and stellar songwriting, this soul-infused cocktail of rock, pop, blues, and funk has all the pieces to make your eardrums drip in honey-coated happiness. In other words, they're good. Like, really good. And have you seen them perform live yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Check out their date schedule and get ready to finally believe in music again.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I come from a family of non-musicians on both sides, so I have no idea what got me into music. It seems to just have been in my bones. I've always been fascinated by all manner of arts, so if I weren't doing music, I'd probably be pursuing writing or painting, which I also do on the side. Currently I'm a science teacher. Go figure.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I'm not playing music, I'm often either listening to music or mixing music. It's pretty all-encompassing. But there are breaks. I do small art projects which allows me to flex different creative muscles. I also enjoy watching strange indie movies or B-movies; anything that presents a different avenue to what is currently in the mainstream. Not that the mainstream is bad at all. I just don't think you can challenge yourself to grow if you don't expose yourself to different viewpoints.
How long has music been your career?
Well, this is a tricky question. How long have I wanted music to be my career? Probably since I was a teenager and started teaching myself guitar. How long have I legitimately put in the focus and effort to grow my music career? Probably over the past 10 years or so since moving to NYC.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I'm a bit of a traveler. I'm originally from Littleton, CO and grew up there, but I've also spent some time living in San Francisco and Australia, before plopping down in my current digs in New York City. I feel that each of these places influenced me musically, simply by exposing me to different local scenes and artists that I otherwise would never have found out about. That's one of the great things about NYC. There are people from all over the world constantly intermingling, which exposes you to all sorts of melodies and rhythms, as long as your ears are open.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Well, I've been in the game for a while, so there have been plenty of highs and lows. My best gigs are often ones where I feel like, not only did I play well, but that I connected with the audience. I've had people come up to me after a set saying that they felt the exact same way as a character in my song. That comes from the heart and that's when I know I'm doing something right. Those are the best gigs. The worst gigs were probably my first ones where I was maybe a bit overconfident and didn't practice the songs as much as I should have. But these are lessons, right! You've got to have a few shit gigs under your belt so you know what to NOT DO ever again.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I've played at many venues around NYC, but I think the best gig with the band was at Arlene's Grocery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It's a quality venue and we could all hear each other the entire set which, surprisingly, is pretty rare these days. We are playing there again at the end of the month (August 28th) and are stoked. The band and I also have played a bunch of fun venues in Astoria, Queens like The Wolfhound, Shillelagh Tavern, and The Irish Whiskey Bar, which have always been super supportive of new artists. We'd love to play some of the mid-tier venues around town (Mercury Lounge, Knitting Factory, Cutting Room) and move onwards and upwards from there.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Ha! Are we talking about a dream line-up of any musician/band, cause if that's the case we'll be here a while discussing the most amazing festival ever created? My musical tastes are all over the map. Just thinking of currently touring acts, I think it would be awesome to do shows with big name/high-energy performers like the Foo Fighters or Bruno Mars, but my bassist is a huge Tame Impala fan, so why not?
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Just start and be persistent. Don't be afraid to suck for a while. Listen to everything you can get your hands on. Learn the craft of song-writing and how all the pieces fit together to make interesting music. Pay attention to dynamics. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but be true to yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the latest trend, but trends change just by their nature. If you are genuine, that will last.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Don't be afraid. Just try. Take some risks. The biggest thing for me is that I wish I would've started on this journey earlier. I know the odds are stacked against you if you decide to follow an artistic profession, but you never know. And if you wait too long to start, you REALLY will never know!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I've written A LOT of songs, so let me go down into the archives. (Kidding!) There are a lot of songs I'm proud of and many which I hope never see the light of day again, but one meaningful one that always pops up is the song "Wolf " off the band's debut album Life Lessons. I had a dog that was part husky/lab/german shepard who looked a bit like a wolf, but was a sweetheart. Occasionally, he would scare unsuspecting children who thought he was a wolf. He lived until the ripe old age of 17, pretty good for a big dog. I wrote that song in honor of him a few weeks after he passed. It just kind of came out, which is what most songs are supposed to do.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favorite songs to play are some of the newer songs the band and I have been working on for our next album. Partly, I guess, because I've played the other songs for so long. I like to play songs where each band member gets a chance to shine and then we all come back together, like our song "Going Down in Flames". In terms of requests, it really depends on the venue. Different people dig different tunes, but we often get requests for "Privacy", "Atomic People" and "Hook".
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
I don't have a set creative process where I can sit down at a desk with a guitar and say, "Ok, let's write the next hit!". I've tried that and the songs that come as a result are mediocre at best. I have to strike when I'm feeling a melody coming on. I try to play along with songs that I love and then turn them off to see if I'm doing something different or interesting. I am constantly writing down lyrics or little anecdotes on my phone and have a spreadsheet with potential lyrics that I can use to fill-in clunky lines. I learned that trick from David Byrne.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I just want to write interesting music that people can connect with. So the messaging really depends on the type of song. Sometimes I want to vent frustration or sadness and maybe a listener can feel that and relate or get some kind of catharsis from it. Other times, I just want to write a song about dogs or robots or vampires. Not all songs have to have a set message, but they should at least be interesting. A good song should always make you want to go back and listen to it again.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
As the primary songwriter in the band, collaborating has been frustrating at times and a God-send at others. I'm going to try and paraphrase John Cleese here when he mentions in his book on creativity that you have to not be afraid of killing your babies, or something to that effect. What he means is that to a writer, your song, your poem, your musical idea is your baby and when you present that for your bandmates to critique, it's sacred and special and scary. No one wants to hear that their baby is ugly or boring, even if it is! But a lot of it is ego. I've tried my best to put mine aside and be willing to kill or maim the baby for the sake of the song. And most of the time, it works out brilliantly! It can completely transform something. We had a song I originally intended as kind of a love-sick folk song that the band turned into a hip reggae song. I didn't see that coming and wouldn't have been able to get there on my own. So when collaborating, I always think about the sake of the song. Will this suggestion make the song better or worse? I keep that in mind when working with my bandmates, who luckily all seem to take the same viewpoint.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Plans for the future? Hmm....my drummer would say world domination, but that seems way too stressful to me. I just want to continue playing live shows and releasing music that I'd like to listen to. Grow as a band and just get better musically. Covid really slowed things down for us just when we were getting ready to launch our debut album, so I feel a bit like we are starting fresh again. But we recently started working with Bsquared Management and have been booking shows across the city, so we are excited to see how things go. We're ready to get out there and play again. Right now we are playing Aug. 16th at The Bowery Electric and August 28th at Arlene's Grocery, but have many more shows in the pipeline, along with recording our 2nd album toward the end of the year hopefully.
Interview by: Brandon Glasgow, lead songwriter/vocalist/rhythm guitarist