The Greys, Tim Gendron (guitar) and David Mecionis (drums), self-titled EP comes with an unexpected sense of chaotic control. The four-track EP consists of rhythmic improvisation or as the band has termed, rhythmprov. The tracks bend through dark hollows of sound which transfix listeners to the instrumentalities and the peppered chants of added vocalizations. Collectively each track can be uniquely interpreted; I would have this blasting while creating as I felt creatively inspired to project my thoughts onto whatever medium was accessible. One thing for sure is that The Greys do very little to provide a monotonous ride into their soundscape. After a good listen of the vinyl-only release I felt it compulsory to learn more about The Greys. I reached out and communicated with Tim of The Greys to attain a little more insight into the beginnings of the band and their creative process.
“Back in high school, while out smoking weed in the park with bandmates on a rainy day, we chanced upon a discarded broken-down piano. We returned, smoked more weed and recorded ourselves banging on/playing the piano. The sounds of the hopelessly out-of-tune instrument were unbelievably beautiful and extraterrestrial, being so completely outside of the sonic language one is used to hearing music expressed in. Moreover, the challenge of discovering combinations of notes which sound good together in this new system, and not just dissonant, was fascinating. I never played a tuned instrument again after that.
The problem with this approach is: if you don’t set a fixed tuning, you cannot repeat what you do. So thereafter I recorded everything I did, alone or with others. I don’t like the completely unstructured, self-indulgent style usually associated with free improvisation: I wanted to create music that sounded as if it had been written beforehand. That is, in contrast to some music in the post-rock style, I sought to make music that sounds good, mistake-free and sensual. So with these goals, the challenge became to learn how to invent, quickly and on the fly, enjoyable, compelling structure. There are certain obstacles that are hard to overcome, e.g., verse-chorus-verse structure really isn’t reasonable when improvising with a group of people. In this connection I took inspiration in the repetitive, groove-oriented style that one finds in a lot of African guitar music like highlife (Ali Chuks), Congolese (Luambo Makiadi), Afrobeat (Fela), and so on.
Anyway, it was essential to find a musical partner who could complement my unusual guitar style: someone with strong musicianship who could organize some of what I do in a traditional structure. In this respect, I was lucky to have met the classical composer David Mecionis, who plays drums on all of the tracks on the EP.
I say lucky because it was completely by chance that we even met. We happened to live in the same building, and I had a neighbor on my floor named Sherlock Holmes, a tall dread-locked black guy who would get drunk and blast away on the trumpet for hours on end. David had locked horns with him on several occasions, so when he heard my guitar playing coming from the same floor, he thought it strange that the guy who played trumpet so badly could play guitar that sounded interesting. Eventually, he figured out the guitar was coming from a different apartment: he introduced himself in the stairwell one day and so began The Greys.
Once we had established our groove-driven improvisation technique, we began to set up “experiments” in which a very wide variety of vocalists/instrumentalists were invited. I would say we’ve played with around thirty or so different vocalists, three of which appear on the EP. We have enough material to release 20 more EPs of the same quality, so if this one takes off, there’ll be more.
Check out The Greys sampler below and become familiar with rhythmprov:
Back to method: vocal improvisation is tough (b/c lyrics) so we never really imposed any rules on our guests, except to say that it was understood that we The Greys would never ever play the same music twice. Usually, we play for as long as we have money to rent rehearsal/studio space: 2 to 12 hours in a given day. The tracks “Bad Leg” and “Deathless” were recorded in basement rehearsal spaces using consumer recording equipment. “Sanctum Sanctorum” and “The Conjunction Event” were recorded in proper studios, the latter at the Rare Book Room. Sometimes a session yields only one or two usable tracks, sometimes all tracks are amazing. In the end, we edit down what’s good, and there you have it.
After finishing my Ph.D., I moved to the Mexico City area for work, but the project continues anyway with my returning to NY during vacations. The months without playing with The Greys somehow work well in the improvisational framework, as they provide a nice slice of time for the gestation of new ideas.”
GhettoBlaster presents to you the video premiere of The Greys video “Deathless” directed by underground filmmaker Nick Zedd: