Published May 29, 2011It only takes five songs over 15 minutes for Greys to make a striking impression. Ultra Sorta, the Toronto, ON natives' debut EP, is a simple snapshot of how things were: loud, raucous and full of attitude. The four-piece resurrect punk and hardcore vibes from the '90s, proudly wearing their Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu influences. But this is far from a tribute record ― Greys find the space to imprint their sound overtop the obvious origins. Lead singer and guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani is a force able to command melodic interludes ("Black Lodge"), as well as inject intensity via gritty screams ("Rennie"). "Simple Living," coincidently stuck in the middle of the record, bridges both sides of the band's character. Pounding drums and talking vocals intro the track, with noisy guitars and screaming taking over before the catchy chorus. It's the perfect balance that displays the height of Greys, mixing the past with a math rock approach that meshes superbly. "Black Lodge" ends the EP on a similar note, reinforcing the notion that there's much potential waiting to burst forth.
How would you define the music your band plays?
Jiwani: I fully believe it's music made by people who genuinely love music. So, if you like music that isn't the same as everything else that's going on right now, you'll probably like our band. If you just miss the way music, I feel, should sound ― coming from the heart and not about a certain scene ― then you'll probably be into our band.
You've been on tour throughout May. Since you guys are so new, were you nervous about heading out on the road?
Yeah, I'm sure every band are. There's no guarantee any show will be good or bad, but it's been great so far. I have no idea what to expect in the States. Other friends we have in bands do really great, others come back completely broke, but we're stoked. We all look at this as our "eating shit" tour, and we've been eating a ton of shit. So hopefully the shit will get tastier, but either way we're prepared to eat more shit.
How have the crowds been reacting?
Everyone's been responding to us really well, which is great because we're a really new band. It's great to see a bunch of people get into it, especially because it's not really a popular style of music right now; it's not really a sound being played by a lot of people.
Is the end result of Ultra Sorta what you were hoping for?
Yeah, I think it was. Everything's been happening pretty fast for us. The band solidified the line-up in January and we recorded our EP the day after our new drummer played his first show with us. And then two days later, it was done. We did everything in fewer than three takes. It was pretty quick; we just wanted to have the songs sound exactly the way they do live. Given how loud the guitars are, I think it we achieved that. We're real happy with it.
Is the plan to jump right into writing a full-length after this leg of touring?
No, we're worried about rushing into a full-length like most bands seem to do. We're going to be touring more. We're doing the West coast in July and August, and then we're hoping to do another East coast run all the way down to Florida and then possibly back up to Halifax for Pop Explosion in October. And then as soon as it gets shitty to drive we're going to hibernate. A few of us are going back to school in September and then when it gets nice out again we'll probably put out another EP. If we're done touring in 2012 and the world hasn't ended, we're going to put out a full-length.
Are you heading back to school?
Maybe, I'm undecided. It depends on how much more shit I'm willing to eat on tour. It's either pay to go to school or pay to go on tour.
One of the obvious influences that come to mind when listening to Ultra Sorta is Fugazi. But I feel there are shades of the Deadly Snakes, These Arms Are Snakes and probably some other snake-related bands. True?
I feel maybe Hot Snakes more than the Deadly Snakes. I haven't really listened to them that much. But, yes, we love snakes. These Arms Are Snakes are rad; I wouldn't say they're huge influences. I'd say Drive Like Jehu are a huge influence. It would really bum me out if people said we sound like one band. We obviously wear our influences on our sleeves, but we try to incorporate more than one thing. On some songs there's as much of a Failure and Hum influence as there is a Hot Snakes, Jehu and Jesus Lizard influence. We try to keep it varied, because doing one thing is fucking boring. But the next EP will be heavier and faster. And we'll definitely be recording it live.
How did you get into the punk scene in Toronto?
We've all been living downtown since our late teens and we've been going to shows since we were 13. None of us are from Burlington saying we're from Toronto; we're straight up from Toronto! It's kind of weird. I grew up in North York, which is not a particularly arty part of town. The area I grew up in is upper-middle class. I always put it this way: we grew up listening to shitty new metal. I remember when the Deftones were huge, but I was the only one in my high school who listened to them. It's weird being the only one in a high school of 1,000 people who listens to a certain type of music. It gets to a certain point when no one wants to go to shows with you so you start going and making friends there. And that's what happened.
I heard you do some stand-up comedy.
I had to have my arm twisted to do it. The guys from Teenage Kicks and I did it a couple times. I only did it because they convinced me to do it. It was my biggest fear; I don't think I'd do it again. It's fucking frightening. I'm hilarious, but not that hilarious. Everyone was kind of laughing. Apparently being perverse is great. I try to work it into our band's banter, but it doesn't seem to work as well. (Concession)