Greys Discuss the Influences and Inspirations Behind 'If Anything,' Stream Album on Exclaim.ca

Greys Discuss the Influences and Inspirations Behind 'If Anything,' Stream Album on Exclaim.ca
Toronto noise rockers Greys are right in that sweet spot between putting out their debut album and having it fresh enough that they're not sick of listening to it yet. More importantly, the recording of If Anything — due June 17 from Buzz Records in Canada and Carpark Records in the rest of the world — turned out "the exact way" the four-piece wanted it to, vocalist/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani tells Exclaim! And you can hear it for yourself over here on Exclaim.ca.

"I'm not sure what the process is for other bands, but for us, we don't have a lot of time or money, so we went in knowing exactly what we wanted it to sound like," says Jiwani. "We had a few reference points as far the production went and I think that we achieved that. It's the first thing that we've made that sounds like our band, which we're all really happy about. The songs came together and they are presented in the exact way that we would want them to be."

Greys went into Toronto's Candle Recordings (Fucked Up, Final Fantasy) with the production duo of Josh Korody and Mike Rocha and came out in about 10 days with an album that they feel defines their peel-the-paint-off-the-walls noisy rock sound.

Despite forging an identity for themselves as an important part of Toronto's burgeoning discordant, angular rock scene, Greys are still very much in sync with their original influences: basically anything that was coming out of the underground rock music scene in the '90s. In fact, despite the band's intentions to create a sound all their own, a lot of songs on If Anything resemble specific bands, whether they be Bleach-era Nirvana, the Pacific Northwest's feedback-drenched Unwound, Dischord Records' flagship bands Fugazi and Jawbox, or one of the band's personal favourites, Drive Like Jehu.

"That's cool. I'm not offended," responds Jiwani to the implication. "Those are all bands that we like, and I'm not trying to say that we don't sound like that. But it definitely was not intentional or our goal to sound like those bands on this album. It was our goal to sound like ourselves and I think we accomplished that."

One song, entitled "Chick Singer" is a direct homage to feminist punk band Bikini Kill, admits Jiwani, and was inspired not only by his love for the band, but also the pervasive attitudes around women in rock.

"It's told from the viewpoint of an ignorant bro type. The inspiration came from the first time we went to see this band called the Beverleys from Toronto, and I just remember overhearing a bunch of people in the crowd saying stupid things and literally what is said in the song is stuff I was hearing at the show. It was pretty absurd to me that in 2013, at the time, in Toronto, you would hear people talking that way. But that's the only one where we did a pretty obvious nod to another band."

As for the opening track, "Guy Picciotto," although it may resemble a faster Fugazi song, it was actually the band's attempt to take a My Bloody Valentine-style guitar sound and run it into hyper-speed. Named after the Fugazi singer/guitarist and proclaiming "There goes my hero," the song has a double meaning that many people just getting into the punk scene can identify with.

"It is literal, to a certain degree, but it's also written from the perspective of a kid going to shows for the first time and then discovering that the guy who just played this amazing show that he went to the night before is actually just a dude who lives down the street from him. A lot of people thought the song is either super sarcastic or it it's just a poorly written song," laughs Jiwani.

"But, yeah, Guy Picciotto is absolutely my hero. We were also going to call the song 'Kirk Cobain," or any number of goofy things. It's about guys who we look at as kids and think, 'How are you doing this? You're like a superhero. You might as well be flying through the air, because the things you are doing are insane to me.' But you realize they're just people, and you're a person too, and you can also do that."

After putting out three EPs since 2011 (Ultra Sorta, Easy Listening and the decidedly heavier Drift), Greys are using If Anything as a way to show that they are confidently finding a place of their own, not only in Toronto's vibrant music scene but outside of their own geographical and stylistic bubble as well.

"This is the first statement of a fully realized band," says Jiwani. "We put those songs together as a band and we were in the studio together the entire time, and it shows. It's four guys creating a sound, rather than how we started, which was a couple guys saying, 'Hey, how come we don't hear stuff like this?' and making music based on what you like. It's all about realizing who you want to be."

Greys recently announced a lengthy string of North American tour dates. Peruse the schedule and watch their video for If Anything's second track, "Use Your Delusion," below. And of course, stream the full record here on Exclaim.ca.

Read an article on Greys from our Summer 2014 issue here.

Tour dates:

06/18 Toronto, ON - Smiling Buddha
06/20 Toronto, ON - Horseshoe Tavern
06/24 Windsor, ON - Phog Lounge
06/25 Grand Rapids, MI - Mulligan's Pub
06/26 Milwaukee, WI - Ground Zero
06/27 Chicago, IL - The Observatory
06/28 Minneapolis, MN - Gen's Dental Office
06/29 Winnipeg, MB - Union Sound Hall
06/30 Saskatoon, SK - Vangelis Tavern
07/01 Edmonton, AB - Wunderbar
07/02 Calgary, AB - TBA
07/04 Vancouver, BC - Cobalt
07/06 Seattle, WA - Black Lodge
07/07 Portland, OR - Habesha Lounge
07/09 Oakland, CA - Eli's Mile High
07/10 San Francisco, CA - Honey Hive Gallery
07/11 Fresno, CA - Cafe Infoshop
07/13 Los Angeles, CA - The Crest
07/14 Riverside, CA - Blood Orange Infoshop
07/15 San Diego, CA - Che Cafe
07/16 Phoeniz, AZ - 51West
07/18 Salt Lake City, UT - Shred Shed
07/19 Denver, CO - Summit Music Hall
07/20 Kansas City, MO - Vandals
07/21 Lawrence, KS - Replay Lounge
07/22 St. Louis, MO - Lemp Arts
07/23 Nashville, TN - Stone Fox
07/25 Kalamazoo, MI - Cooper Mansion
07/26 Toronto, ON - SHIBGBs