Greys Transform Themselves on 'Outer Heaven'

Greys Transform Themselves on 'Outer Heaven'
Photo: Ebru Yildiz
Greys have just dropped their sophomore album, Outer Heaven, on Buzz Records/Carpark, and it sees the noisy Toronto post-punk unit becoming the band they "always wanted to be."

The members had to force themselves to completely reinvent the way they make music, from the way they channel their influences right down to the way they would play certain guitar riffs or drum fills, guitarist and lead singer Shehzaad Jiwani tells Exclaim!

"We all discussed breaking away from the things that we were doing, and not repeating ourselves," he says. "Anything that was habitual. And that's difficult. It seemed like an eternity, trying to relearn how to play guitar a certain way. There's a lot more pacing and dynamics on this record, so we had to figure out how to execute that without utilizing the same tools that we relied on before."

Those creative discussions about what would become Outer Heaven began nearly two years before Greys felt ready to make it happen. "This is the band we've always wanted to be," Jiwani says. "We just didn't know how to get there, and we had to learn how to do it."

Written over the course of about a month and produced by Mike Rocha at Montreal's Hotel2Tango studio, Outer Heaven blends the band's already established brand of fuzzy, dissonant and high-energy punk rock with an amalgam of very different-sounding influences. In a single breath, Jiwani rattles off a long list of artists that inspired the band on the new album, including the Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, David Bowie, the Chemical Brothers, Nine Inch Nails, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Smashing Pumpkins, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Talk Talk, Swell Maps, Carrie Brownstein, Gang of Four and PJ Harvey.

"We still like being the loud, fast band on stage, because it's fun as hell to play, but we wanted to see how we could do that more tastefully, more artfully, and incorporate these other influences," Jiwani says. "It's been an intrinsic thing in our band, reconciling those two things — the noise with the melody, and the dissonance with the hooks."

Outer Heaven also marks another songwriting shift that sees Jiwani's lyrics venture further into territory surrounding identity, culture and social politics. "No Star," the first song Greys revealed from the new record, talks about how it feels to be a person of colour in a predominantly white community, especially in the wake of events like the terrorist attacks in Paris. Then there's "Blown Out," a song and music video from the perspective of a person who's in a relationship with someone who doesn't understand how their partner's mental health affects them.

Jiwani says it wasn't necessarily a conscious decision, but a natural new direction. "It just sort of happened that way," he says. "But also, if you're a band in 2016 and you don't have anything to say about the world around you, then you're wasting people's time… There's a lot of room to talk about that stuff these days. People need to hear it, they want to hear about it."

Check out Greys' upcoming tour dates here, and have a peek at the video for Outer Heaven's "Blown Out" below.