By Alonso Melgar
CALGARY — Speaking to Greys frontman and guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani on the phone, it’s clear from the get-go how well he’s able to articulate himself and deliver an honest message. When asked about the origin of his Toronto “loud rock” troupe, he merely laughs.
“There’s nothing really special to tell, just a bunch of guys got together and wanted to make loud guitar music.”
Harsh, noisey punk music could be considered the purest and most honest form of music: free of any gimmicks or cheap frills, pure grit and musicianship drive the message home. Hisses of feedback and distortion act as lyrics and are left to ring in the listener’s ears like an open wound.
“There’s a resurgence of bands doing noisey stuff – NEEDS, Speedy Ortiz, Darto — I would say it’s at the point of becoming a more popular form of rock music, different from the more cutesy indie rock that was popular for the last 10 years. It just moves in circles: this stuff was popular in the ‘90s, then Broken Social Scene got really big and that was the dominant thing and now it’s moving back in our direction,” Jiwani comments.
After a string of EPs, Greys bring their own touch to this movement with the release of their first formal LP, If Anything. Jiwani describes the recording process Greys sports.
“We work really quickly and in a pretty utilitarian kind of way. Everything gets done when it needs to be done. We have the record pretty much written when we go into the studio, so there’s no room really to dick around. We had so much time [recording If Anything,] I ended up re-doing my guitar tracks just because I wasn’t entirely satisfied with them.
“Guy Picciotto” (named after the Rites of Spring/Fugazi legend) opens the album with a crushing build of guitars and drums, ultimately leading to a purely satisfying guitar hook and opening verse celebrating the everyman stature of childhood idols. “There goes my hero/he lives right down the street/there goes my hero/he plays the same guitar as me,” Jiwani howls.
Another prominent track is the Bikini Kill-inspired “Chick Singer,” a groove-filled satirical look at gender in music. Jiwani indulges about the track’s inspiration.
“I was seeing a band called The Beverleys for the first time and I remember people in the audience describing them as a ‘chick band,’ as if that was a genre. It was really confusing to me: it’s like describing the movie Casablanca as just a black and white movie, it doesn’t really tell you anything other than what it might look like.”
Judging by the band’s hard work ethic and insight into the industry, it’s easy to see Greys are going places. If Anything is sure to top many “Year End/Best of” lists and their lengthy summer tour brings them to just about every corner of North America and in between. Even Rolling Stone pegged them as “a band you need to know in 2014”? Jiwani, however, remains focused and eager to evolve.
“I think people get caught up with the Nirvana, Drive Like Jehu thing. They certainly were an influence on our early stuff, but I hope people move away from the obvious things and realize there’s a bit more [to our music] than that. I think it’ll be a lot more apparent on the newer stuff we write. We find inspiration from all sorts of places. It’s not like we’re sitting around listening to Yank Crime all the time, as great as that album is.”
Catch Greys at Union Sound Hall (Winnipeg) on June 29th, Wunderbar (Edmonton) on July 1st and Broken City (Calgary) on July 2nd.
AB, Alberta, Greys, If Anything, Shehzaad Jiwani, Toronto