USA
Grayceon
Band:
Interview with
Jackie Perez Gratz
Max Doyle
Zack Farwell
Interview by:
Carlos Rodríguez
Date:
April, 2008
Media:
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Introduction
Discography

There are times in which been brutal, fast and satanic, just doesn’t cut it…it doesn’t cut it for me and for many other metalheads when it comes to finding an outlet for hidden, unexpressed emotions that we carry but our “most traditional” bands cant help us liberate; and then is when bands like Grayceon come into play, serving as more than a piece of underground music and providing a way for some of more beautiful and somber illusions to emerge.

Grayceon is a Bay area band that lingers between the realm of alternative rock and progressive metal, but not the more traditional meaning of progressive, but with a touch of “uniqueness” that gives the band a personality a certain character that traps you in their sound for as long as you keep your mind open and your ears clean.

Line up:
Jackie Perez Gratz - electric cello/vocals | Max Doyle - guitar/vocals | Zack Farwell - drums

 

Grayceon

Max Doyle
Pic courtesy of: Grayceon
"When I am playing live I tend to turn off and stay in my own little world during performances. It’s not that I am not focusing entirely on the music, but I can’t (and don’t) pay attention to the crowd and how they are receiving it. That usually comes after we get off stage."

(J: Jackie Perez, Z: Zack Farwell, M: Max Doyle)
CR: Is Grayceon a metal band?
J:
I think so, yeah. We are embraced by the metal scene, we like to listen to metal, and we have some good-n-metal riffs sprinkled throughout our music. So… I don’t see why you couldn’t call us a metal band!
Z: There are many aspects of metal in our music and we can get away with playing metal shows, but I don't consider us a true metal band...I think we expand too much on many different types of music to be considered that...

CR: Ok an electric cello, a guitar and drums! Could you please explain to us how and why did Grayceon got together?
J:
Max had some riffs that didn’t quite fit into the repertoire of his other band, Walken. Zack, who was playing bass for Walken, was looking for a project in which he could play drums, which is his first instrument. They started jamming and then they asked me if I wanted to be involved. They were fans of my current project at the time, Amber Asylum, and I was definitely a fan of Walken, so I said yes. As they say… the rest is history.

CR: Is it true that you are working on the new album right now? What updates can you give us about it?
J:
Aaah, the rumor is true! Our follow-up to the debut will be titled “This Grand Show,” and will be released on Vendlus Records in August 2008. I absolutely love the album. Writing and recording it with Max and Zack was the single most important thing helping me through the rough waters of my personal life this past year. I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for them and the music on this album. Needless to say, the overall feel of the music and the lyrics on the album are extremely sad and a bit more doomy than our previous material.

Aside from that, the package artwork is looking beautiful, thanks to my former Amber Asylum band mate, Lorraine, Rath, and we can’t wait for the release date!

CR: There is a small description of the bands sound on your Myspace page that I found interesting “neo-folk feel” can you elaborate on that? I mean do you think there is a folk side to Grayceon?
J:
We are not particularly influenced by folk, but we have received that comparison several times from critics. I think this association comes from Max’s finger-picking style and from having a bowed instrument in the mix. Because of this, our sound can definitely get an old-timey, folk vibe on certain melodies.
Z: There are many different elements and many different influences that come through in our music, but I certainly don't think we are a folk band. To me, folk music tells a story with it's lyrics, and we do most of our storytelling with our instruments...
M: In addition to the instrumentation, I think the vocals often have a folk-like feel. And they have been described as like having a campfire quality to them. But I don’t think we necessarily try to make them sound that way.

CR: Why that name…Grayceon?
J:
I really wanted a name that didn’t have previous meaning or connotation. We were a new band trying to define a new sound, so why name it something that means anything other than the combination of the three of us? Max wanted to name the band after a stray cat that lived in the alley behind his house, named Grayson, which is a common last name. We started with that and morphed it into something that was original. The test was, I Google-d the word ‘grayceon’ and not one entry showed up. Done!

CR: Let’s talk a little, well let me ask you a couple of questions about this latest Split album with Giant Squid, how did that idea came together, do you guys normally play together in gigs or was it a contact through Vendlus Records?
J:
Giant Squid asked me to be in their band sight unseen. They lived halfway across the country and were relocating to the Bay Area. I was a huge fan of their music and I was honored, so and said yes. The catch was that Grayceon was in the midst of planning a tour around the same time Giant Squid already had one scheduled. So, we teamed up and I played double duty for something like 35 shows in a row. Now we are all super close friends, love to play shows together, and were super stoked to do the split together.

CR: Was the song that you decided to include “The West”, written specifically for this Split? When you enter such an enterprise, do you have to hear or think about what the other band is going to include so that the material matches or perhaps totally distances from what the other band is doing… or is it just a sort of promotional tool?
J:
This is the first split I’ve ever been involved with, so I’m not sure how it is usually done. But, in this instance, Grayceon knew the theme of Giant Squid’s song when they invited us to be on the split, which is roughly about the gold rush in California. Coincidentally, we had already started writing a song that had some Western inspired riffs in it and thought it would be perfect for the theme of the 7”. I wrote the lyrics when we were touring with Giant Squid across the country, and it was a time when I was questioning what it meant to live in “The West,” the west side of the country. One also feels a bit like a pirate or a frontiersman when touring, so that was an influence as well. Aaron and I worked together on the package to make it even that much more cohesive.
Z: I just looked at the split as a way to put out a song we are very proud of with a band that we all respect very much. In my opinion, that is Giant Squid's best song.

Zack Farwell
Pic courtesy of: Grayceon
"There are many different elements and many different influences that come through in our music, but I certainly don't think we are a folk band. To me, folk music tells a story with it's lyrics, and we do most of our storytelling with our instruments..."

CR: I really like that song “The West”, for some reason it sounded a bit heavier that the ones on your debut, and the first couple of second make me think of Mastodon! What were the aspects of this song that you personally feel are the “highlights” of the track?
J:
I think the vocals are a departure for Grayceon. I wanted to try something different than how we interpreted the vocals for the debut album. Because of this, the vocals are a highlight for me. I also just love playing that opening and closing riff! Also, we tracked the song live, which inspired us to record “This Grand Show’ in the same fashion.
Z: I enjoyed the risks we took with The West. We went into the studio with only 70% of it written, (at least on my part), so it was exciting to finish writing it in the studio as we tracked. I also think it was a great opportunity to show how much Jackie is progressing as a singer. The way she found a lyrical flow over the song impressed me.
M: At that point in our existence as a band, The West seemed like it was the most fluid song we had written to date. And I agree with both Jackie and Zack that the vocals were certainly an improvement from the debut.

CR: You guys have been playing a couple of shows lately, with bands like Russian Circles, Agalloch, Red Sparrows… from all this bands and I admit ignorance, the one that stands out the most among Neanderthal metalheads like myself is Agalloch; well my question is: which group of bands or artist does Grayceon feels better performing with? And do you find maybe that certain bands actually push you guys to perform better?
J:
We were so honored to play with all of those bands, especially Agalloch. This is a hard question because I honestly love to play with bands that I enjoy watching and hearing myself. This turns out to be mostly metal (I think for all three of us), so we end up playing a lot of metal shows. But, we do like some Rock, Indie, and Singer/Song-Writer sounds, so we are open to playing shows with anybody as long as it will be a solid bill. Either way it’s challenging for me. When playing with metal bands I worry that we aren’t metal enough for the audience. When playing with anything else I worry that we are too metal for the audience. Screw it. Let’s just play and have fun and enjoy the show!
Z: I like playing with almost anyone, almost anywhere!

CR: Speaking about your debut album, mainly great reviews across the Internet, how important has the web become for bands like Grayceon… hardworking bands that don’t have the money or power to put on a huge promo and distribution campaign?
J:
I think that many bands can successfully head their own promotional campaigns. The internet helps greatly, but you still have to be determined enough to get addresses, write letters, mail CDs, etc. If a band as not hard working, they best pay someone to do it for them!
Z: We have been very lucky with the reception of the first album. The internet has certainly helped us get our name out there.

CR: Jackie when and why did you decided to play cello? And has there ever been a point in your career where you have question the use of it inside your music? I mean would you ever just have one of those “regular” bands, you know bass, guitar, drums, and a singer?
J:
I’ve been playing since I was 7 years old, so I don’t really remember how or why I chose the instrument. Both my parents are classical musicians, so I just thought that was what you did when you reached a certain age. I wanted to play bass in a ‘regular’ band once, but I quickly became discouraged when I couldn’t write as quickly or play as dexterously as I can on the cello. Nobody said that cello had to be confined to any specific genre, right? And, I’m not quite out of the closet as a singer yet, so… no ‘regular’ bands for me anytime soon! Besides, I have my plate full enough as it is.

CR: The record is full of tiny details; every melody is delicate even on the faster segments, the guitar certainly have some great riffs, but is the cello the one providing the album with a sort of “personality” (Putting my foot on my mouth here about my previous question!) that really makes Grayceon a name to remember. I personally love the vocals, they sort of oppose that classical feeling injected in by the cello, but why such small segments of lyrics on the record, do you think that eventually Grayceon would not include vocals or are you planning on expanding the vocals in the future?
J:
Thank you for your compliments. I’m glad you are enjoying the record! Our debut album was my very first stab at singing and writing lyrics, etc. So, I didn’t want to overstep my welcome in that area. Also, the parts of the music change so much, it didn’t make much sense to force lyrics in every nook and cranny. I like the compositional arrangements to breathe and feel organic and vocals can disrupt that feeling sometimes.

The new album has more vocals than on the debut and we intentionally deliver them in a new way. The vocal melodies are much more emotive and Max sings more harmony, less in unison. And, the opening track doesn’t have any vocals on it! So, I guess what I am trying to say is that it depends on the mood of each song, really. We don’t have any plans to drop the vocals entirely. They create an important layer to our sound and can give meaning to the music, especially in a larger body of work. “This Grand Show” has a single narrative throughout the entire album. We wrote the songs in the order they appear so that we could make a single narrative, lyrically. “Love Is” is the only exception, but it appears as a dream or a flash back within the narrative. Hopefully, we will continue to grow as vocalists and lyricists and keep trying new ideas.

CR: The album only has 4 songs, all adding up to 45 minutes of music, I really like the fact that you left the longest song for the end, after the first 8 minutes and then a brief (compare to the rest) 3 minute song the biggest tracks come into play, this type of music, well your type of music, has never had boundaries when it comes to time and expansion. Were the tracks arranged in order for the “curious” like me, to ease them into the music by Grayceon? Because to be honest after the first two track I didn’t even felt the length of the other two!
J:
We sometimes order our songs from shortest to longest when we play live; asking for small commitments from the audience at first in order to prepare them for a longer commitment later. Although we haven’t played “Ride” live in almost a year! I can’t remember how we ordered the songs on the debut. It just felt right to put them where they are.
Z: The tracks on the debut seemed to flow the best in that order. Ride wasn't even going to be a track on the album, but after we recorded everything it seemed like the best idea was to cut another song, and place Ride instead. I hate long albums, so I thought it was tasteful to make the debut 45 minutes....
J: Yeah, I forgot about that. “Ride” was supposed to be on our next album and “Love Is” was supposed to be on the debut. I can’t imagine either song being on the album they were intended for. Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?

CR: There is a word that pretty much describes some of the feelings I get when listening to Grayceon, and that word is “solemn”, what’s more important for you, to express your emotions when playing or noticing the effect your music has on people?
Z:
I don't have emotions, I just like to beat the shit out of my drums!!!
J: Ha-ha, Zack. Well, I disagree! I think our emotions mostly come out when we are writing the music. We’re not really concerned with what other people will feel or think about when they hear it. Even between the three of us we don’t always envision the same meaning for a particular song, but it’s in these early stages of writing a song when I am feeling what the lyrics should be about, etc.
M: I don’t really know what to say about this, except that when I am playing live I tend to turn off and stay in my own little world during performances. It’s not that I am not focusing entirely on the music, but I can’t (and don’t) pay attention to the crowd and how they are receiving it. That usually comes after we get off stage.

Jackie Perez
Pic courtesy of: Grayceon
"We are embraced by the metal scene, we like to listen to metal, and we have some good-n-metal riffs sprinkled throughout our music. So… I don’t see why you couldn’t call us a metal band"

CR: San Francisco, The Bay area is mostly known (for metal fans that is!) for its thrash scene, but apparently there is a huge amount of talent that hasn’t been discover by many. Is or was thrash metal an important part of the whole music scene in San Francisco, or was it just the loudest one of the great talent coming from the bay? How much the city itself is a catalyst for inspiration to you and Grayceon?
J: All of us have lived in San Francisco for more than a decade so, inherently, the city probably seeps into our pores and into our sub-consciousnesses. Max and Zack- what do you have to say about the SF thrash scene?
Z: Thrash is definitely my favorite type of metal, and Max and I play thrashy music with our other band, Walken, so it's no surprise to me that thrashy parts make their way into our songs. I am extremely excited about the Bay Area's music scene right now, it seems like there is a resurgence of metal since the dot com boom leveled the scene in the mid-late 90's.
M: I think the Bay Area Metal scene is extremely inspiring and influential for me. Many of my favorite older and contemporary bands are local bands. Early thrash bands like Metallica, Testament, Exodus, and Forbidden are all bands that I grew up listening to. And then there are my contemporary local favorites: Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra, Asunder. These bands and others in the local scene push Grayceon to create original music because they are pushing the creative envelope themselves and it all makes for a very exciting music scene to be a part of.

CR: With artist such as yourself, not only the music is admired and scrutinize by fans and music “enthusiast” (I hate that term enthusiasts!) but the media through were you spread the word about your upcoming gigs, the amount of albums released and the format in which they are been released, really end up creating this underground, simple, pure feeling surrounding the entire experience of owning one of your albums, what would you say is the most critical aspect of writing and releasing an album written and played by Grayceon?
J:
The most critical aspect of writing and releasing a Grayceon album, hands down, is that we are having fun doing it. Max, Zack, and I truly enjoyed writing and recording each and every one of our songs and when we get off the stage after playing a show we hug each other and say how much fun we had performing with each other. It’s a really satisfying experience to be able to share that with someone, let alone with two other people!
Z: For me, it might sound cheesy and cliche, but I just truly enjoy writing and recording and playing with my good friends. The most important thing for me is to have fun and letting myself go. If the people playing the music are happy and stoked on each other, I think it comes through in the music...

CR: In your opinion how do most Americans view the music and art from of other countries, I mean you personally, do you see any other country with maybe a kind of musical scene that you will like to be a part of?
J:
I never really thought about it. I know that other countries hold what we are doing in much higher regard. They seem to consider making music a true art form and compensate/support their musicians accordingly. Touring Europe has been on my list of ‘to do’s’ for over a decade, now. It’s just so hard to finance right now. Sigh.
Z: Unfortunately, I think here will always be an ignorance about other countries' art forms. Maybe not so much ‘ignorance,’ but a definite culture clash. It is hard to be American in that regard, because the more the world hates us, the less we are exposed to from other nations. However, I think that as stubborn as metal heads can be, they, as a whole, are the most open minded music fans I know. They don't care where a band is from, or whether they are “metal” enough or not, as long as it's good, they appreciate it.
M: I think most Americans really have no concept of music other than what is fed to them on pop radio. It’s sad to think about, but true. Personally, I’d be very excited to play in any foreign country. There is no one particular scene that draws me, but I’d be thrilled to play anywhere outside of the US.

CR: A couple of “non-music” related questions!

CR: Democrat, republican or independent!
J:
Democratic
Z: I guess I have to say Democrat, but fuck it! If the best candidate is Republican, then I think it is ignorant not to vote for the best person for the job.
M: I don’t have a political affiliation. I agree with Zack that I would vote for the best candidate at any certain time. I’m in support of Obama, so I guess at this point I‘m voting Democratic in the upcoming election.

CR: Since you are from San Francisco I just want to know your opinion about a name “Bill O’reilly” (I’m sort of obsess with the right wing in your country!)
Z:
I don't know him as a person, but he is a piece of shit on TV!!!

CR: Have you ever heard any of your countrymen or women refer to the USA as an Empire, what do you think about that notion?
J:
No, I haven’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what people are saying about this country. I think it’s a horrible notion, but until the government starts running itself differently, it’s a notion not far from reality, unfortunately.
Z: No one in America wants to call this an empire, because this country was founded with the belief that there should not be a power bigger than the people themselves. Having said that, there is no getting around the fact that we have the same power that the empires of old had, like Rome or Babylon before us. We have brought it upon ourselves to police the rest of the world, which is very upsetting. The world hasn't always hated us and I wish it was still that way. We don't have an emperor or a king, but we might as well have one, because the US Government constantly finds ways to, not only, take the rights away from people all over the world, but from the people of America itself.

CR: What does the future hold’s for Grayceon?
M:
We hope to perhaps compose a film score someday. So if there are any filmmakers out there who are fans of our music, please feel free to contact us!
Z: Music, music, music.
J: Amen.

CR: Well thank you very much for your time, and patient, hope some of my questions didn’t sound to ignorant or to weird! What a mix hahahaha, please if you have anything else to add, do so….
J:
Thank you so much for your time and your thoughtful questions. We hope you enjoy the new album when it comes out!

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