Origins is a recurring feature that asks musicians to reveal the inspirations behind their new music.
Next month, Greys will release their new album, Age Hasn’t Spoiled You, via Carpark Records. Due out on May 10th, the collection will mark the experimental quartet’s third LP to date, following up 2016’s Outer Heaven and Warm Shadow. Currently, the CoSigned Toronto-based ensemble is in a period of immense growth — or rather, refinement, as evidenced with Age Hasn’t Spoiled You’s previously released lead single “These Things Happen”. This development is similarly highlighted with new track “Kill Appeal”, which the band has released today along with a hauntingly surrealist music video.
Though the four-piece has formerly been pushed into the boxes of “noise rock” or “punk,” Greys has been slowly shedding such classifications. With inspirations as disparate as Madonna; Chemical Brothers; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on this latest LP, the band has deftly synthesized these new influences with their core sound. One might expect uncharacteristic or cheesy compositions with such a list of references, but instead, Greys use those benchmarks — in partnership with a flurry of inventive studio techniques — to facilitate further maturation of the project’s sound. On songs like “Kill Appeal”, the product is a captivating showcase of a band in their prime, solid in their identity.
Like “These Things Happen”, the latest from Greys has political underpinnings. Frontman Shehzaad Jiwani explained,
“The lyrics of ‘Kill Appeal’ deal with various aspects of living in a major metropolitan city, from old neighborhoods being rapidly mutilated to suit the needs of wealthy newcomers to the increasingly imposing police presence. The video seeks to convey still more elements of city living in this era of content rot, constant surveillance, and civil unrest by creating snapshots of several different facets of life through the lens of a half-baked millennial flipping channels or scrolling through his Instagram feed. Spoiled for choice, and none of the options are the right one.”
Check out “Kill Appeal” via its accompanying music video below.
Jiwani also took the time to dive deeper into the Origins of “Kill Appeal”, detailing the wide-ranging inspirations of the track. He offers both the mundane (wanting to skateboard but sucking, cartoons muted and left on in the background, etc.) and the thought-provoking (James Baldwin, mass shootings in Toronto). Read on below.
More than anything, I have always wanted to be able to skate, but since I am athletically inept and terrified of breaking my tender bones, I settle on watching skate videos. I got really into a few by Polar, Palace, Krooked, We Fried, and the Glass series by a dude from Toronto named Erick Valentin. The song was originally called “Urethane”, which is what the wheels on skateboards are made of. I envisioned a song flowing like you are skating through the city at night, seeing different aspects of it present themselves to you during a nocturnal cruise through a dystopian environment, which is why we chose that opening shot for the video.
I was on the hunt for a synth that could do some really grimy bass, similar to the kind you hear at the end of the movie Annihilation. I rented the SH-101 reissue because I read that the Chemical Brothers used the original a lot, and made some really noisy patches that I’d looped to make the mechanical noises you hear throughout the tune. The main bass bits were layered with this and a Minimoog to be as disorienting as possible while still lulling you into some false sense of comfort the way it falls in and out of tune with itself. That sound is, to me, an accurate sonic representation of what it is like inside my head when I feel especially anxious or, worse, dissociative. Chris Sandes, our fearless engineer, kept having to leave the room because the bass frequencies made him sick. Mission accomplished.
I watched I Am Not Your Negro when it came out and a quote that stuck with me was, “All your buried corpses now begin to speak,” which is paraphrased at the end of the song. Some of the lyrics touch on police brutality and the systematic displacement of marginalized people, both of which are subjects Baldwin had addressed so eloquently. What struck me about him was how he was able to effectively change people’s minds about such complex issues at such a politically charged moment in history. He seemed like such a gentle person, and his measured, compassionate way of debating made me long for a time where people were able to discuss such heavy topics in public forums and actually hear each other, as evidenced by many of his talk show or roundtable appearances. My vocal delivery was partly inspired by this approach in that I tried to sing more softly about the issues than yell them over the noise.
When I am writing, I usually watch something on mute that informs some aspect of the song in a roundabout way. There is a sort of nihilistic quality to the animation from the original MTV Liquid Television lineup — Aeon Flux, The Maxx, Beavis & Butthead — that I really wanted to capture in the music in some capacity. The alien bits in the video are sort of a reference to that. I wanted the video to have a similarly deranged vibe. The disparate images and sounds are meant to recall the weird shit you’d find flipping channels when you were old enough to stay up late but not allowed to be out past midnight. (See also: Liquid Sky)
Toronto, Ontario, 2018:
Lots of senseless things happened in Toronto last year while we were making this record. There was a mass shooting, which is one of the first I’ve heard of happening here and I have lived in Toronto my entire life. There was the incident involving the man who ran over dozens of people on a crowded street with a van. On top of that, conservative charlatan Doug Ford (brother of the deceased crack-smoking mayor and hapless idiot Rob Ford) was elected premiere of Ontario, almost immediately cutting funds to things like green energy and overdose-prevention centers. So much of what I love about my city is being eradicated, and I wanted to address that in a way that was both impressionistic and abstract, which we attempted to convey with the video as well.