Greycoats: If our last album was molasses, this one's San Pellegrino
Photo by Darin Back
In early summer of 2012, Minneapolis band Greycoats released a five song EP Helicline that was a teaser to their full-length album, World of Tomorrow. The new album is four years in the making, four years when the band took to grow into a new, more-complete sound. What grew was a heart-stoppingly captivating album. World of Tomorrow is bold in content and glorious in composition, an arrangement woven with touches of intimacy and beauty.
Gimme Noise spoke with Jon Reine of Greycoats before their album release about the album and the exciting concept behind the album release show, which includes interpretations of each song in art form.
Greycoats stay theatrical but get catchy on new EP Helicline
Gimme Noise: You guys just released an album last summer?
Jon Reine: It was an EP, a teaser to this album.
GM: Was it the same songs?
JR: Yes, but there are seven on there in addition to those. We were gonna put the full thing out last summer, but we decided to put out a smaller version instead.
GN: Why did you decide to do it that way?
JR: To get some interest. We put our last album out in 2008, so we decided to put out just a few songs to get people talking again.
GN: Do you feel more and more artists are gravitating towards releasing shorter albums more often rather than full-lengths with more time in between?
JR: I think so. In my heart, I'm still tied to albums. I like to represent where an artist is at a certain time. Here's a collection of songs of where our head is at and where our hearts are at. Here's a snapshot of today. With singles, things move so fast, you have to keep putting things out there that keep people's attention. At the same time, I don't know the history of people putting out singles in rock music. I feel I get asked that question a lot. The people who are really into music really get into a new album. We're trying to experiment with that format.
GN: The seven songs not on the EP, did you feel they didn't fit? Were all of the songs for the full-length written last summer?
JR: They were all written. We basically had the album done a year ago, so we did a little touring and were trying to figure out if there was a record label that would be a good fit. Ultimately, we decided to put it out ourselves. The songs we picked for the EP felt poppy and like summertime, so we said, "Let's put these together, and we'll just put it out as an attention grabber."
GN: Would you rather have found a label for this full-length, or are you okay with releasing it yourselves?
JR: I think it depends on what kind of partnership it is. It would have to be the right thing. It's kind of like asking a single person if they want to get married. It's got to be the right person. I think if it was the right relationship, you will give up some stuff, but at the same time you're gaining their network and connections. It's fine putting it out ourselves in a sense that we have total creative control. On the negative side, it's taken us a lot longer than we really want. Sometimes deadlines can be good. There's that external pressure that a label can put on you.
GN: Were you scared about losing momentum between albums?
JR: There's always that idea of becoming obsolete.
GN: How has this album evolved from the last?
JR: I feel the sound's more focused. The first album was before Matt, our bassist, was in the band. We were putting this thing together, and we recorded it [the first album] two times. Things were pieced together. This new album was more us as a band coming together and creating a thing rather than all of the elements coming together. It's more focused. I feel if the last album was molasses, this one's more like Pellegrino water. It's more punchier and brighter.
GN: Did you do most of the writing?
JR: I would write and bounce lyrics off of the guys. We would arrange things together.
GN: Do you feel you evolved into a better writer?
JR: I hope so. I think leaving room for ambiguity even as I got more ideas for the songs and writing from the point-of-view of a character that you're invested in as opposed to writing all songs as a personal diary of your life. I've been working a job as a writer to pay bills, and that's forced me to be creative as a writer. I read an article that said every ten years, we become a different person. It's easier to look back and say, "I'm so different than I was ten years ago," but it's so hard to look forward and imagine what you'll be like at fifty. Your entire life, you're evolving and growing and changing as a person. That's interesting to me. As a culture, we chase youth, but I'm excited to grow older and have a library of stories that I can look back on.
GN: Do you have a certain song where you relate to more than the others?
JR: We all have our favorites. I feel one of our favorites is a song called "Foshay." It's about Wilbur Foshay, the man who built the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. I like how it came together. I like the idea of this character who built himself up from nothing, and he was basically in this huge ponzi scheme where he lost everything and wound up in prison, and here this tower still stands.
GN: Can you tell me about the artists that you integrated into this project?
JR: We got the idea of asking local artists to create a piece for each song -- a visual interpretation of each song on the album. We're gonna have all these pieces on display at the show as we play. After the show, we're also going to have an extended listening party where we're going to host an art show. It's going to be a walking art show where we'll play through the songs acoustically. We'll talk about these interpretations of the songs and invite people to come up with their own interpretations as well. I love the idea of collaboration. One of the ideas is: art is fluid. No matter who you are, as well as I think I can express myself and articulate what I mean, it's always going to mean something different to someone else. Any painting, any movie, any song, anything you're processing can takes on new meaning depending on who's looking at it. I like playing with that idea and working with artists.
GN: It doesn't bother you when someone listens to your songs and interprets it differently than what you had in mind?
JR: Not at all. I'm always interested in hearing people's interpretations because it's often even more interesting that what I had originally thought of.
GN: Did you come up with the idea to include artists on this album?
JR: I think it started with the idea we had to film a video for each. Which, may or may not still happen. We're making progress... My favorite videos are the ones that end up being more abstractions of the song itself, rather than rock-band-playing-in-a-circle-looking-cool. Unfortunately, when you get most people to help you shoot a video, they eventually want footage of a rock-band-playing-in-a-circle-looking-cool. I'd always rather see a short film than hero worship. So, perhaps its a way to let the abstraction take over.
I was talking to a friend today about the art show and she mentioned how great the artistic community in Minneapolis was. There are so many collaborations and random art shows like the one we're putting on. People just seem ready to jump in and get their hands dirty, regardless of time, status, and financial constraints. Other cities aren't so lucky. Even with the record, having someone like Jeremy Messersmith swing in and sing, or Jeremy Ylvisaker play a lot of mean guitar and help us produce this thing. Maybe it's just guys named Jeremy.
Maybe it's Minnesota nice. It's how we roll. To choose the artists we reached out to people knew or kind of, sort of knew -- a few were strangers to us, but all artists whose work we thought was really cool. We tried to choose artists that worked in a variety of mediums and then assigned the songs based on what we knew about the artist's personality and style. Would they be able to represent the mood of song? Would they gravitate toward any themes that might be there? It seemed like such an ambitious idea. We didn't know if we could pull it together, but, surprising, people thought it was a cool idea and said yes.
At the 1939 World's Fair, there was this interpretation of the future. All of these dreamers got together and envisioned their view of the future was like. Like the World Fair of '39 was intended to pull a city and nation out of the Great Depression, maybe this release is appropriate time, to lift us from our own Midwestern, mid-winter depression.
Greycoats will have their album release show at The Ritz Theater on Saturday, January 26, 2012 with All Eyes, John Mark Nelson, and Ben Rosenbush.
AA, $7 adv, $10 door, 7:30 pm
Purchase tickets here.
For more information on the Greycoats art exhibit and extended listening party, click here.
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