Of Pot Shots and Grayshot


Waiting Days

When I was about 13 years old, something in my Mountain Dew-soaked mind led me to dip a cotton ball into a pot of water my mom was boiling for that evening's spaghetti, and deposit that steaming, sopping wad of cotton directly onto my older brother's bare neck.

A panicked chase ensued. It ended in the neighbor's yard, where my brother repaid my gesture with a flurry of sharp kicks to my ribs.

Why would I do such a thing? You might as well ask the sun why it rises in the east. This is just the sort of sadistic shit brothers do to each other.

Which is why I sorta wanted Aaron Ankrum, guitarist for the local band Grayshot, to pour his glass of Newcastle over the springy brown curls of his younger brother (and Grayshot bassist) Christian's head. At 6 foot 7, Aaron lords over his little brother. He's built to commit this sort of brotherly abuse.

Why would I wish for such a thing? I guess I was desperate for some sort of proof that these guys are indeed brothers. When we met on the rooftop patio of Brit's Pub the other evening, they greeted each other warmly, asked each other how they were doing, and engaged in good-natured, polite, respectful conversation. No giving each other the finger. No sarcastic, belittling remarks. No punches to the arm. In other words, nothing to suggest these two are actually related.

Spooky, I know. Especially when considering how enmeshed these guys are in each other's lives. They went to the same college. Studied music at the same college. Dropped out of the same college. They play in a band together. They live together. They hang out together. Like I said, spooky.

But maybe gentility is necessary when you've been playing together in a band since junior high. Grayshot's third album, Waiting Days, is a soothing, richly layered bundle of polished pop rock.

"I'm pretty easygoing. I think that is what has kept us together this whole time," Christian, 24, says half-jokingly.

"We're not like Oasis or anything, but every once in a while we bicker," Aaron, 27, replies.

Bicker?! We need scalding cotton balls here, boys!

Instead, we have an album that the brothers admit is heavily influenced by the sound of bands such as Coldplay, Travis, and Doves. For a band with only two "permanent" members (Aaron and Christian, of course), Waiting Days washes over you with a surprisingly intricate, full sound, which can be attributed to Aaron's experience as a local music producer.

The opening track, "Streetlight," sets the pace for the rest of the album. It shimmers innocently with Aaron's sustained falsetto drifting comfortably over his bright and steady guitar work. The band wisely slips in a mildly funky transition here and there to help break up the wash of sound.

It's the kind of music that is made for overly emotive TV teen dramas. When Aaron sings, "With your arms around me, I feel so safe, so near/And I could never ask why you chose to meet me here/The only thing that keeps me here is you," it's not hard to imagine one of the more painfully poignant moments of a Dawson's Creek episode.

Things get a bit more philosophical on the album's title track, another kernel of ambitious power pop drenched in overdubbed guitars and watery synth parts.

"It's this theme of always looking forward and always wondering what's coming next, and you kind of lose the whole sense of the present. You just need to slow down and enjoy it, enjoy what's happening right now," Aaron explains. "Instead of turning our whole lives into a bunch of waiting days, let's just live it."

"Any Other" is propelled by Christian's driving and melodic bass lines, which are given room to explore and meander, playing more than just a supporting role to his older brother's tightly knit chord progressions. A relatively recent and "nonpermanent" member of the band, drummer Kevin Holvig, provides Waiting Days with both finesse and drive, never overplaying or underplaying his part.

"He [Aaron] comes in with 'Wonderwall,' and I turn it into a different song every time," Christian says.

The Ankrum boys fondly point to their recent discovery of an "I Hate Grayshot" MySpace page as testimony that their band is finally achieving a level of notoriety they've been seeking since eighth grade.

"I'm not too threatened because honestly I've gotten some good laughs out of the page," Christian says.

"If no one knows about us, not really anyone is going to hate us," Aaron adds philosophically.

In a sort of bizarre cosmic canceling out of the negativity from the anonymous MySpace author, Mario Lopez from Saved by the Bell fame (remember hunky A.C. Slater?) posted a message to the official Grayshot MySpace page letting the guys know he is a fan of the band.

With accolades from an artistic luminary the likes of Mr. Lopez, it's doubtful that the brothers Grayshot will go all Cain and Abel anytime soon.

Grayshot perform a CD-release show with This World Fair on Saturday, September 8, at the Varsity Theater; 612.604.0222