“Just a hardcore kid.” A Conversation With Grey Gordon

by E.A. Poorman

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Photo by Chris Noltekuhlmann

by E.A. Poorman

Grey Gordon is an interesting cat. Not only does he play some pretty great guitar in the emo/hardcore band The Wickerwolves, he’s also a hell of a singer/songwriter in his own right. While with The Wickerwolves the mood stays pretty tense, loud, and in-your-face, Gordon’s solo work is decidedly more subdued albeit still emotionally tense. I’d recently talked to The Wickerwolves and once I’d found out about Mr. Gordon’s solo output and heard with my own ears just how good it was I had a one-on-one with Grey to discuss his music, songwriting process, and how his solo music differs from the Wickerwolves.

E.A. Poorman: So let’s talk about your solo album ‘Still At Home Here’. Is it all you?

Grey Gordon: Everything on “Still At Home Here” is played and written by me. It was recorded by one of my best friends, Matt Riefler, at DigiTracks.

EAP: To your eyes and ears, how does your music differ from The Wickerwolves?

GG: I’d say that it differs from The Wickerwolves material in a fairly large way, sonically. I do occasionally perform with a full band, but it’s primarily just myself and an acoustic guitar. Besides that, The Wickerwolves really consists of Tate, Kiah and Josh at the core. I just contribute some ideas and round out their sound, whereas my solo project is my vision entirely. I’m drawing directly from my influences and crafting songs exactly as I hear them in my head. Writing with a full band, the guys obviously add a lot of their own flair and help turn the songs into something multifaceted, but at the core, they’re still always in line with how I want them to be.

EAP: From listening, right off the bat your solo stuff is decidedly more singer/songwriter. Being the lazy music journalist I’d say you sound a bit like Ben Gibbard, but I know your influences run much deeper. Maybe you could elaborate a bit on your influences and inspiration.

GG: I do love Ben Gibbard. Old Death Cab was a big influence on me in my formative years, for sure. I’d say my biggest direct influence is Ben Barnett, who does a project called Kind of Like Spitting. He’s become a good friend and he’s actually who I’m recording my full length with. It’s all very surreal, since he’s the person whose songs helped me through some of the hardest parts of my youth. Beyond that, my influences are so varied it’s hard to narrow it down. My favorite band of all time is The Smiths, but when I write, I draw equally from Nada Surf or The Pixies or Dinosaur Jr. or Superchunk. All in all, I suppose my biggest influence is just good music and life in the post-modern world.

EAP: When you write are you coming from a very personal place, or are you simply telling stories? On some level most artists are putting something personal or of themselves in their art. But there’s also the art of storytelling. The best artists can balance personal shit with fictional and blur the lines enough to where the listener can’t tell the difference between the two. Where does Grey Gordon’s music lie?

GG: There’s essentially no fiction in my songs. Of course since it’s my vision, it’s channelled through my own filter of reality, which I suppose adds some degree of fictionalization to the process. No person is totally honesty about oneself. But beyond that, every song is completely autobiographical. They either tell stories about my life, describe other people in my life or reflect my personal feelings about the world. My biggest goal with this project is to establish a sincere and active dialogue with people. I want people to feel comfortable talking to me about these songs, and hopefully provide the opportunity for someone to relate to me in a real way.

EAP: I really dig the songs on ‘Still At Home Here’. I think what makes these songs stand out from some of the other singer/songwriter music as of late is that you have some interesting tunings on the guitar, chord changes, the double-tracked vocals, and there’s a really great flow to the songs. How do you approach writing songs?

GG: My approach varies depending on my mood and a million other factors. Sometimes I make an effort to craft something aesthetically similar to something I’ve heard and enjoyed, but more often than not, songwriting is a totally organic process. I sit down with a guitar, and hopefully when I’m done, a song or twenty will have been yielded by the process. I think my propensity for utilizing alternate tunings and chord changes comes from inundating myself with a lot of music outside the singer/songwriter realm. To be honest, I don’t listen to a lot of music within my own genre, so I think my music ends up being an interpretation of what I hear in other genres channeled through the lens of a singer/songwriter.

EAP: Do you get out and play these songs live? Do you get to play any of your solo material with The Wickerwolves, or do you keep these songs to yourself?

GG: I play live a ton. I’ve done a few short US tours, I have several coming up in the next few months, and I actually did a 17 day European tour in November. As soon as I wrote the first few songs that became this project, I posted them online pretty absent-mindedly. People ended up liking them, and before I knew it, I was being asked to play shows. Since then, it’s been a constant grind. I don’t play a ton locally, but I’m pretty much always playing shows somewhere on the face of the planet.

EAP: How do you discern a Grey Gordon song from a Wickerwolves song? Do you ever have trouble deciding whether to share a song with the other guys or keep it to yourself?

GG: It’s super easy for me to keep my solo stuff separate from The Wickerwolves. I know right away if I’d like to keep a song acoustic or try a full band arrangement. Beyond that, I really don’t write much for The Wickerwolves, besides the act of writing parts or helping arrange songs that the other guys have already written. I want that band to be their vision. I was doing my solo stuff long before I joined Wickerwolves, so it’s easy to do both and not have them bleed into one another, even with the guys performing as my backing band.

EAP: What influences your writing besides music? Books, films, everyday life? Did you have someone in your life that inspired you to be a songwriter?

GG: I’m influenced pretty heavily by existence itself, I suppose. I think the aim of art is to share one’s personal experience or vision in the hope that others will see something familiar in it. The goal, ultimately, is to bridge the gap between the inherent isolation of individuality and the potential for meaningful coexistence. It’s a difficult thing, but I hope I achieve that. Beyond that, I take influence from all sorts of things. If you’re perceptive, you’ll catch tons of references to literature, film and culture at large in my songs. I think of myself as an unusually multifaceted person as far as my interests go, and I think that reveals itself in my music. I grew up in a family where good music was everywhere, but if I had to pick a definitive artist that made me realize I wanted to make music of my own, it would be Nirvana. Pretty cliche, but that was the thing that triggered a real personal epiphany for me at a young age. Never looked back after that.

EAP: Do you see yourself continuing with playing with The Wickerwolves while doing your own stuff when time permits, or can you see sometime in the future when you’ll dedicate most of your time to your own music?

GG: I’ll play in The Wickerwolves as long as they’ll have me. My solo project is becoming more and more self-sustaining every day. If I can have one musical outlet that serves as my livelihood, it opens up more time for me to pursue other projects, since I don’t have to worry about holding down a 9-5. I also play in other bands. I play guitar in a hardcore band called Parasitic Twins, do vocals in a black metal band called Antlers As Roots and spend time working on some hip-hop collaborations and other solo endeavors. All I spend my free time doing is music. I can’t see that changing. One project will never be fulfilling to me. If I’m not doing too much, I’m not doing enough.

EAP: Are you writing songs for a new Grey Gordon LP yet? Will you flesh the songs out with more instrumentation or keep things sparse like ‘Still At Home Here’?

GG: My full length is almost entirely written. We’re just working on writing extra songs now, basically, and I’m working on lyrics and vocal arrangements for the newest batch of demos. The whole record will actually be full band stuff. I’ve done full band arrangements on prior releases, and I’ll continue to do so in the future. I like that my records can exist as lo-fi acoustic efforts and full on rock records. I’d get bored without the ability to be malleable like that. Myself and the Wickerwolves are actually leaving on a short tour on February 15 on the way out to Olympia, WA to record my full length with Ben Barnett, who I mentioned earlier. We’ll be locked in the studio for ten days. Looking at probably an early summer release and some tours in support of it. It’ll be coming out through No Sleep Records, which is the label I’m currently signed to and the guys who put out “Still At Home Here.” They’ve been great so far. Chris is a rad dude, and it’s encouraging to know he trusts me enough to throw some cash at me and let me record where I want.

EAP: Where do you see Grey Gordon in five years?

GG: When I recorded 3 songs at 5AM and threw them up on Bandcamp a few years ago, I never would have guessed that I’d get to tour the world with this stuff. At the end of the day, I’m still just a hardcore kid who spends his life playing in basements for 30 kids, so the juxtaposition between the two worlds is strange. I hope I’m still doing this and a whole lot more in five years, man. I’m not good at a single thing in this world besides making music, so let’s hope people keep listening for a while.

Head over to http://greygordon.bandcamp.com/ and http://nosleepsampler.com/album/still-at-home-here and see why there’s no doubt in my mind that people will definitely keep listening to Grey Gordon as long as he keeps writing and recording songs.

Hey, did you like that photo of Grey? Then you should check out the photographer’s website. His name is Chris Noltekuhlmann and he does amazing work. Check his work out here.

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