MUSIC INTERVIEW: Greywind
Greywind released their debut album Afterthoughts on 27th January to great acclaim, and on the same day played their first ever headline show at St. Pancras Old Church in London. We caught Paul and Steph O’Sullivan after the soundcheck to have a chat about the album, their whirlwind journey over the last 2 years, and their plans for the future.
So how are you guys feeling about tonight’s show? Are you ready?
Paul + Steph: We feel really ready, yeah!
P: We don’t really get nervous before shows. This is all we’ve ever really wanted to do. We’ve wanted it to happen for so long, so now that it’s happening we feel quite laid back about it. I don’t mean that in a cocky way – we’re just enjoying every second of it. I mean, this is our 17th full band show in our entire lives, and our first headline one, and we’re in London.
S: Yeah, to be honest this whole thing is blowing my mind a little bit, it’s just crazy! Our first ever show was with Moose Blood in April 2016, and that was sold out too. Again, we weren’t nervous though, it just felt weird!
P: I guess when you want something so badly… we live in the south of Ireland where there is no scene or anything like that. We could never find other musicians, only 50-year-old AC/DC fans! We were trying for years but we could never find anyone, so in 2014 we just said, let’s do it ourselves, and then everything fell into place within 24 hours.
So tell us what happened – how did everything take off?
P: So in July 2014 we were like, we can’t wait anymore. We’d never finished a song, because we were always waiting for other musicians, but then finally we just thought, we can’t wait anymore. So we just finished the song Afterthoughts, found a studio in Belfast – which was our first time ever in a real studio – and we went up there and asked the guy to do programmed drums and bass on it just so we could hear what a full band would sound like.
S: It was just for ourselves as well, it wasn’t even for anyone. We just wanted to hear what we sound like as a full band!
P: So then we recorded it on the Thursday, posted it online on the Monday, and the day after, every single major label emailed us. We thought people were sending us fake emails to mess with us. We thought it was a joke! I went to walk my dog just to get out of the house, and I realised that I was holding my dog’s lead but had left the dog at home cause I was so out of it! We weren’t expecting it, because we weren’t sending the track out to try and get signed – we just posted our first ever song online cause we wanted a band so desperately. And all this is without us having ever played a live show either. But since then we’ve played Reading & Leeds, and we’ve supported Thrice, who are our favourite band in the world.
S: For the demo of Afterthoughts, for the drum reference we sent the producer Music Box by Thrice, and then we got to play with them – it was just insane.
How was it meeting your heroes then?
S: I remember arriving and walking up to the dressing room and Dustin Kensrue was standing there, and I was just like “Hi!” I was freaking out.
P: The even crazier thing was that four years before that show, they played the Kentish Town Forum as their farewell London show, and we flew over from Ireland to see it. Then four years later, they’re back in London, at the same venue, and we’re supporting them. It was crazy. I feel like I’m lying, or like I’m going to wake up from a dream! But we appreciate every second of it. We just love it so much.
We were expecting you guys to have some nerves, especially as this is your first full headline show, but you seem really chilled out about it.
P: I think that we’ve been in worse situations. Reading Festival was our biggest one.
S: We were so worried about whether there were going to be people to watch us, and we played to a full tent. I couldn’t understand how it was happening!
P: I mean our album only came out today, we never had any EPs, we just went straight to album because we’re a band who know our sound. From day one we said, we know what we’re going to sound like, let’s not waste time, let’s go straight to album one and just see.
How was the album recording?
P: It was amazing. We went over to Texas, and to record in America had been one of our biggest dreams as well. We went to Sonic Ranch which is one of the biggest studio complexes in the world, and we were there for 3 weeks with Jason Perry. It was incredible.
Whose idea was Texas, was that yours or Jason’s?
S: It was Jason’s. It’s one of his favourite studios he’s ever worked in so he said, you have to go over.
P: We just had lots of rough ideas at that point. We showed Jason our demos, and we demoed them in a crappy little room in Essex, and then our reward was that we got to record them in Texas.
Was it all you two on the album? Did you have other musicians come in to help you out?
S: We basically had Jason‘s band A come in, so we called ourselves ‘Awind’!
P: Yeah, we had Mark Chapman on bass, and Yin, Adam Perry, on drums.
How was Jason as a producer? What did he bring to the table?
S: He’s the funniest person I think I’ve ever met. He makes you feel relaxed. Him being a singer really helped me a lot, because I obviously am not used to recording vocals in studios, so he helped to guide me on how to be soft in some parts and not shout all the time.
P: He was amazing, I’d definitely like to work with him again. Here and there he’d come up with backing vocals or some other little part. It was nice having a extra brain in there, because when it’s just the two of us we can get in our own bubble a little bit. He completely got the sound we wanted which was amazing. With a lot of bands, the lead guitar is in the front, so there’s no punch when the choruses hit. We felt like some bands are afraid to go heavier, go louder, so we wanted to not do that – in the choruses we want people to feel something. In the end we wrote the album we wanted, so if someone likes it then great. If not, we’re so proud of it, and that’s what matters.
Definitely. Have you seen a lot of fan support for the album?
P: Yeah, like when we announced the little acoustic show today we were worried no one would come, and we had a full venue.
S: And A Day To Remember are playing Wembley tonight, so we didn’t even expect there to be anyone left for us! I mean all of our fanbase are fans of theirs too, so we thought there’s no way we’ll sell out. We were terrified. That’s the one thing we’re scared about.
P: Yeah, that’s the only thing we get worried about. Walking out on stage at Reading, my fear wasn’t that we were playing Reading, it was like, please let there be someone there! But then we walked out to a full tent, so I could relax. I think that’s our favourite show we’ve played.
S: Yeah, that was the first time I could really see people singing back our songs, so it was really special. And it was something like our 13th show ever!
Who are the rest of your bandmates tonight then? How did you meet those guys?
S: They’re here! So there’s Alex on guitar, Tom on drums, and Alfie on bass. Our manager knew Alex from touring with him before. I don’t know where Tom came from! And then Alfie is in We Are The Ocean, so our manager knew him as well.
P: Our manager basically said, I’ll put you in a room for your first ever rehearsal, and if you don’t connect with these people then it doesn’t matter. We’ll just try and find the right people. The album’s done, now let’s get it playing live. But at the first rehearsal we just clicked. It felt so right.
S: Obviously we had never played in a band before, so it was weird hearing it live.
P: And in music there’s a lot of personalities crossing, so you’ve got to get along with people. But I feel like I’ve known these guys for years and years so that’s really good.
Have you got anything special planned for tonight?
S: The greatest rock show a church has ever seen! I mean, do bands play in churches a lot? I don’t know…
P: It’s going to be memorable whatever happens. It looks so beautiful, and visuals like music videos and artwork are really important to us, so instead of doing a normal show in a normal venue, we thought why not make it something different.
You mentioned music videos, how do you find making them?
P: We love it. We come up with quite dark concepts. Like with Forest Ablaze, we said to our management, we want to throw gasoline over people and then set them on fire, and we thought, they’re going to say no…
S: We thought, they’re going to think we’re absolute psychos! But that’s the opposite of how we are in real life – I mean, I love Disney, but then in the video we’re killing people with fire!
P: The gasoline was actually orange squash. It was 3 degrees outside, and we were pouring it over our friends… it was not such a good day for them, but I loved it!
Are those ideas something you come up with while you’re writing the songs?
P: Yeah we always picture it, for every song. Like when we wrote Car Spin, we said, if this is ever a single, we have to go to L.A. to record the video. And for the Circle video, we wanted snow, but we didn’t have the budget to get fake snow. Then we arrived in the Lake District and it was actually snowing! We wanted that video to look like our album artwork, and the same with Safe Haven and Forest Ablaze – every video we’ve ever done is in that artwork. Those visuals are so important to us.
What is your songwriting process like? Are you both involved?
P: Usually I come up with the melody and the lyrics, and then I show it to Steph and we’ll both work on it and get it sounding perfect. We’re brother and sister, so if I show Steph a song, she knows what it’s going to sound like already. We both have the same favourite movies and music taste and everything, so it’s like we have the same brain.
S: Usually at about 4 in the morning I’ll hear an acoustic guitar in the distance from my room, and I’ll know Paul‘s coming up with something. Then he’ll come in and say listen to this, and we’ll go into the living room and have to play really quietly so we don’t wake our parents up!
P: I don’t know, sometimes I’ll see a word, and then everything will just flow from there. I never sit down and think, right, I’m going to write a song now. I don’t force it. Every few days something will just come to me. And it’s usually the verses that come first, and the chorus comes last. Some bands think, I just want to write the chorus, but for me, the listener’s not going to get to the chorus if the verse isn’t good. We want the greatest possible verse, and then we go, right, let’s write a chorus that’s better than that!
Are there plans for a tour after this show? Where can people see you next?
P: We’re playing Download Festival in the summer, and then we have some other stuff that we haven’t announced yet, so hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot of us this year.
We hope so too!
Interview by: Josh Prentice