PDX’s young alternative rock band Grey Fiction has crafted a sound of heartache, power, and urgency that captures “an indie contemporary vibe” (Chelsi Archibald, Indie Ogden). They strive to create thoughtful music deeply rooted in empathy and emotion, equal parts headphone escapism and cultural mirror. Says Julie Hollingsworth of Rising Artists Studios: “Grey Fiction—An extraordinary mixture of styles to create music that is a cross between Moody Blues soulful sound, Tears for Fears lyrical honesty and their own style of vulnerability.”
Debut Album Release
Grey Fiction is thrilled to announce the release of their debut concept album On Your Way to Earth & Back, 14 songs from crooning ballads Gracefully and Light the Sea to serious jams Disclosure and Rebirth. Band members and brothers—singer/guitarist/keyboardist Zaine, bassist Matt, and drummer Mark—hope it will be a crazy, dynamic adventure for listeners and fans, a tale of everyman’s journey through life and love. Take a listen for yourself; watch single Disclosure as well as All things come to an end on YouTube. Founded in 2009 near the dry lakebed valley of Salt Lake City, the three brothers migrated to Portland, Oregon to get real, to find a producer and write, record, and release their first full album. Fortunate enough to land with Steve Sundholm, Chief Engineer Alum of LA’s NightBird Recording Studios (Green Day, Carrie Underwood, One Republic, Lady Antebellum), the new album has been engineered, mixed, and mastered by the now proclaimed Genius Mix Meister at PDX’s own Kung Fu Bakery.
Produced by Steve Sundholm
The guys were astounded by the songs Sundholm chose. “We didn’t know how they could mesh together; they’re all so different,” says Matt. Perhaps it’s their eclectic mix of influences that makes Grey Fiction work. Lead singer Zaine is the thinker; he writes most of the lyrics, loves dark melody, and aims for something that’ll get in your gut. He cites the crooning of Jeff Buckley and lyrical sincerity of Damien Rice as guides for his vocal stylings and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd and Gary Moore as his greatest guitar influences. On bass, Matt brings more funk and feel good, to hold the backbone down and keep it from getting too complicated. He’s inspired by the soulful strings of Merlo Podlewski and the creative force Chris Wolstenholme brings to Muse. As for Mark, it’s simple, “all he ever wanted was to hit things,” he says. His highly technical beats bring in the jazz flavor and he names everyone from Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham to Benny Greb as percussion heroes. Says Austen Diamond of City Weekly regarding the synergy created by the trio, “With a knack for engaging guitar leads backed by a jazzy rhythm section, they unfold quality jazzy-jam-rock tunes with fervor and grace.”
It’s All About the Journey
This debut title hints at the journeys, physical and mental, they’ve gone through to get to this place in their lives and professionally in their music. After being among the biggest fish in a smallish pond—Top 25 Bands of 2012 in Salt Lake City Weekly—the threesome broke apart after their father’s death, their earliest and most-influential mentor. “He was our biggest fan, greatest teacher, best friend,” says Mark. Zaine adds, “we were all self-taught by him.” In 2011, they played their first gig in front of a sell-out crowd of three hundred plus people at Freedom Festival. For them, it was a show for one man, Dad Jonathon, who struggled up two flights of stairs and stood on crutches to see them, weakened from Stage IV cancer treatment. Shortly after he passed away, Grey Fiction won Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter Battle of the Bands, putting them in the same category as major label artists Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees. Velour’s owner Corey Fox still likes to say that to this day, they’re the only band to have ever played first and walked away with the title. Said Spencer Flanagan of City Weekly, “As the night went on and each band took the stage, I couldn’t help but compare each act to the first.” Yet through sold-out shows with acts such as Fictionist (Atlantic Records) and The Moth & The Flame (Elektra Records), grief drove them apart. They were all working at Best Buy; the music suffered. On his birthday in March of 2013, Zaine put his guitar in the trunk and took off. He landed on an inflatable mattress on Nathan Junior’s floor—the sometimes guitarist for the Dandy Warhols. Zaine scored a practice space, began gigging solo, and soon, drummer Mark was inspired to reunite with him and resume jamming. After selling the family home, bassist Matt brought his dog Odin and seed money from their father’s legacy to Portland. Back together, the three of them threw everything into the effort to put out this release.
ON YOUR WAY TO EARTH AND BACK
Grey Fiction = Arctic Monkeys + Dicey Hollow
Utah natives turned Portland, Oregon residents, Grey Fiction dropped On Your Way to Earth and Back earlier this year and it isn’t something to sleep on. By introducing out-of-this-world soundscapes to classically sexy, gritty alternative rock n’ roll flavors, Zain, Mark and Matthew Musse put their fingerprints all over the alternative genre and form it into something brand new.
The introduction to the album is a song called “Rebirth,” which contains a taste of every characteristic and unique detail that will be found throughout the entire 14-song piece. The space-inspired intro, layered on top of a vintage sound clip, bleeds into a sweet piano melody that builds with a bouncy drum beat and evolves into a powerful song that’s easy to bob your head to. It’s the perfect mix of their crunchy, alternative side and their sweet, light-hearted side, which, when mixed together, makes the album multifaceted and interesting through and through.
While this album is a mixed bag of topics and inspiration, it’s apparent that the band pulls a lot of emotional appeal within each song, whether it’s edgy or soft and sweet. The topic could be serious, like in Track 2, “Crimes,” where they talk about deception, revenge and demanding repayment, or it could be a more dreamy, romantic subject, like in the retro, beachy track “Extraordinary Beauty.” There’s so much variety within this album that any alternative fan can find something to enjoy. From melancholic heartache to passion and all the way to burning love, Grey Fiction pull at my heartstrings, and I can’t get enough of it.
One of my most favorite songs off of this album is “Gracefully,” which is about leaving a love behind to chase a dream. It starts with a swaying acoustic guitar that bleeds into Zain’s silky yet raspy vocals. It’s subtle rumbling bassline matches the consistent and captivating drum beat. It’s a raw, emotional song that makes the heart heavy. The lyrics are poetic and full of truth, like“It’s time to pack my bags and leave without you. I’m off to chase the sun and make a name while I’m young,” or “You could come away with me. You could leave the salt behind for the sea … You could run away with me and I’ll love you gracefully.” Spun in the perfect web of instrumentals, the beautiful words are tender and vulnerable and frankly, just too good!
Grey Fiction have shone a new light into alternative music. By paving their own path, evolving their own sound and staying true to their writing and artistic style, they’re bringing something new to the genre. On Your Way to Earth and Back is an album full of gems, each crafted to suit a certain mood and ambience, which makes this album a versatile addition to my collection. You can hear each different facet of their sound within each song. I’m excited to see what direction they go musically, and whether or not they’ll keep the variety in their sound or cement themselves down to one of them— but either way, Grey Fiction stole my heart, and I know I’ll be reaching for this album a hell of a lot. –Zaina Abujebarah
Introducing PDX-based trio Grey Fiction who took the time to talk to us about their powerful & timely video & single “Crimes” featured off the album On Your Way To Earth and Back. Comprised of brothers Zaine, Mark & Matt; the trio specializes in a sound to break down the walls of fallacy to reveal the all too real truths that are, as we have come to know them, stranger than fiction. With a sound that swirls with the post-industrial pop landscapes informed by the oughts & 90s dilletantes; the three wise men emerge out of the dystopian wreckages of our modern day with a sound that seeks a sense of justice & balance in a world where such wishes feel like a far-flung luxury that is hard to obtain.
Presenting the Arthur Veenema video for “Crimes” where Grey Fiction’s social critique of systems of governance & abusive powers are delivered with performance visuals that are played in front of a slide-show that depicts documents that lie beyond the red tape. In an otherwise low-lit gray room, the trio harmonically bemoans their grievances & visually captured by the production team of Preston Lewis, Nic Edwards, Stephane Glynn, Christian Selter & snake slithering sequences handled by animal wrangler Haley Sage. The atrocities of the twentieth & twenty-first centuries respectably are illustrated in a collage of vintage audio bytes (Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Daniel Inouye, etc.) & damning visual evidence that further underscores the need for both atonement & genuine understanding of the civic & social errors in our collective ways (both past & present).
Grey Fiction’s singer & songwriter Zaine caught up with us to provide some insightful elaborations on the single & video for “Crimes”:
“Crimes” is a response to there being no justice on this earth; the explicit urgency one feels wanting to do something about everything going wrong in the external world that you just can’t control. Working with director Arthur V on the music video shoot reminded me about what I’ve read about Stanley Kubrick, who once said The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. Underneath this convincing illusion of separation is a universal web of inner-connectedness where there are marvelous relations between beings & things; in the inexhaustible whole, from sun to grub, there is no scorn: all need each other. I like to reference the ultimate man of myth, Joseph Campbell, when the world goes and gets despairing who says we cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can always choose to live in joy. Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. Say yea to it all. This track was an important selection in expressing the raw emotions of anger, betrayal, and injustice; all of which we felt compelled to explore in composing On Your Way to Earth and Back, our space rock opera about a lonely explorer who recounts the planetary romance that occurs during his epic odyssey on Earth.
Or, our human-experience inspired concept album which we spent four years giving birth to in the studio with producer Steve Sundholm after arriving in Portland, shortly following the death of our father. This track features speeches given by JFK, Dwight Eisenhower, and Daniel Inouye who all refer to the shadow government, an obsessive topic to our paranoid father who had served in the US Navy.
Grey Fiction’s album On Your Way to Earth and Back is available now via Spotify.
CWMA Review: Grey Fiction
Posted By Austen Diamond on February 12, 2012, 3:21 PM
As local-music lovers gathered at The Woodshed Friday night, they were surprised by an up-and-coming band, a CWMA stalwart re-imaging his songs and a harmony-laden wonderland.---
I have noted it in previous CWMA writing, but it’s worth mentioning again that Grey Fiction, the three-piece brothers band, drove from California in the middle of their first out-of-state tour on their day off to play this showcase. It's significant in that that excitement was easy to spot as they hammered out nearly 10 songs in 45 minutes, after driving 10 or so hours. As the Muusse brothers began their set, it was quickly apparent why and how they took home Velour’s winter Battle of the Bands a few months back: With a knack for engaging guitar leads backed by a jazzy rhythm section, they unfold quality jazzy-jam-rock tunes with fervor and grace (listen to “Warm Roses”). They played several tracks from the rough-around-the-edges The Light of the Sea EP. But, actually, I don’t think any of the bands on tonight’s line-up are well represented on their DIY recorded-in-home-studios albums: To see these bands live is to hear them at their best.
Grey Fiction shines in this respect, especially with juicy guitar licks courtesy of frontman Paul Muusse, who also sings every song, although at times his croon seems forced and unnatural. I was reminded of seeing Desert Noises at the 2010 CWMA showcase, because I have no doubt that Grey Fiction will mature, and, as they do, have unlimited room for upward mobility in Utah's music scene. This is the local band to look out for in the upcoming years -- mark my words. The set highlight was when Paul was ripping a solo on their last song and Joshua Payne--perhaps SLC’s most prominent guitar player--stood stage right looking on approvingly at the young guitarist’s chops. Additionally, Grey Fiction played several newer tracks, which, their merch guy told me, would be recorded this year on a forthcoming full-length.
Winners of Velour's Battle of the Bands
- Grey Fiction
At exactly 8:05 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10—right as I happened to be walking up to Velour—a giant Lewis Stage Coach bus pulled into historic downtown Provo and stopped on University Avenue in front of the venue. People quickly unloaded, filed through the doors and took their places near the stage.
As it turns out, the “party bus” was rented by Salt Lake City band Grey Fiction, who competed in—and won—Velour’s Winter Battle of the Bands, held Dec. 5-10. The band wanted a way to transport all of their Salt Lake City fans to and from the show. Genius.
Shouting, headbanging, energized fans—along with an amazing performance—helped the band of three brothers become victors. It was a fierce battle, but I think the band that deserved to win did, in fact, take home the stocking full of cash, the plaque and the title.
I’ve had the opportunity to be a judge in Velour’s semi-annual Battle of the Bands for the past several years, and in each competition, it proves difficult to choose just one winner. That said, I don’t think any was as challenging for me as this year’s competition.
As judges, we rate each band on a scale of 1 to 10 in the following categories: musicianship, stage presence, vocal performance, crowd response and songwriting. One of the most challenging parts is remaining objective. Sometimes, a band you normally wouldn’t listen to is better than a band that plays your favorite genre of music. It’s crucial to put your musical preferences aside and judge strictly on the set criteria.
Other incredible performances throughout the week worth mentioning came from The Lucky Strikes, The Blue Aces, Brady Parks & the Indianns and The New Electric Sound.
Grey Fiction plays an incredible combination of ’90s alternative rock and experimental shoegaze set to Paul Muusse’s unique, sometimes wailing vocals that reminded me, at times, of fellow Salt Lake City musician Boots to the Moon. Combined with the lights, the fog and a slowed-down, beautiful acoustic song, the entire performance was epic. As the night went on and each band took the stage, I couldn’t help but compare each act to the first. It came down to just two bands for me, but I went with my gut feeling and decided on Grey Fiction.
I was surprisingly nervous as Velour spokesperson Kaneischa Johnson walked onto the stage with the results. As she announced the winner and I heard Grey Fiction’s name, a strange “Wahoo!” escaped my mouth. The room exploded with applause and the band went onstage to claim their prize.