Like fellow Torontonians METZ or Burning Love — or, if we’re keeping our reference points north of the border, Winnipeg’s KEN Mode — Greys are a young band dealing in a form of noise rock/post-punk/hardcore that seems to have sprung directly from ’90s influences: Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, the Jesus Lizard, Helmet … heck, most of the AmRep and Touch & Go catalogs, and just about any band counting John Reis among its membership. It’s a masculine sound, a mean sound; it’s propulsive, pummeling, and often pretty exhilarating.
It’s also a sound Greys have evolved to near-perfection over a relatively short lifespan. The band is made up of Shehzaad Jiwani (guitar/vocals), Cam Graham (guitar), Braeden Craig (drums), and Colin Gillespie (bass), all of them “barely in their 20s,” according to the one-sheet. (Make sure not to confuse the band with ’90s one-album greats the Grays featuring Jason Falkner and Jon Brion.) Greys released the five-song Ultra Sorta EP in April 2011, a few months after forming. They followed that this past May with the Easy Listening EP (mastered by Bob Weston of Shellac, another obvious touchstone here). Between those two points, they toured North America, opening for everyone from Mike Watt to Marnie Stern to Young Widows.
I don’t know how exactly those experiences shaped Greys’ sound, but I do know their forthcoming three-song Drift EP (due out in early 2013) is the tautest, leanest, most explosive recording in their very young catalog: The EP’s first half features two songs, “Carjack” and “Drag,” clocking in at just more than four minutes combined; each track packs into its brief running time the squealing excitement, vertigo-inducing drops, and and rib-bruising jerks of a roller-coaster ride: You get strapped in, you get whipped around at a couple hundred MPH for maybe two minutes, you walk off dizzy, lightheaded, beaming. On the flip is “Pill,” which clocks in at 5:31 and showcases Greys in a different mode/mood altogether, building tension slowly, and releasing it in violent bursts. It’s impossible to not point out the Fugazi influence here, especially as the song kicks off — the first verse almost makes the thing sound like a tribute to/cover of “Margin Walker.” But it soon shifts into something else entirely, something alternately snarling and serene. It’s an addicting piece of music, and I listen to it over and over, deriving some dopamine-infused satisfaction when the guitars burst loose near the 4-minute mark, and with them, Jiwani’s shredded, almost inhuman vocals, screaming, repeating, “Help me,” less like a plea, more like a threat.
I was offered the opportunity to stream one track from Drift here, and after listening to them all a dozen times, and changing my mind with almost every listen, I decided on “Pill,” simply because there’s more to the song. But I find the EP most satisfying as a whole, with the two breakneck scorchers leading into the epic finale. It’s not an easy balance to strike, yet Greys do it with confidence, agility, and abandon. Check out the track below and the EP when it drops.
Greys’ Drift EP is out 2/12 on Kind Of Like Records.