Grey Shack are a Rock and Roll band from Chennai. They started out as college band in 2007 and after a brief haitus reformed with a new line up in 2010. In January this year, they released a single “Gonzo” that got them attention across the country. They will be releasing their debut album “Step Outside” through Roadcrew Records in a couple of weeks. They are the Artist of the Month on Indianrockmp3.com. Read my interview with them below
Hi guys, for those not familiar with the band, can you give us a brief introduction to the band.
Vikram: Hey! Well, we’re from Chennai and we’ve been around since 2007. We first formed as a college band while studying at the Madras Christian College (MCC). We played the whole competition circuit across the country, winning quite a few of them, including placing second at Strawberry Fields (NLS Bangalore) in 2008. We opened for Galeej Gurus and TAAQ and took a break in 2009 for academic reasons. When Rohan and I found ourselves back in Chennai in 2011, we decided to get the band back together with a new line up now though.
• Rohan Sen – Vocals
• Vikram Vivekanand – Guitars / Backing Vocals
• Madhav Ravindranath – Bass
• Vinay Ramakrishnan – Drums
In a couple of weeks you will be releasing your debut album “Step Outside”. What are your thoughts on the same?
Rohan: Its probably the most exciting thing for any band, to have a solid copy of our work available to the world. The album has been on the cards ever since we got back together and we are REALLY excited to see how the country reacts to it. Apart from that, this is a pivotal step in the right direction for the band because we have all evolved as musicians and when you hear the album, you will hear a distinct difference in the sound of our older material as compared to the new ones. This album is also a step towards the future of the band, to the new sounds that Grey Shack are bringing out.
How did you go about writing the album? Who is the main songwriter in the band?
Rohan: The tracks Awake, Gonzo (single released in Jan 2012), Step Outside (title track released July 2012), One Night Stand and Beautiful Man were written while we were in college. Our previous bass player Tomojit Basu and I shared the song-writing responsibilities. I contributed ‘One Night Stand’ among the list of songs mentioned above.
With the current line up, I take on complete responsibilities of writing the lyrics. When it comes to the album, it’s an amalgamation of our initial burst of creativity and the new material that we have composed with the new line up. Each song on the album is about a unique character or experience that we have had in our lives, for example One Night Stand is about a really short yet steamy relationship I had, Beautiful Man is about a strangely attractive Hermaphrodite that Tomojit wrote about . There isn’t a definite Idea or concept or theme for the album.
Tell us a bit about the recording process of the album. How long did it take?
Vikram: You could say that the recording process began towards the end of 2011. We started recording the tracks for ‘Gonzo’ then, which was the single we released in January this year. Even then, the plan was to record a full length album when we had the finances for it. By May, we got into the studio to record the tracks for our album. We recorded at Krimson Avenue Studios here in Chennai. We felt right at home there, and we feel that it’s absolutely important for a band to feel comfortable in a studio. Copious amounts of various tea and coffee were consumed at the studio!
The recording sessions as such were a blast. Tiring, but a helluva lot of fun nevertheless. We tracked our drums for 7 songs across two days; vocals on another two days, and all the guitar tracks, (acoustic, rhythm, lead sections, overdubs, fills) were recorded in a span of nine hours. For the drum recording, we took our time to set up the kit and the tones and the mics. I remember spending about five hours setting the drum tones. But hey… It was all worth it. It just goes to show how much work goes into the production of an album, especially when you’re on a budget!
“Step Outside” is a song your ex-bassist wrote to help your vocalist, Rohan, get over his first serious relationship. Tell us about the other songs on the album.
Rohan: Awake is the first song we wrote as a band and is a call for people to wake up and smell the bloody coffee instead of being complacent in their blissful bubbles. “Chains bind me to the man, call me free or call me fool. Stuck always by their fake rules, awake now, now and always.”
Beautiful Man is a fun fantasy about a hermaphrodite who makes a move on this unsuspecting chap and how he freaks out. “Hey girl, it could have been so good , we’d be the envy of the neighbourhood, but you ruined it for being like me, should have know sex don’t come for free. “
Dirty City is a recent composition, comparatively. It talks about life in the city and how we need to escape the tyranny of urban life sometimes. The feel of the song is very badass; no rules, life on the highway types. “In the city of dirty streets, she comes to meet you and sweeps you off your feet. Then she’ll take you flying high as a kite, then she’ll take you for a royal ride!“
Monkey Man is again very urban based. Its about a man who sits at home all day, stuck within his cage, he shuffles and struts in fits of rage , he stares at the view in blinding light , Monkey Man’s not giving up without a fight.” It’s about the boxes or cages that we put ourselves into and then wish for a better life, a free life a life not confined by these concrete walls that we construct to make ourselves feel secure.
Gonzo is a tribute to the genius of Hunter S. Thompson. “Feeling like a fish in a bowl , sipping vodka in the afternoon , Gonzo wants to chase dragons in the race , coke lining the tablespoon.” Need I say more?
New Day is the portrayal of the person in your life who has always failed in love and is emotionally scarred. We all know that one individual (or more), so we thought we could put it in song. The chorus is a primal scream to break free. One of our heavier songs.
One Night Stand is about a girlfriend I had in college. We went out for a little over a month and then it ended. I decided to write about the good stuff instead of the depression. “Her lips call to me like chocolate passion, injecting a potion so lethal, that it runs through my spine. Forcing me to make her Mine Mine Mine MINE MINE!”
What are your plans for the release of the album? How can one get a copy?
Madhav: Well, the album will be available with the band, obviously, as well as the usual suspects in the Indian circuit. We’re looking to tie up with a few major distributors to ensure easy availability with COD facilities across the country. There’ll be avenues for international sales as well, and we foresee paid mp3 downloads available within the next 3-4 months.
Rohan is a RJ on Chennai Live 104.8 FM. What day jobs do the rest of the band have day?
Vikram: I’m a full time professional guitarist. I play with two other bands, La Pongal and Yodhakaa. La Pongal is a Tamil folk band (which just performed at MTV Coke Studio, with Usha Uthup and Shantanu Moitra), while Yodhakaa is a contemporary Indian music band. I teach music and I also do sessions for films and jingles.
Vinay: I play music full time as well. The bands that I’m actively involved in are Public Issue and Grey Shack. Apart from these two, there are Udaan, Morrison Avenue, Problem Called Maria. I also do live session gigs and corporate shows as well. I’ve just about entered into the studio session scene as well. Hope I can make a mark there .
Madhav: Business end of the band and corporate whore.
Which bands/artists have influenced you individually and as a band?
Vikram: As far as Indian bands and artists are concerned, I’d have to say TAAQ and Indus Creed have influenced me and my playing. I always learn something new every time I listen to their songs. Otherwise, Slash and AC/DC!
Rohan: Elvis, The Doors, The Who, CCR (my favourite), Steppenwolf, Rolling Stones, Gordon Lightfoot, Pink freaking FLOYD!
Madhav: A lot of heavy music, obviously. But with Grey Shack, I bring a lot of straight up driving basslines. No frills, no stunts, just straight up pounding bass. Influenced by Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi as well as The Who and Muse.
Vinay: Wow…ummm ok. I’m gonna just stick to artists rather than the bands. Carter Beauford, Benny Greb, Pat Torpey, Tony Royster Jr., and Teddy Campbell. Indian drummers there are way too many to name…so not gonna do it (yes..i’m being all diplomatic an all that. I still aint telling). BUT…a HUGE SHOUT-OUT AND THANK YOU to Balaji Parthasarathy, Neil Smith, Rahul Gopal, Shyam Rao, Sankar Narayanan and Prakash Thanigavel for all their help during Grey Shack’s drum tracking. For those of you who’re curious about my set-up during the recording, click on the link below:
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Vikram: Once the album is out, we would love to tour the country, playing at various venues and getting our music across to different cities. We’re also in the process of writing new material that will probably find its way into a second album or EP perhaps (whenever that happens!). We’re going to try and play with other musicians and see where our sound goes, and see the band evolve, as a unit, and as musicians.
Any final words?
Rohan: Well, we hope the groove and the vibe we spread will infect you listeners and keep the love and the support for independent music growing bigger and bigger! That’s the broad picture, the more intimate, final words are BUY THE ALBUM!