Ground to Cover – an Interview with Shehzaad Jiwani from Greys


At the end of “Blown Out” off of Greys’ new album Outer Heaven there’s a moment that’s seemingly out of place. The track’s perfectly crafted noise rock begs for acceptance and understanding about the tribulations of depression and anxiety. Just as the final moments build to a seeming last crash of emotional release there’s a sudden and somewhat jarring hard cut and we hear the bandmates talking shop. “You like that? I thought it was perfect.” says one of the band members.

This is a small but instructive glimpse into how Toronto-based Greys have grown between their first and second albums. The band feels laser-focused on this album, combining their ferocity with a real knack for belting out catchy hooks and vocals. A real collaborative spirit has developed and allowed them to grow as a whole, resulting in their best work yet.

We were able to catch up with lead singer/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani right before they embarked on a new tour. He talked about how the band shifted gears for this album, the way the album was crafted, if music scenes really exist anymore, and the pros and cons of the plethora of music available today.

OpenEars: Listening to the new album Outer Heaven, it’s a marked difference compared to If Anything; it feels a little more refined. It’s not that the same emotion or intensity isn’t there, but you’ve given it a different vehicle. What prompted that change in sound for you?

Shezaad Jiwani: We just wanted to do something different, we never want to stay in one place musically. There’s always a desire to push forward from wherever we are. Pretty much as soon as we were finished writing this one we started jamming our new ideas. We’ve been feeling really inspired lately and I think we’re already proud of the record and none of us expected it to coalesce the way it did because we were kind of off in the wilderness creatively. It was conscious to go a little bit off the wagon in terms of what we would normally do. Not that it’s like insanely experimental, but I mean the cool thing about it to me is that I don’t think it really sounds like anybody. To me it just sounds like us and I think that’s really cool. So yeah, refined would be a good way of putting it because I feel like we finally synthesized what made us, us and got rid of any kind of influences on the record. 

OE: To follow-up on that, when you’re trying to move in a new direction are you taking influences and saying ‘let’s try how that sounds’ or is it from you guys getting in the room and being creative and seeing what happens?

SJ: It’s kind of both. We all listen to a lot of music so I think it definitely comes through more on this record. On the first one I think we definitely hit on a lot of unique things to our own band that I don’t know if a lot of bands do. It was definitely coming from a certain place. Whereas with this one I don’t know where it’s coming from. I know what we’re listening to but you’d be hard-pressed that anything on our record sounds like Velvet Underground or Broadcast, bands we’re listening to a lot. It’s trying to incorporate influences that are well outside of our own band into what we do. I think that’s what has given us a bit of an edge, creatively.

OE: What’s the process like when you guys are starting to create new music? Are you all in the same room together, or are people bringing in bits and pieces?

SJ: It comes to us in different ways now, before it would be like ‘I want to write a song that sounds like this’ but now it’s more like ‘I want to write a song that looks a certain way’ if you could imagine what it looks like in a sort of filmy kind of way. It’s hard to explain. We don’t know where the spark starts a lot of the time for this new stuff, it seems to just come out of nowhere and we just go with it.

OE: What do you look to for inspiration? 

SJ: It can be anything. I always try to rationalize where the stuff comes from and every time I try to do that it just doesn’t work. The songs just come if they want to come and that’s about it, you can’t really force it. You can direct it, certainly, when does it come.

OE: Are you ever halfway, 75% done with a song when you decide to scrap it?

SJ: On this one we didn’t actually scrap anything. The record was written as it was conceived. It was written the way we saw it. We saw the end result and we worked towards that. It’s super weird but we kind of knew the track listing almost before we knew the songs. We wrote the kind of record we wanted to make based on what kind of songs we wanted to be on it, which I’ve never done before. It’s hard to explain because I don’t really understand how it happened.

OE: Is there any difficulty in trying to reproduce that multiple times?

SJ: I guess you reach a certain routine eventually. It’s hard to explain – it was a really interesting writing process. Everybody was contributing more ideas this time around, it wasn’t just me. We would just flesh it out together, it’s like a lot of different voices rather than one voice.

OE: Do you think certain cities create certain sounds or has the internet changed all of that?

SJ: You’re automatically going to be inspired by your surroundings. You’re always going to have an element of where you come from in your music. You might not be able to pick it out. I just don’t think scenes can be like they were in the 80’s and 90’s because there is so much more music. I think it’s a lot more rare and I think it’s a little more subtle what aspects of the city come out in the music.

Hüsker Dü and the Replacements sounded like they came from Minneapolis at the time, but now I have no idea what that sound is because it’s been filtered through so many different generations. I think locality is still very much a thing with bands, absolutely. Like there’s so many bands in Philly right now that sound kind of like they’re coming from the same place but they all approach it totally differently. 

OE: Now that there’s so much music out there and anyone can get their music out there do you find it relieving that there’s so much exposure or is it tough because it’s so crowded?

SJ: I don’t mind the idea that everything is accessible to people, I think that’s really cool. It’s never been easier to get into as much music as you can, which is really great. But the pros and cons of that are yeah you can get into anything really easily but then the downside is people only listen to so much music and there’s so much out there that it’s difficult to have your own voice. It seems ephemeral when you do get some attention. You could have a great review or a bit of buzz but it’s fleeting because it’s swept away by the tide of information that comes through every single day.

Even in Toronto alone it’s hard to keep track of all the new bands, they just keep popping up. I’m pretty intouch as far as going to shows all the time, I go to shows like every other day. But there’s still some people that pop up where it’s just like ‘what I’ve never seen you here before and I’m here all the fucking time’. And they don’t know who my band is even though we’ve been around for 5 years. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but not a lot of avenues to do it.

Upcoming Tour Info:

05/13 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
05/27 Sudbury, ON @ The Asylum
05/29 Winnipeg, MB @ Handsome Daughter
05/30 Saskatoon, SK @ Vangelis
05/31 Edmonton, AB @ The Buckingham
06/01 Calgary, AB @ Broken City
06/04 Seattle, WA @ Black Lodge
06/06 Portland, OR @ Valentine’s
06/08 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
06/09 Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell
06/11 San Diego @ The Merrow
06/13 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
06/14 Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot
06/15 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

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