Interview: Marco of Near Grey
Among the albums to be released this Winter that caught our attention is Near Grey’s Yage. While it showcases a band that grew both in maturity and serenity, Near Grey has by no means stopped being loud. We had the opportunity to discuss with Marco, the guy behind the drums.
theBlackHull: Hi Marco. Thank you for accepting to do this interview. For those who don’t know about Near Grey, could you describe your music to our audience, and mention the other guys you play with?
Marco: Hi, First of all thank you for having us! Near Grey is based in Montréal, Qc and we are an instrumental four piece band. Mitch plays guitar, Nic on bass, Kevin on guitar and keys and myself on drums and a bit of keys lately. I sometimes have a hard time describing our music to people who haven’t heard it. I guess it’s a blend of post-rock / post-metal / sludgy progressive music with a nice touch of drone! One thing is for sure, it’s loud!
theBlackHull: I’ve been following your band since it released its first EP, in 2012, and from what I see, your line-up is pretty solid: two albums later, you still are the same four members. Could you tell us about the dynamic in the band: who plays what role (music business, booking, songwriting, artistic direction, etc) at the present time, and how that dynamic is different (or similar) in 2015 compared to what it was three years ago?
Marco: The relation between the four of us is great. Can’t say that we are jumping around holding each others hand all the time but we do go along pretty well. Mitch is the one doing all the press stuff and pushing the band as much as he can. He has been sending hundreds of emails in the past few years to get reviews and any kind of exposure. I’ve been a bit more in charge of booking shows even if I’m not there all the time. Kevin put all is energy on the album making. He’s the one tracking the band and doing the big part of mixes etc. Composition wise, I would say that the first EP was based a lot on my ideas which evolved as the band members were joining. After that, Kevin came up with loads of good ideas. We still compose as a whole tough…
theBlackHull: You are releasing a new album on February 12, 2015. Its title, Yage, seems to be a reference to the Southern American hallucinogen mixture. What parallel do you see with your music?
Marco: We always have a hard time finding song titles and album names. We do music because we love it and it’s instrumental because we don’t have much to say. The instruments are talking! We all agreed on YAGE because it sounds good and it can mean more than one thing… We knew people would reference it to that mixture but I prefer to reference it to the geek side! Check the urban dictionary for more details!!
theBlackHull: Also, it seems your band has a desire to surf on the margin of existence (or to step into the unknown) with your album titles: Near Grey, The Herschel Peak, Yage. Could you tell us more about your artistic approach?
Marco: As I said answering the previous question, Near Grey doesn’t have much to say. It’s all about the music! When we came up with the band name, we thought it was perfect! Grey is for us a kind of in between colour or tone. Even then, we are not even there! Our main lines in the creation process are doing what we like even if we are the only ones to like it and be as DIY as possible…
theBlackHull: From the first album, Near Grey, to the second, The Herschel Peak, your music evolved into something more controlled, from the format (four songs of the same average length) to the music performance and production. In comparison, I feel Yage is a far greater departure from anything you did previously. Songs are way more atmospheric, as if you traded the heavier post-metal roots you had (that reminded me of Russian Circles and Omega Massif) for a more abstract musical direction (getting closer to Pelican). How did this shift occur?
Marco: We always been quite proud of what we’ve been putting together. But after each release we learned quite a bit… Production wise and sound wise you get better the more you do it. The music itself just naturally shifted this way I guess because we are more and more composing as a whole and each of us brings something different to the table. These 3 new songs could be completely different and still be as good. We stopped counting how many times we’ve been changing transitions and riffs to end up with this.
theBlackHull: The branding of a band usually weights in more as it evolve. On your third album, you kept what I think is a great logo, while the artwork of the new album has been stripped down to something very clean. Who designed it?
Marco: The logo came from me in the first place and has been refined by Kevin. We still love it so we put it everywhere! Hahaha The first 2 albums were all designed and layed out by us. For this one we felt like going for something that looks more professional to fit with the new songs that we think might please a few persons out there! So kevin asked a friend to do the layout and got the picture from another one.
theBlackHull: The previous albums were released either on cassette or CD, and digital. What is(are) Yage’s format(s)? Do you think releasing an album in a physical format is still relevant in 2015?
Marco: At our level, we are just giving our music away online to get to the most people possible. We do have YAGE on CD. I think there is still people out there who love to get a physical copy of something they like. And it’s always good to have something on the spot when somebody see you for the first time live.
theBlackHull: Aside from the albums, what would be your greatest achievement as a band?
Marco: I would say our next big step is to get to open for a big band we love and get some more exposure. Beside that, go back to the jam space and compose an even better album! Touring would be exiting too but I don’t think it’s worth it at our level.
theBlackHull: Any show or plan for the near future to support Yage?
Marco: Two shows to launch the album. February 11th in Montreal and the next day in Quebec city.
theBlackHull: In your press kit, you mention now having four devoted fans. Can you put them on the spot?
Marco: Sure! I believe their names are Mitch, Nic, Kevin and Marco!
theBlackHull: Metal Made in Canada is about the local scene, from coast to coast (to coast). Who are the other bands, bars, and promoters in your entourage, and how healthy is your local scene?
Marco: The scene in Montreal is boiling! There are tons of good bands out here like Rhino, Milanku, Nous Etions etc.. There are also great people helping us out. One I would like to mention is Phil Worthy! Even if we’ve been active for almost four years now we’re still trying to establish relationship with some other local bands and get on different bills. They might be shy or just think we totally suck ! hahaha
theBlackHull: What are your favourite music releases of 2014 (Canadian or international)?
Marco: 2014 for me was a great year professionally so I missed a lot of stuff. Pretty sure the other guys would mention Earth “primitive and deadly” as one of their first choice. There is a lot of stuff I need to catch up on. Thou is one band I really like and I still haven’t check what they released last year. Sumac is the other one I definitely need to check out. Pretty cool to have New Godflesh stuff to listen to as well.
theBlackHull: Thank you for your time and good luck with the release of Yage. The last words are yours, if there is anything you would like to add or promote.
Thanks a lot for your time, YAGE will be available for free on bandcamp on February 12th.
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