On Friday, March 13, 2020 Michigan-based radical Skacore act Grey Matter released their Bad Time Records debut full-length record, Climbing Out, to much anticipation among the overarching DIY scene. I corresponded with them about what it’s like for them when creating an album, organizing a festival, and being vocal powerhouses for causes they believe in among their feelings on a hundred other things. Read the full interview below!
Order Climbing Out on bandcamp here. And watch their Runescape themed music video for the single “Panic” below:
Hello again! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. How are you doing? Introduce yourselves.
Hello, we are some of Grey Matter! Talking here together are Mack, Jake, Kenny, and Elliott. Pip and Nick added some stuff later too.
Congratulations on joining your new label, Bad Time Records! How did that pairing come to be? How’s the experience been working together so far?
Kenny knew Mike (Bad Time Records’ guy) from Kill Lincoln from booking shows and being active in the Ska scene for a while. Kenny saw what Mike was doing online with Bad Time Records and thought it would be a good fit for us. It has been a phenomenal experience, and we’re really excited to see what else is building within the Bad Time family.
Where and with whom did you record your new album Climbing Out? What was that process like?
We recorded with Rick Johnson at Cold War Studios in Grand Rapids. Rick is a great producer; we have recorded with him before and knew he would make our weird music sound good. He’s a very supportive individual, and always has good advice on how to push ourselves further as creative people. He made the recording process go smoothly and eased some of our anxieties about recording our music.
Are you planning to tour on this record? Do you have a cool release show or anything planned?
Our release show will be Friday, April 10th at Mac’s Bar in Lansing, MI. We’re stoked to be playing with Bombastic Dream Pussy and Saving Throw, with more to be announced. Mac’s Bar is all ages and wheelchair accessible, but does not have wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
So far we have no tours scheduled, but we have plans to go East and around the Midwest sometime this summer.
I know at least some of y’all are on the crew that runs Stoop Fest, right? Tell me about that and how it’s grown over the years not just in size or scope but in intention.
Hey Pip here! StoopFest is one of my favorite events, and this year will be its fifth annual iteration, although this is only my second year being on the planning team.
StoopFest is unique in that it takes place in mostly house venues and DIY spaces across the Eastside neighborhood of Lansing. I feel like the fest evolves and changes every year based on what worked, what didn’t, and feedback from the community.
We’ve had a lot of conversations about making the fest more accessible, putting together a diverse lineup, and getting community organizations involved. I think this year is going to be really good, come check it out! April 18th in Lansing, MI!
Other than yourselves, who are some good Ska bands that are on the rise?
You’ve obviously collaborated with Pancho Villa’s Skull a few times, including on the album. Are there any other collaborations in the works or that you dream of doing in the future?
We would love to collaborate with Skatune Network, as Jeremy is one of our biggest supporters and influences. There’s a few acts more on the hardcore side that we would love to collab with such as Gouge Away, Thou, and The HIRS Collective.
This is the part where I ask the first thing that comes to my mind as I listen to each track of your upcoming album Climbing Out. The questions may or may not relate to the content of the songs at all, but are merely my first thoughts. Please answer any/all you feel comfortable with in as much or little detail as you wish.
“Sleep”: There’s obviously so much to be mad about. What makes you mad right now?
Racism in the workplace and electoral politics.
“Not My Friend”: What do you think is the truest sign of a real friendship?
People who are empathetic, self-aware, and authentic are the ones that come to mind, as cheesy as it sounds. When you know a friend accepts you and your identity with no intentions to change, it’s probably a real friendship.
“Climbing Out”: How would you suggest to someone that is new and feeling isolated in the music/art community to get involved?
If they’re trying to go to shows, they can use the location tags on Bandcamp to find bands local to them. Through that, they can leap through the suggested bands and bands’ social media to find upcoming shows. It’s about getting out there and being open to meeting new people.
“Consent”: Do you recommend a specific nonprofit or shelter for survivors in your area and if so can you please drop their information here?
In Lansing, there is the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing has resources to support survivors of assault and domestic violence.
“Dang! (Love Yourself)”: What is something that you unapologetically love about yourself?
Jake: I’m SO TALL. SIX ONE, BABY. SIX ONE.
Mack: I like that I have found style in my late twenties and now care about fashion.
Elliott: I like to do many things… Jack of all trades.
Kenny: I have a lot of stories because I’ve done a lot of things… which is better than saying I’m a hot Christian Skacore Legend.
Pip: I’m an empathetic person and I care a lot about the people around me. Also I have perfect handwriting :^)
“Can’t Go Back”: Do you like Jazz?
“Upswing”: Where is the strangest place or situation being in this band has brought you to?
There are a lot of bizarre places, but the absolute MOST bizarre (and just worst in general) is Skatopia.
“Mas Fuerte Pt. 1 (ft. Pancho Villa’s Skull)”: How did you first link up with PVS and what is it like collaborating with them? How has their music and presence alongside you influenced you in yours and life in general?
We met them at The Vulnerable record release. Tino was in that band for a while with Kenny. Kenny has known Tino since they were like a freshman in high school!
We work together well because they have a very distinct vision and sound that feels organic. There’s no one else doing stuff like they do, and it’s tight! It’s helped inspire us to be more genuine with our music, because we are both pretty unique groups. PVS has really great praxis, and being around them has helped us be more self-critical and understand our role as a band with a platform.
“Mas Fuerte Pt. 2 (ft. Pancho Villa’s Skull)”: What is your favorite Hardcore record of all time?
Jake: Violence, Violence by Ceremony
Mack: Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me by Touche Amore
Elliott: Burnt Sugar by Gouge Away
Kenny: Shape of Punk to Come by Refused
Chuck: Someday Came Suddenly by Attack! Attack!
Pip: Jake said what I was gonna say so… They Don’t Have To Believe by Punch
Nick: Who Cares by Nuclear Moms
“Greet Debt”: Is there a small business or restaurant or anything you loved that was wiped out by gentrification?
The house Pip used to live in got torn down to build condos… fuck developers, go on rent strike, listen to RENT STRIKE.
“Panic”: In a world that pressures us to always be going going going, what is something you like to do to slow down and relax?
Jake: Reading and Unsolved Mysteries
Mack: Magic! The Gathering
Kenny: Trailer Park Boys and exercising like the health goth I am!
Chuck: Playing Metalcore riffs at Guitar Center
Pip: I like to cook for my friends, hang out with my pets, and watch bad reality TV.
“Downswing”: What gives you motivation to keep pushing?
“For the nookie.” – Mack Doyle
“96”: What is something fun y’all do together on the road, especially on those long drives through the wasteland?
On our tour in June, we had Grey Matter Bingo as a way to poke fun at each other and ourselves. Highlights included “Nick cracks open a monster at 1AM,” “Jake puts on Earth Crisis,” and “Pip sees a dog and screams”. We go on a lot of walks together and do some sight seeing when we can.
(I’m beginning to ask everyone I interview this as I think it’s important to weave my advocacy into this type of work.)
I believe a better, more accessible world is possible for everybody, including disabled people. I believe that world extends to the music and art community. Do you agree? What are some ways you think we in that community should be trying to make things more accessible for those that have been left behind in the past?
We think that that world is possible! In general, we could all benefit from reaching out to disabled members of the community to find out what they want, instead of guessing for them. Everyone needs to do better about this, ourselves included.
Accessibility needs can be hard to balance. House shows are usually completely inaccessible to people with physical disabilities. Bar/club venues (on top of sometimes being physically inaccessible) can be financially inaccessible, as well as inaccessible for people who are underage or people who can’t be around alcohol. All bands can be more cognizant when booking and intentionally play a variety of different spaces. Putting accessibility info on show flyers and facebook events is a good step in the right direction too.
Thank you for taking the time to do this with me. If there is anything else you want to plug that I missed or anyone you want to shout out do so here. Take care.
Ska is back, baby! It actually never went away, but hep hep!