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    It’s a Friday evening, and I’m meeting Greyhaven in the two-story house near Zanzabar that three of the four members share. They’ve haphazardly taped a few torn-up dollar bills above the doorway leading to the kitchen. “We’ve put them up there to show we don’t need them,” jokes guitarist Nick Spencer.

    Before we talk, I get a peek at the two music videos Greyhaven has just finished filming (one at the Cure Lounge, the other at a local barn up in Henryville, IN). While I’ve only had a taste of the new album, this sounds different from the Greyhaven I’ve come to know. It’s bigger. It’s refined. Formed in 2013, Greyhaven has had some turnover — singer Brent Mills and bassist Johnny Muench are the only founding members remaining. They toured and produced their debut, “Cult America,” over the last five years, and their sophomore recording, “Empty Black,” comes out in March on the Graphic Nature label. (Get an appetizer when their first video single, “Echo and Dust Part 1,” drops Jan. 31.)

    Brent Mills’ “clean” — as in sung, not screamed — vocals are more pervasive than ever. Drummer Ethan Spray and Muench’s bass drive a rhythm rife with Spencer’s signature guitar riffs. I am by no means Greyhaven’s target audience, but I can’t help but feel a click. That sensation you get when you listen to something for the first time, and it runs right through you.

    I spoke with Mills, Spencer and Spray on the cusp of their cross-country tour with Norma Jean. Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.  


    Would you say this record has a theme?

    Mills: “There’s a few strong themes on the record, and a lot of them have to do with political things and personal relationships that I’ve had with people. Heroin has been a pretty big thing through people that I knew growing up, and that’s one of the destructive black substances that I was trying to embody through certain parts of the record. There’s a lot of talking through screens and EBP kind of stuff. That’s the strongest pull of the title, that whole concept of reaching for something that’s void. I also love that it’s called 'Empty Black,' and our album cover is the most chaotic, colorful thing ever. The contrast is cool.”


    What’s it like to go from playing house shows, touring and even producing a record on your own, to having a record label sign you, pay you to make an album and shoot a music video? Is there some validation in that?

    Mills: “It’s really cool, because it feels like it’s all word of mouth. The only reason people are even talking about us is because our old record has been out for like four years, and it’s slowly kind of gained this small group following, even in other states through all the touring that we’ve done.”

    Spencer: “That’s why it really is, like you said, a sense of validation. Because you’re putting in that much work, and not making any money, and you’re not able to pursue any other goals in your life because you’re not home. And you don’t know if it’s going to work out. You could just be wasting this time. And granted, it wouldn’t be a waste, because we’re having a great time. But yeah, to see it pay off — that’s a huge thing.”


    How’s it feel to be touring with Norma Jean? 

    Mills: “I remember being in my friend’s basement the first time I ever listened to them in like 2007. He was watching some music video and it kept buffering every five seconds, so I couldn’t actually get an accurate representation of the song, but I remember I was so stoked to go home and check it out. Listening to them is super sick because it’s the first time I ever heard chaotic heavy music.”

    Spencer: “We’ve always looked up to them. They are kind of like maybe half the reason we are even in this position. We played a show with them and we were opening up an act for a national headliner tour at like six o’clock during the day. Side stage, they’re coming in and watching us, head banging and rocking out. The next thing we know, we get an email from Tom Williams, who’s our manager now: ‘Hey, I manage Norma Jean, and they said they just saw you guys and you blew them away.’ Zero to one hundred like that. It’s what bands call their big break. You just need that one thing to happen.”


    How would you guys describe your sound?

    Spencer: “I would say controlled chaos.”

    Mills: “Just, like, the juxtaposition of something that’s not supposed to be there but is.”


    Do you have any rituals before a performance, anything you do to get ready?

    Mills: “We did for like two tours, and the one night we didn’t do it, we played an awkward show.”

    Spencer: “So, it’s kinda like we need to bring it back. We used to listen to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen and then watch Brent run around. We realized we needed some way to wake up, especially when playing the more unprofessional venues on these tours that we book for ourselves. Because you show up and nobody’s really there, and it doesn’t feel like you’re at a show, but you have to get into the mentality to play a show.”


    What’s your process like for writing lyrics?

    Mills: “I write lyrics so spastically. I’ll just have something in my head, pull out my phone, type as much as I can, and put it away. Maybe it ends up in a song, maybe it doesn’t. Most of the time it’s a collection of those moments.”


    What’s been your favorite show to play?

    Spray: “Mine was the Little Heart Record show.”

    Mills: “Yeah, that was a crazy show. We get up there and we start the first song, and everybody in the crowd is starting the song with us, and we’re like ‘What the fuck is this?’”

    Spencer: “It was the moment in time when we realized we were doing something right. Like, ‘Okay, this kind of makes sense.’”


    What are you guys listening to right now?

    Mills: “We just bought a Sunny Day Real Estate CD at Goodwill and I can’t take it out of my car. That and Radiohead.”

    Spencer: “I’ve been listening a lot to Blood Brothers and Foo Fighters. I hope I come back as Dave Grohl.”

    Spray: “Architects and Saosin.”


    How does it work with the three of you living together?

    Spencer: “Somehow it miraculously does.”

    Mills: “It’s pretty insane that we don’t implode. We all started off as friends, and then we played music as friends. Every once in a while we do have to say, I don’t want to sit and talk about the band right now. That keeps it fresh.”


    What does the future hold after the tour and the album drops?

    Mills: “We’re just itching to tour as much as possible off of this record, and shove it in everybody’s faces.”


    Greyhaven will wrap up their tour here in Louisville on March 28 at the Cure Lounge. You can find them on Facebook.

    Cover Photo: Greyhaven // Facebook







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    About Ashley Hoff

    Lover of dogs, coffee, sports, and funnies. Often found with burrito in mouth and book in hand.

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