Photo Credit: Greylag
It’s true that there are no shortage of emotive folk artists in the world, but that certainly does not negate their ability to make an impact.
Take Greylag for example; the band has captured such purity in their music that it is impossible not to connect with them. Minimal and raw, their debut EP, The Only Way To Kill You, is far too short to do justice to the depth of emotion that the band is capable of.
In a way that I can’t quite describe (maybe because I haven’t been myself) it makes complete sense for them to pay homage to the Pacific Northwest with their mix. Yes, the band is based in Portland, but the relationship is deeper than that. Their whole “musical aura” seems to be the color of gloomy skies, and the feel of a cool drizzle on your skin.
Most fascinating, however, is that neither of the gentlemen who founded the band are from the Northwest city. They did meet there, but Andrew Stonestreet grew up in West Virginia, did a stint in Nashville, and then moved Portland. Daniel Dixon was a Northern California native who relocated to Louisville, Kentucky before he settled down there. It was this third and final place for each of them that inspired their music together.
For Greylag, the idea of calling a place home is one that is very literal.
I find myself wondering…Are the roots that we choose to put down (wherever we choose to put them), stronger than the ones from the tree we came from? If I make the deliberate choice to be a “Los Angelino,” does that make me more attuned to the essence of the city than someone born here?
In the case of this Portland band, I would venture to say yes.
The Essence of the Pacific Northwest
TA: Not all of the bands from the Pacific Northwest (Fruit Bats, Youth Lagoon, Michael Hurley) why those bands/songs?
Daniel Dixon: Well, it seems I was mistaken about Fruit Bats. Our friend Dave Depper is from Portland and he joined the band last year. I just assumed they were from around here too. But the mood of their music seems to fit well with a lot of other Northwest bands– creative, quirky, cool. I’m not sure where Michael Hurley is from originally, but I believe he lives up in Astoria now, on the Oregon/Washington border, about as Northwest as it gets. We’ve played shows with him, and see him frequently around Portland. And Youth Lagoon is from Boise, which I think of as Northwest still.
TA: Seems like there is a very strong connection to nature, especially water (lakes, rivers, etc) how do you think this influences the music coming out of the area?
DD: The Pacific Northwest is so rich in natural beauty, it’s hard to escape it. Even when you are in the city, like Seattle or Portland, there are snow-capped volcanoes towering over the buildings. And much of the region is still so undeveloped compared to other parts of the country. It retains a lot of its wildness. And then there’s the rain. It all affects you, and gets into the music as well.
TA: How does the Pacific Northwest perceive other areas of the country? Is there a feeling of removal or separation, or no? Does this come through in the music?
DD: There is a definite sense of geographic separation here. The cities are so spread apart that it takes a real effort to get anywhere. It seems to foster a lot of collaborating. Many of the musicians I know were drawn here by a love of similar things, and have similar sensibilities. It makes it easy to support and encourage what they’re making.
TA: Elliott Smith has a huge catalog – why this song for this mix?
DD: Figure 8 was the first Elliot Smith album I heard, and it’s always been one of my favorites. There is a simple/direct honesty in the lyrics of this song, and the melodies and structure are so beautiful and creative. I never get tired of it.
TA: What about Portland is so inspiring to you and your music, what about in general? Is there a reason for such a wealth of amazing music coming not only out of the Pacific Northwest, but that one city specifically?
DD: I think musicians love Portland because it it is so easy to live here and make music. It’s cheaper to live, and people seem to actually have time to make music during the long rainy months. It feels small and quaint, but has most of the same opportunities as a big city.
TA: If you could pick one aspect of Portland that feels like “home” to you – whether a quality or a specific place – what would it be?
DD: The feeling of being at home has always been strong whenever I am warm and dry while there is a storm outside. I’ve always loved the rain, and we get plenty of it here.
TA: Are there any bands out of the Pacific Northwest that you feel were an important influence on your music/sound? What artists in general have inspired your music?
DD: Elliot Smith was probably my strongest influence from the area. Some other people that I keep coming back to are Fionn Regan, Wilco, Kurt Vile, Sigur Rós, The Innocence Mission, Arcade Fire, Yo La Tengo…
TA: If you could put your music into any movie(s) or television show – whether a certain genre, by a certain director, a movie already out you think your music would have fit particularly well in, etc – what would you choose (and why)?
DD: I think we’d all be pretty happy if one of our songs ended up in some Wes Anderson film someday.
Purchase Greylag’s debut EP, The Only Way To Kill You here.
Greylag “Black Crow” – FREE DOWNLOAD!