Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BEYOND THE SKY AND I - Scarlet Grey singer Ben Grey

Want to know what it’s like to have a quarrel with the sky? Or how about what it’s like to have your song played on the same radio station you grew up listening to your favorite bands? Well just ask Ben Grey the lead singer and songwriter for one of L.A.’s rising stars. A band called Scarlet Grey whom I fell in love with while hanging out at the Roxy on Sunset Strip one night. I actually was there to see another band, but Scarlet Grey caught my attention as soon as they hit the stage.

I will say it was the lead singer’s charisma and shaggy old school British Mod hairstyle that made me stop and stare. But, once I began to listen to the band play, I really enjoyed listening to the songs, and I was really impressed by the way the band was able to get the crowd on their feet and come alive with every song. That’s hard to do. To win over the crowd. But, it seems like Scarlet Grey has a large loyal fan following who refer to themselves as "The Grey Family". If you want to be part of the Grey Family, I am sure Ben and the guys would love to adopt you. I hope you enjoy my interview with Ben, so you can find out more about his band and what he has in store beyond his smash hit "The Sky and I" which has recently been voted the#1 song on KROQ’s Locals Only playlist!

Princess Kisses xoxo
Tatiana Queenie4ever

Photo credit: Chad Sengstock

1. How would you describe your clothing style?

Hmm... I’m not sure. I find myself in a lot of British threads. I remember when Topman, Ben Sherman and Fred Perry were my little secret. I guess if we wanted to give it a name, we could call it Carnaby Casual.

2. Your song titles are very unique, what inspired you to write these songs?

Thank you! It’s funny, song titles are extremely important to me... It’s often that the song title come before the actual song. I’m fascinated with being able to encapsulate an entire sentiment into two or three words. I have pages and pages of potential song titles and their subsequent concepts, all without songs to house them. You never know when you’re going to be able to pair them with music you’re making, but it’s exciting every time. I had been looking to put "The Sky & I" to music for like a year before we started writing the song... So as soon as we started playing those initial chords, I knew that was going to be "The Sky & I." The inspiration is a different story, because the best kind of inspiration is the inexplicable... I try not to focus on the why I’m inspired and just focus on ‘how do I capture this?’

3. Where were you and what was your first reaction to hearing your song "The Sky & I" on KROQ?

There aren’t a lot of real, tangible milestones in the career of a musician... But hearing your song on the radio is really one of them. And the exciting thing is that it is really as surreal as you would hope it would be. Now it wasn’t a "That Thing You Do!" kinda moment, because we knew it was going to be on, but it had its own unique brand of impact... We were all so nervous for some reason. Sitting around the speakers at Pete’s house, worrying about how it was going to sound, what Kat Corbett was going to say, etc... It really was one of the most special moments of my life. It’s just amazing that something that you made with your best friends, is being played on the same station that first introduced you to some of your favorite bands. So cool.

4. Do you have a day job or is being a member of Scarlet Grey a fulltime gig?

It’s full time these days. I had worked a lot of strange jobs while we were first pushing Scarlet Grey... Some of which I’d prefer not to remember haha... but yes, as of right now I’m just working on Scarlet Grey.

Photo credit: Chad Sengstock

5. Describe the strangest or some of the strangest jobs you have had.

I was a DJ for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in the San Fernando Valley. It’s a master’s course in people watching... It’s incredible to see how different people celebrate and to get these glimpses into people’s lives... The music I had to play wasn’t really great, but you couldn’t ask for better people watching.

6. What is your most memorable fan experience?

There have been a lot. I mean, every fan interaction is rewarding and amazing in its own way. Whether it’s somebody’s first time getting us or somebody’s 20th time coming to see us... or if I get an email about helping someone through a difficult time in their life... or if somebody tattoos words or wrote on themselves or if somebody’s child is singing our songs, etc... the experience is always unique and always gratifying. I mean, I think a big part of what we do is being there for people. It’s seriously a family. We don’t see our fans as numbers or people to market to... It’s a dodgy musical climate right now, and that sense of community is something that I think is really important and rare. I want music to be there for The Grey Family the way music was there for me when I was a teenager. Music is with us during the most intimate moments of our lives and I feel like I have a responsibility as someone making music for people I care about.

7. What inspired you to form the band Scarlet Grey?

The intentions were pure. The same way you get into anything... We wanted to have fun. It was just me wanting to play music with my best friends, for my other best friends... We didn’t have any expectations and certainly no aspirations of doing it professionally. And it still is that on a big level... But that deep commitment and responsibility I was talking about earlier, was definitely something that evolved. I wasn’t Ben Grey then, that’s for sure.

Photo credit: Chad Sengstock

8. Do you have any bands that influence your music?

Absolutely... But I warn you, it’s a hodgepodge... Everything from The Beatles to AFI to Squeeze to Minor Threat to ABBA to Bloc Party to Metric to Merle Haggard to Marina and The Diamonds to Joy Division to Buddy Guy... I mean, it’s really hard... I could list you a thousand bands for the thousand different stages in my life. I will say that above all, we are fans of the song. Moods and loyalties to genres are ephemeral, but in the end, all we care about is the song.

9. What venues do you play most frequently at?

The Troubadour in West Hollywood. It’s my absolute favorite.

Why is the Troubadour your favorite Venue (from a performance viewpoint as well as personal tastes.)

It’s become the closest thing to a home that a band in Los Angeles can have... Since we’ve played there so many times, the people there have a vested interest in how we sound and how well the show goes. You never get a sound guy who is just punching the clock and doesn’t care if you can’t hear yourself, etc. Great people, great sound, great stage... The shows are always amazing there.

Photo credit: Chad Sengstock

10. How has your music progressed since you first started out?

Absolutely... Thank goodness for that. At first, we were trying to be this kinda 9th or whatever wave it would be, punk band... Of course we didn’t know at the time that that wasn’t a thing, nor was it cool to try and make it a thing. We were just teenagers playing fast. Big fans of the reckless abandon, we were. If you get our first record "Forgot Me Was Me," you’ll catch a glimpse of the end of that whole thing haha. Not for everyone, let’s put it that way.

11. I found out that a movie was shot about your band. What was that like?

It’s kind of an epic tale haha... These two British filmmakers discovered our band while they were in London, emailed us pitching some ideas about filming us in the spirit of a black and white, late seventies music movie and we were completely into it. SG was right about to go into the studio to do our first full length record and we thought it would be a great time in our careers to have documented. So they flew out and filmed us for about 5 months. We thought it was going to turn out to be a puff piece but it ended up becoming this real movie, which is the last thing we were expecting. It’s really funny and it’s really painful... I mean it’s a real narrative. Looking back, the camera may have been the catalyst for a lot of deep seeded issues within the band, but it also really cleansed us... without it I don’t think we would’ve have ever been able to make something like "Fancy Blood".

However we did finish that full length album, but we still haven’t released it... It’s called "No Boys in the Ballroom." Maybe one day if the movie ever comes out we will... but there’s a lot of pain associated with that time for me. I’m still not over it. So when Keith and Cole joined the band we decided to make something new immediately. We rewrote a few of the songs from those sessions, added some brand new material and immediately jumped into the studio to make "Fancy Blood"on our own.
So in closing, I will say that the movie is great... I’m biased because I’m so close to it, but it really is something very cool and very special... I’m anxious for people to see us at our most vulnerable.

12. What is next for Scarlet Grey?

We are in demo-land. We have about 25 new songs finished, with no destiny yet... There is a rumor that we might go in and record a single to give away for free, just to hold everybody over... But we’re seriously just focusing on the new material. I’m in the studio right now... with no natural light. But I do have to admit, I’m so incredibly excited for people to hear it. I’ve never been so excited about anything we’ve done. It's a pretty typical answer, but that's just how it is :)

Check out Scarlet Grey's youtube video for "SKY & I":

Where can my fans find out more about Scarlet Grey?

This is a personal message to Ben Grey from moi:

Dear Ben,

I had alot of fun hanging out with you after the Roxy show! Let's make a plan to go shopping around L.A., so we can play dress up. You can show me all the cool places you are finding your Carnaby Casual Clothing. You know I'm just mad about British Style! Thank you so much for taking the time from recording your new album to do this interview!

xo Tatiana Queenie4ever and Grey Family newbie!
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