San Francisco prog-metal trio Grayceon recently unsheathed their epic new album IV. It's deadly, deep and easily one of 2018's sleeper-gems, so make that a priority as of this reading!
Metal Injection caught up with Jackie Perez Gratz for an in-depth chat on balancing home and career, protest anthems in the Trump era and more and we're cutting none of the fat!
Metal Injection: It has been a three year gap between your 2013 EP and IV. I know taking the time for family played a large part in that gap. How has it been balancing family and personal life with your music career? I know your husband was apart of Giant Squid and now Khôrada (whose debut is brilliant might I add), so we're talking to a family of musicians here.
JPG: Yeah, you know the balance has been quite challenging for us. There is not much 'personal life' to go around, so that has been a big adjustment for the both of us. Right around the time when Pearl was 4 I felt I was starting to feel like I had some personal time back and then I got pregnant with Pepper. Music was especially hard when both Aaron and I were in Giant Squid. Being both parents and in the same band just stretched us too thin. Now, with each of us in our different musical projects it's a little better but we're apart a lot more. Luckily, we understand the importance of continuing our music careers so we don't complain when the other person needs backup we just do it and are there for each other. In the long run, it will be good for the babes to see and know that we are pursuing our passion.
Metal Injection: Take me through IV conceptually or thematically. What notes were you trying to hit here?
JPG:I wrote the lyrics for the whole album over a 4 month period, which I have never done before. Usually, it happens over a much longer period of time when we write the music. As a result, IV's themes are very consolidated into what was happening in my life at that specific moment: falling in love with my second daughter, seeing lives of others and my own through social media,Trump supporters being ignorant/awful, feeling the pulls and pressures of what I am writing versus my expectations. A lot of the themes are around me being at home in blissful family mode while the outside world goes to hell in a handbag.
Metal Injection: Take me through your initial idea of incorporating cello with heavier music. What was your initial thoughts on bridging what would have been two foreign worlds, to fantastic results.
JPG: Grayceon developed very organically without specific intentions to bridge worlds or push envelopes. We just knew we wanted to play together. I was anxious to play heavier music because it was what I was listening to and up until that point I had only been writing and performing with Amber Asylum. So Grayceon definitely scratched that itch for me. So… we knew it would be something different because of the instrument I played, but we didn't really think beyond that. I played a classical instrument and I certainly wasn't going to learn something else because of other people's expectations of heavy music! It took me playing in Grayceon for awhile to realize how 'heavy' some of the classical composers I had already been playing for decades were/are which gave me some renewed appreciation for the classics and it all came full circle.
Metal Injection: By my estimations, you've always been a band never content to bend to status quo or rest on laurels, and IV is certainly indicative of that fact. How important is it to the three of you to continue to push yourselves creatively, and to perhaps bend genre norms?
JPG: The three of us – myself, Max, and Zack – always had a pact to continue playing and writing together as long as it is fun. 'Fun' has always been the exact word used. When its not fun anymore we will stop. The three of us have more fun doing something we haven't done before. That's where the creative pushing happens. The genre bending is inherent in the music we three listen to, love, and appreciate, so it constantly bubbles to the top when we are writing riffs. We can't stop it!
Metal Injection: With that said, there's something about IV that strikes me as being more accessible, that this is a record that a wider swath of fans can sink their teeth into. Was it a conscious effort to craft a record, and songs, that are more easily digestible? Or is it just art for arts sake, so to speak?
JPG: No, it wasn't a conscious effort, but more of a product of the way we work. I remember one of us thinking 'hey, wouldn't it be cool to write a pop song'? None of the songs on IV turned out like pop songs really, but we had to have this thought in order to write some of the songs the way we did. I'm also getting better at writing/placing vocals in a way that shapes the song more like a traditional radio song. All these little things serendipitously came together to make IV more digestible than our previous albums.
Metal Injection: It's a delicate time these days, politically socially. As an artist, do you feel there's somewhat of a responsibility to make statements with the art you create? I know many have used their platform as something of a venting tool, especially in recent years.
JPG: I have never been a political person. I actually prefer to be dumb and not know what's going on in the news because I am too much of an empath, so much so that I become physically ill and horribly mentally imbalanced. But, what's going on in our country right now is so crazy that I have had to keep myself informed in order to stay motivated for change. I distinctly remember watching the presidential elections and not believing my eyes. Pepper was only a couple of months old so I was up all hours of the night and I held her in my arms and cried while I watched the results become finalized. I mean, what a abhorrent value system is in the white house right now, especially, for my two young daughters. But, to answer your question- yes and no. I don't think its a responsibility to artists to have to make a political or social statement. Artists just need to make art that they believe in and feel strongly about. I have never sang about anything politically or socially relevant until IV. There was just too much going on in the world and in my mind for it not to come out in my music. Will I go out and start an anarcho-punk band? Probably not. Will the Trump era bring back protest music? Very likely and I definitely hope so!
Metal Injection: Obviously you have a thriving young family. To that end, where would you like to see Grayceon go? Obviously everyone wants to create music they love and enjoy performing, but have you Max and Zack discussed what you see as being the next steps for a the group? Back to that balancing act again.
JPG: Well, Grayceon has already started writing new material. I'm a little hesitant to, honestly, but I need to dig in and find out what shape music will form (or re-form) in my new life. I also jammed with Kris Force the other night. I never stopped recording with Amber Asylum but she and I haven't written together in well over a decade. Again, just feeling out what I can and can't do. I'd love to see Grayceon get invited to some festivals this next year and possibly get us over to Europe again. It all seems so daunting with everything going on, but we'll see if we can make it happen!