San Francisco based Rock/Pop band The Greening have just completed their newest EP (She’s So) Electric. The CD is an interesting amalgamation of Classic Rock, Pop and Indie music that is sure to garner the band the attention they deserve. I was able to catch up with the band and speak to them about their new EP and meaning behind their more than curious name.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Will: Usually, the songs are written individually by Karl and me. Sometimes they’re based off of something we came up with during practice, other times just some riff you hear while on the verge of sleep. When I worked at a coffee shop, I would make many calls to my ground line answering machine and sing lines into it which would later grow into something if they were worthwhile. I know Karl sometimes writes at his work and is actually able to notate on the spot if he gets a good riff.
As far as putting the song together as a band, sometimes they’re bundled with a partial arrangement (most times the live arrangement has some differences from the recorded), other times we grow the song organically based on a loose feeling or vibe the writer is going for. At that stage, we all contribute to the song, whether it is harmonies, additional lines, rhythms, etc. The group energy makes the song more solid and powerful and usually takes an idea and evolves it into a more mature reality.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Karl: Will and I started writing songs together in college based on our mutual appreciation of the then-new Cornelius album Fantasma, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd and The Beatles. As well as by those artists, my songwriting is influenced quite a bit by The Beach Boys’ little known (in this country, anyway) 1967-1973 era (amazing stuff! check it out), as well as Todd Rundgren, The Olivia Tremor Control, Circulatory System, Sunshine Fix, Badfinger, Paul McCartney, The Pretty Things psych era, Simian, and The Flaming Lips, mixed with a love of unexpected dynamics and structures stemming from my prog obsession (thinking bands like Yes, Gentle Giant, Nektar and Banco).
Will: Karl already mentioned Fantasma, an album by Cornelius that we bonded over early in college. Generally, the 60s and 70s have played a pretty big role in my personal influences: Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Lou Reed, The Doors, The Beatles, Shuggie Otis, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye., etc. Newer bands like Simian, Sunny Day Service, The Flaming Lips, as well as producers like Nigel Godrich and Dave Fridmann also play a role in influence and inspiration.
Nick: We all listen to entirely different music. Me and Karl kind of meet in the progressive category and have some overlap, but our favorites aren’t really near each other. Personally, I listen to quite a bit of metal and heavy prog music, things like Opeth, Mastodon, Megadeth, Dream Theater, as well as more classic hard rock like Black Sabbath, Queen and The Who. I’m definitely the only one of us who will make any kind of claim to the hair metal influence; I was big into bands like Motley Crue, Whitesnake and Poison.
The name of the band, The Greening, is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Will: Honestly, the name originated from a happy mishearing on my part. I was talking with my girlfriend at that time, and maybe I was only half listening, but she said something which I heard as “The Greening,” and it struck me as a cool word. A kind of little ringer went off in my brain, so I sat on it until we were jamming later on, and the owner of the rehearsal space asked us what we were called. At this point I was pretty sure it was the right name, but we hadn’t had any band-name discussions in awhile, so I just ventured it to the owner, Karl and Nick, and it sat well. So, combine inattentiveness, a faulty “what did you say, honey?” mechanism, and a little imagination and you have The Greening.
Give us some insight into the record, (She’s So) Electric and the meaning behind its title?
Karl: (She’s So) Electric is a 4-song EP previewing our finished, as-yet-untitled 2nd album coming out in January. The fourth song, “Today, Tomorrow” is EP only. The first three songs are three of our favorites from the upcoming record, and all are deceptively simple but instantly memorable. There are unexpected shifts in the mood, yet at the same times the songs consistently retain the pop sensibility amidst them. The title is simply the title of our best live song (and lead off song to the EP) (She’s So) Electric, and the EP feels electric (hence the parentheses), too.
Do you decide on suitable sounds fairly quickly, or do you tend to tweak tones obsessively?
Will: We’re not too obsessive. As long as we can get to the ballpark with what we hear in our heads, and can play in the fashion we hear it, we’re good. Live, Karl and I try to cut out some extra treble, and Nick usually tries to play his cymbals less, just so we don’t shred listeners’ eardrums.
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Will: Hmmm, we all go through varying degrees of perfectionism. For me and Karl, we have to make sure the vocals sound the way they need to sound – we don’t use any pitch correction or masking, so we’ll stick with a vocal line until it’s right. Nick is the same way about his drumming. He will play the same part a few times over until he nails it. We do not use any drum replacement or beat correction, so it all comes down to his personal touch. Other than those, we’re pretty quick while recording. So long as we’re organized. And certainly, I am lagging in that area.
Nick: Since drums seem to be the least involved part of the process and they are done first, I can say that “overall” they are the quickest. Karl and Will put so many layers of different tracks on the recordings that their process is very lengthy with regards to the experimentation and labor intensive approach, so it usually seems like quite a while for me until I hear the realized song with all of their instrumentation and vocals on it.
How has MySpace and the internet affected your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?
Karl: MySpace and the internet helped us meet many amazing people along the way, like Allison Danbom, now a close friend and the painter behind the cover of the EP, as well as the upcoming LP. I have only good things to say about downloading – it helps artists, especially breaking and up and coming ones, a *THOUSAND* fold because people get to *instantly* hear your music right there and then. All that hard work you have put into it immediately gains exposure, and it has become the radio of its day. The record industry would like to propagate the myth that it has killed the record business, but that is a farce, I think most bands, especially younger ones, know this. Overpricing CDs for a couple decades in the row, simultaneously coinciding with more and more churned out pop (none of the sort made by bands, let alone people that write their own songs) being focused on by the business instead of artistic growth and bands filler on the album, is what killed the record business. It’s a really exciting time for new bands, when you really think about it. The possibilities are endless.
How do you perceive the advances of technology and the internet changing the music industry in the future? Will the CD as a product become a collector’s item like the LP is nowadays? What effect will it have on festivals and tours?
Nick: All of us in the band are big fans of the full-album format and Karl literally spends the better part of his life experimenting with song sequence on Greening albums. I remember back in 2001 he used to talk about the fifth song on the 3rd album! But we are representing the statement of ‘full albums’ and we will continue to honor that format since that’s what we all grew up with. In relation to festivals and tours, since Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Billy Joel are the current touring kings, it appears that new albums don’t have a lot to do with concert attendance – it’s about getting your face out on the road and putting on a show.
How much roadwork do you expect to be doing this 2009? Are there any gigs already lines up?
Nick: We will be finishing up 2009 with some shows around SF and the Bay Area while the mixing and mastering for the full length is being completed, and plan to be touring substantially in 2010. After the full-length record is released in the early Spring, we plan to spend the better part of the year supporting it live.
Do you prefer studio or live?
Nick: Live by far. Even though the studio would seem ‘safe’ with the ability to do multiple takes, catching lightening in a bottle is not always easy for me personally. The red light kind of freaks me out! In a live situation, if the groove and energy is there, a mistake quickly gets passed by; whereas if you capture great groove on a recording and then a mistake happens, a decision has to be made about what is more valuable from the take since we generally don’t do drum overdubs.
Any closing words?
Nick: Look forward to seeing you on the road in 2010.
Will: LCD monitors are the bane of my existence. [ END ]