Interview: Grey Television

Grey Television - Photo by Tim Seilz

Grey Television - Photo by Tim Seilz

Although the members of Grey Television have been playing under the name for a couple years, they actually got their start together long before, as musicians in a musical about the Third Reich.

All five members are from the state of Brandenburg, and four of the five went to school together in Neuenhagen, a suburb of Berlin.

“We are the only talented people from Brandenburg,” said guitarist Benjamin Blazy, with a laugh, citing the natural reason for them to join together and form a band.

Yet it wasn’t the idea to play together from the get-go. Lead singer and guitarist David Boldt is the only remaining original member of the group, having been in Grey Television since it began three years ago. In the first year particularly, he shared that there was a rotating cast of various musicians, but the current lineup began to form two years ago when Blazy and drummer and programmer Maximilian Garth joined.

“I think that’s also the point when the band really got started,” Garth said, referencing how the solidified membership – which also includes guitarist and keyboardist Julius Barg and bassist Mirko Zipris – lent itself to increased productivity and more of an overall direction with the music.

And whereas the band once had an idea of the music it wanted to create but wasn’t certain how to attain that, now the members feel they’ve begun to learn how to write together.

“One year ago it was really, really, really hard to create a song,” Boldt said. “Now we’re close to the sound we really want to have.”

Specifically, the goal is to merge the common musical interests of all five but incorporate each member’s own individual taste and still be happy with the results. This can be tricky sometimes, considering the gamut of genres that runs throughout the group; whereas Barg is interested in German indie music and Boldt listens to underground post-punk, Garth is a fan of techno music.

Naturally, these styles can clash, and this difference can give way to a fair share of disputes about the direction of the sound, but the longer the band is together, the less of an issue this becomes.

“We found a way to work together so that everyone can put his ideas into the song,” Blazy said, referencing something that can only come about as a result of time.

Something else that has changed in the past couple years has also been the songwriting process. Perhaps out of necessity, the band has moved on from trying to jam or work on ideas as a quintet, and instead breaks the process up into smaller chunks.

“It’s more like an exchange of ideas,” Blazy said.

Generally, Garth will program something on his laptop and bring it to the others, who then build around that. Other times, someone will have an idea and work to develop it with one or two other members, in a subgroup. Then, once the direction of a song becomes more established, the members working on it will present it to the rest of the band

This seems to work, Boldt said, because the ideas are more compact when shared between two or three people, as opposed to initially being developed and built upon by five people at once. Blazy added that, in addition to being more efficient, this helps to eliminate the egos that can arise in a band with so many people contributing to the creative process.

Meanwhile, Garth admitted that not everyone is always pleased with every song, but each member is willing to make sacrifices in personal visions from time to time for the sake of the band, something that becomes easier the longer they are together.

“It’s a compromise,” Boldt explained. “[But] it’s compromise [that] everyone can live with.”

To date, Grey Television has played handfuls of one-off shows and opened for bands like Foals and Battles, but the goal for 2012 is to go on a full-fledged tour. Additionally, the band will be putting out some new music this Spring, including a new single in the coming months and a music video for another song which is projected to be released in May.

And while label interest is always nice, that’s nothing something Grey Television is necessarily interested in, preferring to keep things D.I.Y. This is largely due to the fact that the five work so well together, that bringing in a label, or figurative sixth member, could disrupt the harmony.

“It’s kind of great to see that you have an idea, but you don’t have the words [and] the other one knows what you want,” Boldt said, speaking to the idea that the bonds between the members are a lot like a relationship.

Zipris agreed, sharing that every additional band practice and live performance only reinforces what Grey Television is doing.

“I think we grow. Each rehearsal we do, we grow,” he said. “After each concert we grow too.”

Grey Television plays tonight at Bi Nuu in Berlin. The show begins at 20.00.

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