An album is often a very cut-and-dry process, with a lot of tracks being left out to make sure the feel of the record is sustained, but sometimes there’s creativity that flows from the recordings and leftover ideas that could produce an album of its own. For Toronto’s Greys, the processes behind Warm Shadow, the companion piece to their LP Outer Heaven, were happening while they were still recording the original record.
“We initially wanted to release it on the same day,” says guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani. “They’re different and we wanted space for them to be judged separately but not as completely separate. [Warm Shadow] wouldn’t exist without Outer Heaven.”
Writing actually started when the band tried dissecting tracks from Outer Heaven as they were recording it. “Colin would splice all these tape loops, creating songs from different elements of the record, it was all lo-fi and experimental,” says Jiwani. He explains the tracks were supposed to be on Outer Heaven, but they multiplied and quickly outgrew the record.
“We thought we’d make an EP of them, but we had time booked at Union Sound in Toronto and came up with the record in two or three days, it just worked.”
One of the most important differences on the record, however, was how much each member of the band contributed to the album compared to the mostly Jiwani-spearheaded records that preceded it:
“I guess in the past it was quicker if I had done it, but over time, after our first record, it kind of just happened naturally and everyone kept contributing more and more ideas,” says Jiwani. “The product ends up being a lot better when more people contribute ideas and it’s a lot more fun.”
Part of what allowed such a dynamic shift in the band’s recording process was the freedom they had with an album already out in the same year. “It felt liberating releasing Repulsion, then Outer Heaven, so this was even more of that,” explains Jiwani. “We didn’t say ‘no’ to any ideas and we didn’t worry if it ‘fit’ within the context of the band, we just wrote music we wanted to write.”
“Fresh Hell” was written in the wake of the Jian Ghomeshi trial and is one of the band’s more politically charged songs, although Jiwani insists they’re not out to make protest music. “The verdict really hit home hard for us, it was really heavy, and it’s 2016 so if you’re not acknowledging some of these topics you’re losing the plot a little bit.”
“[I]t’s 2016 so if you’re not acknowledging some of these topics you’re losing the plot a little bit.”
This topic was also what led Greys to donate the proceeds of Warm Shadow to Sistering, a Toronto women’s shelter for victims of abuse, poverty and marginalization with a focus on both people of colour and members of the trans community in Toronto.
“A lot of our lyrical content has dealt with marginalized people — specifically women, in a few cases — and we felt it was relevant to what we were trying to communicate.” Sistering told the band earlier this year they were hoping to use the funds for a harm reduction program to educate and shelter people with a history of substance and sexual issues to keep them safer. “We have been, and will always be, on the side of marginalized people — and will continue to fight for them in any way possible, through our music and our actions as a band.”
“We have been, and will always be, on the side of marginalized people — and will continue to fight for them in any way possible, through our music and our actions as a band.”
With the year winding down and many bands hitting the road for the winter, Jiwani says he and his bandmates are content to take some time off. “We’ve been on tour most of the year and we are looking forward to taking the winter off and doing basically nothing at home, even noise bands need to give their ears a rest sometimes.”