Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The ensemble members of Grey Waves are having a rough morning.

“We just woke up on a tarp in the desert and now we’re looking for a diner,” says Jesse Hughey. “We’re incredibly hung-over.”
"We woke up on a tarp in the desert."  Photos via Jesse Hughey

This is the perfect time for an interview, right?

More appropriate than you might think, because listening to Void, the newest album from Grey Waves… aches. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Where their 2015 album, Faith/Void, was very out-of-body and transcendent, Void has some things to talk to you about. Condemning and unforgiving things.

Sort of the way a hangover doesn’t care how sorry you are for drinking last night. It’s going to throb behind your eyes anyway.

To explain what I mean, this is a snippet of the lyrics from “Untitled/Drone/Blood,” a 13-minute song on the album that runs over you like a train:

I am afraid that I might let my fear get the best of me.
hope the years rest gracefully around me
hope I get sober before somebody makes me
someday I want a daughter who loves me unconditionally
But I hope I tell her never sacrifice your mind for what comes easy.

The ensemble is in the middle of their West Coast tour, but Jesse took the time to talk with me about the new album while they attempted to find coffee.

Album art by Alison Pate
 So, this is a completely different album from your first one.

Yeah. The inspiration for this one primarily came from my loss of faith. I was raised in a really restrictive religious environment, and as I’ve grown up I realized that it was bullshit, nothing, bad for humanity… but it was so deeply ingrained in me that it wasn’t easy for me to walk away from it.

I had to artistically engage with it. I think my greatest therapy has always been writing my way through things, and I really wrote this album to explain that to my family, who are still in some ways religious, and explain to a lot of old friends why it isn’t something I can be a part of any more.

Faith/Void involved visual artists creating work to go along with the album. Did you do something similar for Void?

Sort of! We collaborated with Alison Pate again, she’s one of my oldest and closest friends. She did the cover art and designed the theme that goes with the record, which is a lyric theme that helps give some context to the music.

Visual artist Alison Pate
She also created a couple of film pieces for it, then we also had some other film artists, Alex Tatusian and Kevin Blanquies, who did work for us. We’re touring with a projected film piece that goes along with our set. Visual and audio collaboration is a big a part of this project. We want to make sure that everything looks and feels cool and beautiful as well as sounds good.

Tell me about the tour so far!

*grinding noise* The tour is fun, although we’re turning around right now because we’re going in the wrong direction…

From left Jesse Hughey, McKenna Haley, Brandon Hughes, and Dan Ahrendt

You guys are exceptional.

The tour has been good! We just played the coolest show at some desert bar in Joshua Tree, California. We’ve been playing to small crowds of very cool people, which is a great way to do it. No bad gigs so far, honestly, just a lot of miles. We started the tour in Seattle, then Portland, Boise, Baker City, Salt Lake City, Joshua Tree, and then we’re playing Los Angeles tonight.

The new album has some longer songs, one that’s 13 minutes and one that’s almost 17 minutes. Talk to me about those.

Yeah, that was a choice. I wanted a feeling of stasis to kind of overwhelm the record. The record deals with God, mortality, immortality, the idea of an afterlife. I wanted some of it to feel permanent, maybe cyclical in a way. I wanted it to have a weight to it, sort of a droning permanence. So a lot of my decisions to be so ambient had to do with creating an architectural space that would feel oppressive.

“Blood” is the song that's the most lyrically direct on my record. I’m always apprehensive to show too much, but in that song I just laid the concept out in the lyrics. But because it’s so lyrically clear, I wanted it to feel hard to decipher musically.


That definitely worked. So what’s next, hot stuff?

Literally, next is to find a hangover cure because the three of us are feeling rough.

But after we get home, we’re about halfway through writing a new record. Dan [Ahrendt, bassist] has added a ton of music to the band. Brandon [Hughes] is a really groovy drummer, and I think his driving nature as a player was a little wasted on some of my guitar playing, because I get really sloppy and noisy. But now there’s a really tight rhythm section at the center of it, so I can play spacey guitar while they hold it down.

I’m not sure we’re going to record it any time soon, though. I think our main goal now is to keep getting on the road and playing a lot.

If the hangover doesn’t kill them, their remaining tour dates are available on the Grey Waves Facebook page.
You can find Void here on Bandcamp, where it’s also being sold in 12-inch vinyl.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Gorgeous Sound of Grey Waves

Before I interview musicians, I spend a good amount of time listening to the work that we’re going to talk about. So the morning of January 7th, I listened to Faith/Void by Grey Waves for a few hours preceding my chat with Jesse Hughey. The result was that, by the time I got to talk to Jesse, I was in such a mellow, contemplative mood that just the sound of his voice made me smile and nod. The press release for the new album describes it as “noise-oriented,” and that’s the effect the album had on me; I was one with the universe, stoned on the sound. (I sound like my transcendental father here. Damn hippies.)
Original artwork for Grey Waves first album, Faith/Void.
You may remember Jesse from our earlier interview here about his other band, Jack Ruby Presents. It’s rare to talk to someone who has such a strong artistic vocabulary, especially when conversing about art that lies outside of their particular metier, so it was a pleasure to catch up with Jesse and find out how he’s been blending music and visual art with his new ensemble, Grey Waves.

The last time we talked, your other band, Jack Ruby Presents, had just released a new album. What have you been up to since Pale Road came out?

The main thing I’ve been working on is curating an art project for this current record, Faith/Void with my group, Grey Waves. We sent out blank record sleeves and music to 25 different visual artists that we admire and just had them react to the music. They could react simplistically or get really involved whatever manner they wanted. I told some folks, “I know you’re busy, just listen to the music and create something in real time.” Some of them did that, and then I had other friends who spent weeks with it, thinking about the lyric content.

So the coordination of all that has been a pretty big project, and then I’ve written a whole new set of sounds and prepared a new set collections of songs for Grey Waves.

Jesse Hughey with one of the many original cover designs created especially for Faith/Void.
Tell me about the other people involved in the ensemble, your drummer Brandon Hughes, and visual artist Alison Pate?

Brandon is a really killer drummer and a great arranger. I always work best having somebody sharp to bounce ideas off of. I feel like I always write songs to the 75-percent mark. Brandon has been really helpful in pushing a lot of our songs to completion. He’s a much stronger musician than I am, so working with him has been terrific.
Brandon Hughes, drummer and arranger for Grey Waves.
And Alison is a massively talented photographer. I’ve worked with her for a number of years. She shot at least half of the art work for Jack Ruby. I have a lot of respect for the way she approaches her art. We get together every few months and do an “art day” where we go see a few shows in town and then discuss them. She’s really a intelligent and thoughtful artist.

Alison Pate, the visual artist for Grey Waves.
With Alison, I wanted to have somebody who would seriously take over the visual component and aesthetic of the band. I feel like there is a whole second dimension that a visual component can bring out of an otherwise flat musical concept. Starting right out of the gate with a visual art-based project like this one, I wanted to involve someone whose eye I trust more than my own and who would approach the visual output with the same scrutiny and obsession with which I approach the lyric content of our music. Ultimately we would love to do some video stuff – potentially in collaboration with our live shows. We’ve been working pretty hard on this project, so maybe in a few months we’ll have some time for something new.

Can you talk about the collaboration between visual artists and musicians? What’s that like?

I spend a lot of time writing after seeing visual art shows, or spending time with visual artists, and I’ve always taken a lot from that medium. Because it’s not specifically MY art form, I find it’s really emotive to me. It makes me feel and makes me want to create. I wanted to do something that was representative of the connection that I believe is there, and I like the idea of doing something that has unique pieces with a common thread. They’re different works of art, but they’re connected by their singular point of origin. That’s really interesting to me.

I don’t think that there’s a necessary division between visual art and music, and I think the exploration between different artists and mediums can be really potent and really powerful. That’s why film is such a powerful art form, because there’s no division between what you see and what you hear, and I think we can gain a lot from working together.
Additional artwork for Faith/Void.
How have people responded to the music so far?

Honestly, it’s been really humbling. I set out on this project having recently moved to Seattle, and I was feeling a bit disconnected from my artistic community. I wanted to do a project that reminded me that I’m still a part of something, and the response has been really overwhelming from the artistic community. In my living room right now, I have just over 100 really beautiful, unique pieces of artwork from artists I really respect, and the fact that they were all willing and excited to contribute to a project like that… You don’t find that level of generosity in many circles.

What are you listening to right now?

Hang on, I’m going to walk over to my turntable… Oh man, I don’t wanna say that!

Well, now you have to.

(laughs) On my turntable currently is a Santana album, Abraxas, the one with “Black Magic Woman” on it. It’s actually pretty rad.

Okay, now the hipster ones I’ve never heard of

I’ve been spending time with an album by Protomartyr, Under Color of Official Right, that came out this last year. And the last Shabazz Palaces record, Lese Majesty, it came out on Sub Pop in 2014, and it’s mind-blowing. Oh, and I just got a live Om record that’s pretty heavy.
More original art for Faith/Void.

When does Faith/Void come out?

Grey Wave will play our first show January 30th at Lo-Fi in Seattle, which will also be the release party for Faith/Void. We'll be displaying all of the artwork from our collaborators. And then we’ll be playing more down the road. We’re still booking stuff and putting together a tour.

That’s awesome. What next, hot stuff?

A full length record! I have it written, we have it arranged. It’s work that I’m more lyrically proud of than anything I’ve done, and Brandon’s added a lot to it. If I can say this in a humble way, I feel like it’s some of the best work I’ve ever put out. As soon as we get some time and money, we’ll be recording it.

Well, I can’t wait to hear it. Oh, say hi to Karen!

Hi, Karen!

Faith/Void by Grey Waves is being released by the label People in a Position to Know Recordings. You can pre-order the album here, either as a digital download or a 7” vinyl with the original artwork created for the album.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hot Stuff at the San Pedro International Film Festival

What Next Hot Stuff is coming to the San Pedro International Film Festival Website!

We'll be conducting interviews with filmmakers who have had their work showcased at the San Pedro International  Film Festival. You can find the interviews on SPIFF's homepage under Film Alum News. The first of these interviews is with Bill Matson, whose documentary Sitting Bull's Voice follows Ernie LaPointe, the great grandson of Lakota chief Sitting Bull.

Documentarian and filmmaker Bill Matson is, in the truest sense, a story-teller. His work, from The Authorized Biography of Crazy Horse and His Family to Sitting Bull’s Voice, which played at the 2013 San Pedro International Film Festival, allows audiences to connect with the subject, truly bringing history to life.

I was lucky enough to catch Sitting Bull’s Voice at SPIFFest last October, and was in awe of the subject, Ernie LaPointe, Sitting Bull’s great-grandson. Matson captured the spiritual connection LaPointe shares with the celebrated Lakota leader and at the same time educates audiences on the importance of preserving and respecting the oral history of Native Americans.

Bill took the time to answer some questions about his process as a film maker, the work behind Sitting Bull’s Voice, and what we have to look forward to next from his production company, Reel Contact.

Read the full interview here and be sure to check the SPIFFest website often, as they always have something exciting going on!