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.