Portland’s Greylag are a trio of your average locals…none of them are from here.
Andrew Stonestreet (lead vocals) came from West Virginia, Daniel Dixon (lead guitar) came from NorCal, and Brady Swan (drums) came from Texas. Andrew and Daniel started a band and then found a drummer, Brady; a pretty standard Portland band story.
The trio’s second album, but first LP, self-titled Greylag, is a band album. Produced by Phil Ek, Daniel describes this LP as an album that is made by the greater sum of the three parts. This is a collaborative effort which speaks to what the band sounds like, not three guys playing music together.
“Andrew had just moved out to Portland and he came out with a number of songs that he had already written in West Virginia. Within maybe 2 or 3 months we had planned to make this record and within 3 or 4 months it was made. It was one of those things where we were a new band and we were wanting to be taken seriously as a new band, and one of the ways you can get shows and get people interested in what you’re doing is having recorded music.
“In the ensuing 5 years, we were able to really forge an identity as a band. So, by taking all that time and writing song after song and learning from mistakes, and everything that happens in that process, we were really able to forge a sound that represented all of us. I think that’s a major difference between the first and the second record; we did the hard work to figure out what we wanted Greylag to sound like.”
The album is a great representation of the Portland music scene, in that it is an amalgam of genres. The churning, Appalachian country twang meets harmonies and splashing cymbals in a track like “Burn On,” a track like a train baring down on the listener, chugging along through the middle of the album. “Mama” is a wandering mix of electric and acoustic, like much of the album. A feel like a more delta style of blues. A song I imagine performed in a bayou-side boathouse turned bar complete with string lights and crawfish shells underfoot; sweat mixing with moonshine. Well, maybe that’s just me.
While the country feel of Andrew’s influences (and Daniel’s time in the South with Andrew) there is a jarring track like “Yours to Shake.” Coming in slowly with Andrew’s vocals taking the lead in verses that lull you into listening closely to lyrics of heartache are followed by the ensuing crashing drums and the staccato cacophony of the chorus.
The bookends of “Another” and “Walk the Night” are very appropriate choices for intro and outro tracks. While “Another” is an introduction to all the members’ talents, with almost a live show kind of breakdown as the members each seem to get a little spot light as they set the tempo for the listener.
On the opposite end, “Walk the Night” is a heartfelt goodbye to the listener. Featuring Andrew’s range is the end of the party song; it is closing time. A meandering melody plays on feelings of thoughtfulness, pensiveness, and introversion. This feels like a track, as it stands out unique on the album in its tone, it leaves me wanting for a little more from the album. “Walk the Night” punctuates the end of the album doing two things: Making you take a deep breath, and then becoming painfully aware of how succinct and abrupt a nine-track LP can be.
Though I might want a few more tracks from the boys of Greylag, the real joy is seeing them live. Daniel Dixon described what a song is to him and how it matures:
“I think a recorded song is a snapshot of the life of that song, it’s like a photograph. It does represent the song, but it only represents part of it. The rest of that is what happens as the song continues to develop on the road. It’s like, the song has a life of its own and the recording is just a photograph. You wouldn’t want to take a photograph of your girlfriend and then just look at that. You want that picture, but then you want to go have dinner with her.”
Live, Greylag has taken the time to grow in their songs. The energy doesn’t come through on the album as it does on stage. Riffs and guitar work bring to mind classic rock; those quintessential sounds of slide or rolling and reverberating notes; maybe it’s the thing that keeps Greylag from being too easily categorized in any one genre and a crowd pleaser for Portlanders and beyond.
Greylag sounds like exactly what they are: A Texan, a Californian, and a West Virginian who started a band in Oregon. This city doesn’t have an official sound, but if we did, this hyphen heavy rock-blues-country-folk sound would be near the top of the list. Greylag has crafted an infectious, diverse album with something for everyone, but not enough tracks to satisfy anyone. Also, see them live. It’s a new album once you hear what they’ve done with these snapshots.
Be sure to check out our interview with Daniel Dixon in the Oct/Nov issue of Poppycock Magazine. Check back Oct. 25 for more info or become a fan of Poppycock on Facebook to keep up to date with everything Poppycock.