Man in Gray creates loud music that we love to scream and sing to when it's on our iPod. This gets us strange looks on the subway, but it's totally worth it. Somehow it simultaneously speaks to our teen angst ridden soul and our present day state of mind. From political punk and think rock to schizophrenic ballads, the band has an original sound with some traces of Sleater-Kinney, The Thermals and maybe even The Breeders mixed in. The co-ed Man in Gray is part hard-edged punk, part melodic hard rock and they're always leaving us shaking our heads and moving our feet. Be sure to get to Movable Hype tomorrow night by 8pm for their set! More details after the interview...
Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate?
Bryan: We used to hang out at the Spring Lounge after practice and since we had our first show coming up (a showcase at NYU in early 2001) but were being too indecisive about picking a name, I (drunkenly) decided that the first thing I read on a jive dictionary on the wall would be our name. There ya go.
Tina: I think Bryan covered that very well. Let's just say at a bar, drunk and looking for inspiration.
Jeremiah: It's slang for "postman" or something. It was on the wall at a bar we used to hang out at when we were just starting. We thought it sounded kinda cool.
Jared: I wasn’t around, so somebody besides me should answer that.
Jeremy: We were at a bar and needed a name for our first show. They had a jive dictionary on the wall, and after we chose "Man in GraY" a guy with a gray suit came in to the bar and started dancing. I thought that was a good sign.
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Bryan: Wondering how long it would take my roommate to kill me and if anybody would notice.
Tina: Thinking that living with three girls in a studio dorm-room was totally normal considering the lack of space in NYC.
Jeremiah: Seeing Buffalo '66 my first night here and Pi the second.
Jared: Being a wee freshman at New York University and wandering over to Avenue A at four in the morning to eat pierogies at Leshko’s now-sadly-departed coffee shop.
Jeremy: Going downtown to buy tickets to Superdrag, my first concert in NY.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Bryan: fav - meeting Beck at a party at Warhol's Factory. least fav - getting out of a train to be told 'the whole city is being destroyed'.
Tina: Favorite: Having a ridiculously fancy mimosa-fueled brunch on my old rooftop deck in Brooklyn and looking at the Manhattan skyline with friends. The best of both.
Least: Let's just say the one that still makes me turn a little red: arguing with a bouncer that my fake NJ I.D. was real and threatening him with my drunk fisticuffs. The most disgusting part was that this was at Hogs and Heifers and that I was arguing over a New Jersey I.D.
Jeremiah: Favorite: meeting my girlfriend at 2 Columbus Circle on a film shoot.
Least: near the end of the summer after I graduated from college, when
I was having trouble finding a job, and thought I might have to leave
NY for awhile.
Jared: Favorite: Being threatened with expulsion from Meow Mix for making out with a girl while being a boy.
Least Favorite: The Push’n’Suck Event at the Beer Club Beer Olympics: do a push-up, sip beer through a straw, repeat ad nauseam – literally. Not pretty.
Jeremy: My least favorite memory is when it's hot as hell in the summer and the sidewalks smell like garbage.
What is your favorite place to drink in NYC, and what's the best night to go out?
Bryan: Library. any night as long as it's happy hour or you're buying.
Tina: Hands-down the Library wins. Any night at Happy Hour is the best night to go out. 2 Jamesons for $6? That's my place. I like Thursdays too.
Jeremiah: I usually have more fun drinking in my backyard or on someone's roof with friends at a party or BBQ. This isn't very rock and roll, or whatever, but my hearing ain't so great after years of playing very, very loud music and I tend to have a better time when I can actually hear people speak. Unless, of course, I'm at a rock show, then hearing people speak is less of a concern. The best night? I don't care. Every night's the same if there's a good band playing and the crowd isn't a bunch of jackasses.
Jared: If I had more money, it’d be Pravda. Their Bloody Marys are first rate, and they sell some bitchin’ oysters. As it stands, I quite like Grass Roots. Any night’s good.
Jeremy: Saturday is the best day for me, even though it's crowded as hell. Bar 4 in Park Slope is always good and not too crowded usually.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
Bryan: Getting to and from the shows is the worst - especially since our lovely van, the Shitbomb, died last year. The best part is that people actually show up, which still amazes me. People in Brooklyn are 5 % more likely to dance at shows than in Manhattan.
Tina: Favorite: Playing at clubs that I've seen my favorite bands play.
Least Favorite: Trying to book a gig on a decent night.
Both are great, but Brooklyn is easier for me to get around. I think the kids who come out to the Brooklyn shows tend to be a little more dance-y and crazy, which I love. Plus, the sound in a lot of the Brooklyn places is much better (Northsix and Southpaw especially). Maybe it's because they are newer? However, any type of loft party beats out a club show by a mile, good sound or not.
Jeremiah: Favorite: when we get some person visiting from out of town who asked somebody where a good place to see live music is, and on that particularly night, of all nights, they were told to go blindly to wherever it is we happen to be playing and they like it so much they feel the need to tell us. It's basically an accident, and it can go a long way toward making you feel satisfied that it was actually worth the effort you put into it. Not enough New Yorker's do that-- just go to some random venue and listen to whatever band happens to be playing. And I have to include myself in that. I don't do that enough. I guess that's my least favorite thing-- the fact that not enough people are willing to go see a band they haven't already seen or heard before.
As for the second (or is it third) part of the question, the main
difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn is that people in
Manhattan usually seem much less willing to go to Brooklyn to see a
show than people in Brooklyn are willing to go to Manhattan. Of course, I'd say even that isn't as definite as it used to be.
Jared: Favorite: You get to play with some pretty fantastic other bands.
Least Favorite: Since the smoking ban, everybody seems to go outside to smoke and socialize when the band they came to see isn’t onstage. Which means that most people don’t hear new bands as often as they used to. I’m guilty of this myself.
Brooklyn always seems a bit more laid back than Manhattan – less fashionable, at least the shows we play. Plus we’ve played a bunch of loft parties in Brooklyn – they’re hella fun.
Jeremy: Shows in Brooklyn are usually much closer to my house, so I spend less money on cabs.
Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
Bryan: Definitely. How many highways and bridges do we mention in our songs? We like transportation. Public transportation, even. When it works, at least. Damn you, F train and your weekend weirdness.
Tina: Hell yeah. We've got songs all about mass transportation, businessmen, missed connections, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. I write a lot of the lyrics for our songs and know that the experience of living here plays a huge part in our songs.
Jeremiah: Well, it's apparently mandatory for at least three-fifths of our songs to reference subways, so it's hard to deny there's a New York connection. Seriously, though, there have been times when we've played out of town and the bands we've played with have told us we definitely have a "New York sound." They never seem to be able to explain what that means, but when you're writing music in the middle of a place like New York, I guess it's hard to filter your surroundings out. Not that we'd want to if we could.
Jared: Yeah. Living here has its peculiar triumphs and pressures, and I don’t think you can exist in this environment for a bunch of years and not have that come spewing back out in whatever you do.
Jeremy: Not really, I think we do our own thing.
Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action
"You know you've made it when..."
Bryan: your mom stops asking if anyone came to see your band play.
Tina: you're playing with Jim O'Rourke.
Jeremiah: you've lost it (deep, huh?).
Jared: You have to start writing songs with lines like “the kid is not my son.”
Jeremy: kids start to recognize you.
"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when…"
Bryan: you can't physically play any more.
Tina: I have to use a mic stand for every show.
Jeremiah: Anyone who says they know is likely full of shit.
Jared: They pry it from my cold, dead fingers…
Jeremy: you start playing Six Flags.
"I'll never forget the first time I…"
Bryan: saw our band name in the listings in the Village Voice. that made it feel real.
Tina: gave myself a bloody lip and a chipped a tooth on a microphone.
Jeremiah: read the beginning of this sentence.
Jared: Stumbled out of a bar in NYC at seven in the morning and couldn’t for the life of me remember which establishment I’d left my bass in. Ah, New York. Ah, rock ‘n’ roll. Ah, binge drinking.
Jeremy: bled all over my guitar during a show
"I'll never forget the first time [insert another band member's name here]…"
Bryan: Jeremiah lodged a drumstick in the wall from across the room.
Tina: Jared took his shirt off. Priceless.
Jeremiah: Jeremy said "I have this new song," and then played "The Hardest Part" solo at rehearsal and we all just stood there stunned.
Jared: Tina (lead singer) and I met – corner of Washington Place and Broadway, September 11th, 2001. In the middle of all the chaos, she walked over, Bryan (guitarist, my roommate at the time) introduced us, and she bummed a cigarette off me. An auspicious beginning to our association.
Jeremy: Jeremiah threw a cymbal into my leg right after a show.
And finally, lets have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if you've got no discernable
feelings, make something up that won't embarrass you in the morning)
Jeremiah: I prefer the Mets.
Jared: So much high-priced talent. So little actual talent. Ha ha!
Jeremy: I hate baseball
Bryan: why not?
Jared: Yay Pedro!
Jeremy: I still hate baseball
Tina: is laughing at all of us
Jeremiah: Now entering her sixteenth minute.
Jared: Will end up as a folk singer.
Bryan: I still hate the redesign
Tina: Love/hate relationship
Jeremiah: "Media" and/or "Poseidon," but I guess it would be a called a "trident."
Jared: Hay Bale.
Jeremy: I'm allergic to hay
Bridge & Tunnel
Bryan: to the west!
Tina: that still exists?
Jeremiah: Does Bryan count?
Jared: The Misfits. Diners. Bruce Springsteen. Highways. Enormous Reubens. Jersey is just all right with me!
Bryan: please don't take me there.
Jeremiah: People who never learned to walk.
Jared: Reminds me of one of those bug-zapping lights on a gigantic scale. Only instead of bugs, it catches groups of precocious teenagers here to compete in events. And also it doesn’t kill them. It just makes them stand there goggling at the windows of the MTV studios.
Bryan: could be worse.
Tina: I would like for him to live in an apartment above a bar…with 5 smokers outside at 4am on a Monday and feel the pain of getting up for work the next day.
Jeremiah: Well, the city's still here after four years, and, unfortunately, I'm not so sure I trust any of the current Democratic hopefuls to pull that off for the next four. Why is it that the capitol of so-called blue America can't even produce an inspiring Democrat in citywide politics?
Jared: Let’s cancel recycling. Ooh, and let’s build a stadium in Manhattan, because what we definitely need is an influx of more tourists and conventioneers!
Jeremy: taught me to double the tax when leaving a tip at a restaurant
Questions inspired by movies...
If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma (in less than 10 words). (Reality Bites)
Bryan: Did somebody say beef snacks?
Tina: My Sharona.
Jeremiah: Someone or something had to do it, I guess.
Jared: Emmm… hmmm… uhhh…
Jeremy: It's a constant struggle
What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
Bryan: If music is your misery, then you're doing something wrong. (shamelessly stolen from Mister Joe Willie of the Unsacred Hearts - "1978")
Tina: Misery helps make music, but there is plenty of music that causes misery or just plain retching.
Jeremiah: I'm pretty sure there were no cavemen writing pop songs about starving because of the most recent draught or getting hit in the head with a rock.
Jared: The music.
Jeremy: The misery.
A few quickies on the music tip
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Bryan: All my friends. And of course Matt Mahaffey, Lou Barlow, Mary Timony, Thurston Moore, Ted Leo, Wayne Coyne, Beck, and Stephen Malkmus could stop by and join in too though if they really wanted. Dave Grohl too but only if he plays drums and stays away from the mic.
Tina: I'm already in it. It's called the Cover Band Project and will soon be knocking off some aviator glasses. If that doesn't work, all the ladies of Sleater-Kinney, men of Mission of Burma and O'Rourke at the boards doing some crazy shit.
Jeremiah: Supergroups usually end up sucking. Except for Cream. Cream did not suck.
Jared: Drums: Penny Rimbaud from Crass. Bass: Clint Conley, Mission of Burma. Guitars: Richard Thompson and Eddie Hazel from Funkadelic. Vox: Glenn Danzig and Sandy Denny.
Jeremy: Thom Yorke/John Lennon(vocals), Robert Fripp(mellotron), Jimi Hendrix/Jimmy Page(guitar), Roger Taylor(drums).Roger Waters could write the lyrics.
What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
Bryan: Probably Beck - Odelay / Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
Tina: I honestly can't remember. I am a lazy music buyer.
Jeremiah: I can't remember the first, but I bought The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan and the Secret Machines' Road Leads Where It's Led EP last Tuesday. You haven't heard "Money (That's What I Want)" until you've heard it at about a third its normal tempo.
Jared: I have no idea. It’s possible that I’ve never bought an album on the day it was released. I’m usually really behind the times.
Jeremy: Kid A - by Radiohead
And finally...If Josh Schwartz, creator of the OC, asked your band to perform on his tv show (as Modest Mouse, the Killers and the Walkmen recently have) would you?
Bryan: I'd prefer the Peach Pit, but that would do.
Tina: Fine, but my dream was to play the freakin Bronze on Buffy.
Jeremiah: Yes, but I'd rather play on Arrested Development. Jason Bateman is so dreamy.
Jared: Oh hell yes. Anyone that says different has their priorities screwed up.
Jeremy: hell yes