Spotlight on Boston Calling's Local Bands: Grey Season

Boston Calling is next weekend, and this is one event you can't miss. As part of the incredible lineups, Boston Calling features two local bands at every festival. This fall, those bands are Grey Season and Dirty Bangs. We had the opportunity to chat with Ian Jones, Grey Season's bassist, about the band, Boston Calling, and more!

Grey Season

Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Irish Bouzouki: Jon Mills

Lead & Acoustic Guitar, Vocals: Matt Knelman

Banjo, Mandolin, Piano, Dobro, Vocals: Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz

Bass, Vocals: Ian Jones

Drums, Percussion, Vocals: Ben Burns

Her Campus Emerson: Can you tell us a little bit about Grey Season?

Ian Jones: We’re five best friends. Two of us (myself and the drummer) have been best friends and a rhythm section—that is, bass and drums—we’ve been playing together since we were 12 years old. The rest of the guys I met my first year at college (that was in 2011). We’re a rock and roll band, but we use some folk and country instrumentation, so it’s a bit eclectic in there. The band is what we do, this is what we live and it’s part of our identity. We’re just trying to make music and we’re lucky enough that people like it. The farther that we go on, people seem to be more and more receptive to it and we’re getting better as musicians. It’s all about keeping our integrity as friends and as musicians, and just seeing where this road takes us.

HCE: How would you classify your sound?

IJ: We have a couple funny little sayings, but they’re more or less jokes. Depending on the day, you might get a different answer from me. And you’d probably get a different answer from the other band members. One of the jokes we had that used to be on our website was, “Stinky rock and roll, timeless folk.” That was more of a joke, a catchy punch line or catchphrase. At the heart of what we do, it’s rock and roll music. The way that the instruments play off of each other and the way that the personalities in the band mix, I think is reminiscent of music that’s 30 or 40 years old. We’re modern dudes who like classic music. I would call it rock and roll, but some people call it folk rock. It’s loose around the edges, but in the right way. We’re always trying to play tightly, but it can be a little clunky at times. That’s how we like it.

HCE: How did Grey Season come to be?

IJ: Originally, Grey Season was a folk trio. It was two acoustic guitars and a banjo. That was Matt, Gooch and John—they were the trio. They met their first few days at Berklee [College of Music], and I had met John my first day at Berklee. They started playing together, but I didn’t really have any friends for a couple of months at Berklee. I was a commuter, so I wasn’t around that much. They had a little buzz going in the dorms. They would sing three-part harmonies. They had an aura around them; I thought they were really good. As soon as I heard them, I thought, “That’s what I need to be, that’s the group I want to play in.” In my head I thought [of] my friend Ben—who was in India at the time—[I thought,] “They need a drummer and a bass player and then they’re a rock and roll band. It will be perfect.” So in my mind right away I was plotting for the five of us to get together. But they continued being an acoustic folk trio, singing three part harmonies for about another year. One thing led to another, I ended up befriending them and we all moved into a house together in Allston for our second year of college. In that house, we all ended up becoming a band. We needed to do a record and they needed a drummer and a bass player, so out of necessity it fell together. It felt right from the get-go when the five of us got together. We’re not all the same people, but when we’re all in the same room, if it’s a good day we turn into the same person—just different aspects of the same person.

HCE: Is there a specific meaning behind the name “Grey Season”?

IJ: Nope. I wish I could tell you. I could tell you jokes, but I won’t. There’s nothing behind it, really. We get asked all the time, “What does your name mean?” So we come up with different answers all the time. We noticed a year ago that we were all born in succession, month by month (September through January), so we’ll call that the “season” but that’s not actually true. It doesn’t mean anything.

HCE: How has the band grown since 2011?

IJ: We’ve been through a lot together. We all view the band as a way to experience things in life that we otherwise wouldn’t experience. You get to do a lot of cool things and you get to meet a lot of great people. There have been some moments where we just really understood it. A lot of people have been supporting us for the past few years, a lot of people are fans, a lot of people are friends and family, but nobody understands what it’s like to be in the band except for us, because we’re experiencing it.

We had some real personal achievements, like where we recorded our first album. We did a $15,000 Kickstarter, which no one thought we could do. But we thought, “We can go for it.” And then we got it and we ended up going to Woodstock, New York to record an album at one of our favorite musical heroes’ house. It was totally a dream come true. And playing South by Southwest, we had an all expenses paid...they flew us out to Texas to do that. And none of us grew up being able to do that sh*t. I had never left New England. The first time all of us got on an airplane to go play the festival in Austin, Texas, that was an amazing feeling. And we all knew how the others felt. Or when we did Bonnaroo [Music and Arts Festival].

When you go through so many experiences of sleeping in beds or sh*tty floors or ten hour long drives to a gig, you get really close. Sometimes, you get too close and you get really fed up with each other. Because we are so close, personal relationships get really hard to balance. Especially since we’ve been living with each other for three years—last week we actually all moved out, because it was hurting our relationships. So you never really get a break from each other. Some people grow tall one day, and they grow in one way, and on another day somebody else will grow taller. You just try to keep the love going and you keep each other in check. If someone gets too big for their boots, you try to bring them back down. That’s how we’ve grown, is we’ve been able to experience all these things together.

HCE: What do you see as the future of Grey Season?

IJ: We’re going to do this until we drop. The thing about our band is nobody could ever be replaced. We would never kick someone out and bring someone else in. The band isn’t interchangeable like that. It’s us five, and this is what we are, this is who we are, it’s what we do. We’re going to keep going and if people like it, that’s good. If people don’t like it, we’re going to keep doing it, because we like it. We’re serious about it. We want to be as big as we can possibly be, as long as we can keep our integrity and be happy. We want to give our music to everybody that will have it.

HCE: How did Grey Season get chosen to play at Boston Calling?

IJ: I think it came about from doing South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. We did a showcase down there and one of the guys is connected in the Boston scene, and he liked us so much and was impressed with our set I guess more than anyone else’s. He recommended us to Crashline Productions who put on Boston Calling. They said, “Give us a recommendation of a good Boston band.” And he submitted us, they reviewed it, and they really liked us, so they chose us based on his recommendation.

HCE: What does the opportunity to perform at Boston Calling mean for your band?

IJ: I look at it two different ways. One way is, we’re just going to treat it like another gig. Because you have to—if you don’t treat it like it’s just another gig, then you get big for the boots and you might not do as well. So you just have to get up there and get into it. On the other hand, I think it’s going to mean a lot once we’re up there. I remember this one friend of ours… some blog put two pictures up, and one was of us performing and then right next to that picture was a picture of Boston Calling. She sent it to us like, “One day these images will collide.” That was probably two years ago, and now they are colliding. We’ve done so much street performing and trying to rope in fans one at a time. Playing on the street and having people throw change in the guitar case. And it is wild to think that we’re playing the major festival in Boston and we’re going to represent Boston. We’ve done a hell of a lot of shows and spent so much time here and played so many gigs here, that it’s like a homecoming in a way. But at the same time, it’s not like we’ve really left, so it’s not a homecoming. It’s more like a statement on us and Boston and we all feel like we can broaden our horizons and move out. We’re still such a young band; we’re all in our early twenties. It’s like, “We’ve come this far in two and a half years, and we’ve got to this point, so now we can branch out.” We’ve conquered this area, so now let’s go on to the next thing. I think that’s how we’ll feel about it when we’re done.

HCE: Two local acts are featured at every Boston Calling. Why do you think this is important?

IJ: I think it’s really important for a band like us, because it’s like a stepping-stone. If you’re a band who’s really been getting your fan base together, and if Boston Calling does a good job and selects a band that really deserves it, it’s going to give that band a platform. It’s a way to underline or put a period at the end of a sentence for a band. Boston has so much music in it, but it’s not necessarily known as a world-class music city. There is so much music in it, and there are so many scenes. There are so many venues that are closing down and there’s not that supportive of a community. You have all these presidents who don’t want street festivals to happen and the cops are always shutting down house shows and basement shows. We know how that is better than anyone. It’s good that Boston Calling can highlight and feature and respect and represent a Boston band and keep it in the family. Especially when so many other things in the city are discouraging bands from going for it. That’s why it’s important.

HCE: What can attendees expect from your performance at Boston Calling?

IJ: You’re going to see some rock and roll. You’re going to see five guys who really love each other and sing really well with each other and have really worked at it and put in a lot of hours. We try our best to give the audience something special. We had two shows yesterday, and I think we gave a whole bunch of people who’d never seen us before something special. You see a lot of five part harmonies and a band that knows their roots. We know who we are, we know where we come from, we never forget that. You’re going to see something special. I think we got something going on, and I hope everyone gets on board with it.

HCE: Who are you most excited to hear at Boston Calling?

IJ: Father John Misty. Hands down. He is the man. I look forward to meeting him and telling him to fire his backing band and take us, because we’ll do a better job than they will.

HCE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

IJ: Everybody keep it cool, and we hope to see you for the earliest show on Saturday at Boston Calling. We want people to show up at 12 so that they can see our set at 1 PM.

We had a blast talking to Ian, and we can't wait to see Grey Season's set on Saturday, September 26 at 1:00 PM on the Red Stage. We'll see you there!

Photos courtesy of Grey Season