Grün: Music that's beyond words

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

Besides pulling the levers at Swellnet, Ben Matson also provides the backbeat to post-rock instrumentalists, Grün. The release of their second album, Manyana, is happening this weekend so lead guitarist Leon Kelly sat down with Stu Nettle for a chat.

For us mono linguists what’s the correct pronunciation of the band name?
It’s Grün - rhymes with moon.

Which means?
It’s German for green. Our original name was Greenland, but then we went through a bit of a transformation in the band so we thought we’d need a change while keeping a part of it.

And also, being a German word we found the domain name was easier to get.

Well that’s handy.
Ha ha...the modern band needs to think about these things.

Who’s in the band and what do they play?
Myself, Leon Kelly, on guitar. Andre Matkovic on bass. Ben Matson, who you may have heard of, on drums. And Piers Twomey on keys and guitar.

We started in 2005. Andre and I were in another band called Iliad and when that broke up we started an instrumental band with the drummer. We spent five days locked away in a studio to see what would happen and the first EP came out of that. We lost our drummer along the way so we thought we'd have to get some permanent people in to help.

Ben came in, and straight away we had to get bigger amps, but it suited the sound we wanted.

The drummer breaks ranks to go plane spotting

You called the band instrumental which is a broad genre covering everyone from The Shadows to Godspeed. Got a more specific description?
Yeah, it’s rock music at its core and cos there's no vocals so the instruments carry the melody. I guess if we had to pick a genre it’d be post-rock but were also influenced by shoegaze metal, 70s prog rock, and 90s indy stuff also.

As a four piece we have a standard rock format but we also use a lot of experimentation with sounds and key signatures. 

Why no lead singer?
The way it came out initially we were listening to a lot of instrumentals at the time, bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, and we were always intending to get a vocalist just we never got around to it. We had vocals on about ⅓ of the first album but we recorded vocals for the second one. We laid out vocals. But then we decided they didn't add anything so we took them out.

I was wondering about the writing process without a vocalist, but then you write the songs with vocals?
Well the way it works is we write with themes. Say, we might write to a film. There was one weekend Andre and I rented Bad Boy Bubby, found an old dentists office in Darlinghurst and threw that up on a wall for two days and wrote music to it - which was really disturbing but also really cool. We came up with a lot of good stuff.

We get really inspired by visuals. We’re really into soundtracks too.

So the song titles and the meanings aren't random, they’re drawn from literal touchpoints?
Yeah. Sometimes they come after the song is written, but usually it’s before the process begins, and we try and get some sort of vocal point, or emotion, or a visual that we wrote from.

I’m gonna throw a quote at you from Nick Cave: “The Dirty Three are my favourite live band and I think it's because they don't have a singer...when I watch them I start having grand plans and hundreds of lyrics leap into my head.” Is that something you can relate to?
Yeah absolutely, a lot of people tell us they listen to us while they’re working, or while they’re doing yoga, or exercising. We create music for that headspace.

I've heard people in the crowd during quiet bits making up their own lyrics and singing, so they’re bringing something of theirs to our music, which I think Nick was getting at.

But on the Dirty Three, they’re an absolute inspiration to us live mainly because they way they use violin as the voice. Generally the guitar becomes the voice in our music but we're also using more and more piano for it too. I think if we just got up there and did punk rock chords and guitar and that sort of thing it wouldn't work. We need to have vocal style melodies to make it work.

Also in the Nick Cave quote I like that it leaves art open to interpretation.
Yeah exactly. It triggers the imagination.

OK, more semantics. The name of the band is a German word, the name of the new album is a Spanish one. Why Manyana?
One of our favourite spots down the NSW south coast is a little spot called Manyana…

So you named it after the town?!
Yeah! We found this house down there. One side is bush and the other side is a short walk to the beach which is really secluded. So we took all our gear down for two week sessions, and we tracked everything there. We’d literally just write a song then go out, walk through the bush and sit on the beach. It was a magic spot where every time we walked in the door we were just ready to create.

The live launch for Grün's second album, Manyana, is this Saturday at the Factory Floor at the The Factory Theatre in Marrickville. Support acts are Hashshashin and Adrift for Days. More details here.

You can also stream Manyana free of charge from Bandcamp.


tonybarber's picture
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tonybarber commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 12:58pm

Great to hear and see and read. Yep Manyana is a great spot in many ways.
Will have to make the journey to the Factory Floor.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 5:27pm

Shit I am going to miss it! Guess I'll just have to stay here and surf these clean 1 1/2 overhead rights and lefts. Life is tough.

Laurie McGinness

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 6:38pm

I managed to catch Sleep makes Waves last year in Sydney. They were really impressive. It got me keen to hunt out more instrumental bands

Nick Bone's picture
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Nick Bone commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 1:24pm

You like cog?

I am the bone

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 3:34pm

Not sure.. I'll check them out

Nick Bone's picture
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Nick Bone commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 6:37pm

haha. all good. sleepmakeswaves opened for Cog on their tour last year. thought thats where you might of caught them

I am the bone

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 6:48pm

No different show.
They played with another instrumental group

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 6:41pm

Ps, just listened to The Hunt by grun.
That was sick!

Nick Bone's picture
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Nick Bone commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 6:13am

agreed. turned it on to have a listen while making lunch and yes, great sound

I am the bone

nomad1's picture
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nomad1 commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 7:38pm

Grun in Norwegian means "reason". pronounced similar just doesnt have the umlauts

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Tuesday, 4 Apr 2017 at 8:11pm

Cool interview.

I liked that song you put up ages ago with the roller derby chicks in the clip. Can you put up a link to that one again please.

PS Good luck with the album launch.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 6:22am

Thanks for the nice words everyone. Stoked to finally get it out!

Zen, here's the clip you mentioned - it's for The Vicious (though it actually a slightly edited version of the song). You can also stream or download the whole album from Bandcamp (I've been told it'll also be on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes etc on Friday).

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Wednesday, 5 Apr 2017 at 8:55am

Cheers Ben. Great track.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Friday, 7 Apr 2017 at 7:07am

Starting to see a couple of good reviews filter in for the album, which is nice:

"There’s a sublime subtlety that carries you through each story the record tells. The songs are alive. They breathe. They are individuals but of the same family."

"But what these boys do better than most is convey so much atmosphere and emotion without a single vocal in sight - their sonic palette speaks more than any words could, especially on tracks like 'Antarctica' and 'The Wolf is of the North'."

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Pjhawko commented Wednesday, 12 Apr 2017 at 6:13am

Sounding Good!

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Wednesday, 12 Apr 2017 at 8:03am

I'm gonna try to refrain from posting all of the reviews we receive, but couldn't go past this one.

It's really nice (as a musician) when you read a review from someone you don't know, who totally "gets" what you were trying to achieve with your record. Doesn't mean everyone else will get it, but it validates a lot of the ideas and thoughts we had whilst making the album.

From Sean at myindieaustralia:

"The musicality of the art on display here is better explained as simply beautiful music rather than genre casting it into several neat little boxes which rob you of any freedom to interpret the work for yourself. If I go on and compare it to this band or that band for reference, it’s fair to assume your mind would consider if you like ‘those’ artists first and then proceed to judge Grun’s new album accordingly without having spent any time with it.

Where this album struggles is only in the length of the arrangements. It may take some time for a casual listener to get through the initial barrier of requiring more than your standard 3 minutes to get the pay off. The crescendo isn’t coming early, they hold off on the ‘big awesome’ until they’re ready. Grun build and build, get a little lost, find their way back to the path and then bulldoze the fucking way forward. You can't rush this kind of art.

Where it excels is in the production value, everything sounds clear, up front and balanced. The drums keep their ground, the bass is really well mixed and sits nicely in an low-mid pocket so that you can always make it out beneath the cacophony on top of it. Guitars are wild..untamed and fantastic. The strings and keys that feature throughout add the colour and sheen needed for an album like this to stand out.

This is what excellence sounds like. ‘Manyana’ is a fully realised, mature and dark album that will astound and enamour fans of the many genre’s contained within."

(worth reading the full review, linked below)