Grün: Music that's beyond words
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.
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.