Of Catharsis And Choirs: An Interview With Grayscale On Nella Vita

Despite hailing from the distant metropolis of Philadelphia, the alt punkers in Grayscale have certainly made an impact on our shores recently following the release of their sophomore release Nella Vita in September. From running with pop punk get up kids Real Friends to having just been announced for the juggernaut of an event that is set to be Slam Dunk 2020, the rise of the Philly collective is utterly indisputable. Prior to their show at Bristol’s Thekla with Real Friends we got to sit down with frontman Collin Walsh to discuss touring the UK, the catharsis courtesy of Nella Vita, the difficulties of recording and much, much more.

How have you been first of all?

Collin: I’ve been good man, we flew in, landed yesterday 7am local time here, we’re definitely jet lagged but still feeling good.

So this is the first night of the tour, what’s your most anticipated show going forward?

Collin: Honestly, we’ve only been to the UK one time, and we had such an amazing experience and I think probably if I had to pick it’d be London, but we’re looking forward to all of them. We love coming over here and touring and travelling and playing around the world, so if I had to pick one London, but I’m excited for all of them for sure.

You’re touring with Real Friends, which is a bill that sort of sounds like it was made up in tour heaven, how did that come about?

Collin: Well we’ve been friends with those guys for a little bit now, we did a tour with them and Boston Manor last fall probably a year ago today-ish. That was in the US, it was just one of those things where they were like ‘Oh we’re gonna go over seas, do you wanna come with us?’ And we were like “yeah absolutely” because the last tour with them was awesome and we’re really excited to be doing it now with them.

In previous interviews following the release of Nella Vita you’ve spoken about how you don’t really consider yourselves a pop-punk band, but consider yourselves more of an alt band but still a rock band…

Collin: Sure.

With the big shift that’s happened in alt music recently from being quite grunge in the 90s and now moving more towards pop, how do you see Grayscale and your new sound fit into this?

Collin: Yeah I mean I feel like we’re a band where we don’t stress so much what genre people call us, we don’t really care. As musicians the music we always have written, but particularly with Nella Vita we’ve brought in a lot more influence from funk and soul and pop, like we love pop music, we love gospel, we love RnB, we love all kinds of stuff. I think it’s just one of those things, it’s a natural evolution of our sound, I don’t consider it a conscious change that we made in terms of our sound I think it’s just one of those things that was natural.

So that answers my next question in a way, as to what made you take the leap for it, but it sounds like it wasn’t a conscious leap?

Collin: Yeah to us it wasn’t a leap at all, and I think that’s the thing that I’m realising. Obviously there were some things, some influences and some things that we’ve done on this one that we didn’t do previously, but I think a lot of the time people expect it to be this thing of “Oh we got that idea from this” but music’s been around a very, very long time and we’ve listened to a lot of music. We grew up as students of all kinds of music, like Nick, our drummer & I, we learned jazz before we learned rock; like we’ve learned different genres of music for our respective instruments. And y’know Andrew our guitarist is super into RnB and funk, and should and that kind of stuff. So to us it wasn’t a jump at all, I think it was just a more appropriate time for us to implement the things we wanted to implement in a second release as versus Adornment our first release would have been too early out of the gate to do that, so that’s kind of how it happened.

Because Nella Vita is quite a bold release, it covers a lot of different ground there’s a lot of different energies on it, so if you had to introduce someone to Grayscale with just one track, which one would it be?

Collin: That’s really hard. I think, I would say “Painkiller Weather” and for the same reason we put it out first off Nella Vita as a single. I think that that song just kind of captures the primary alternative rock vibe of our band, but also it’s got shifted down pitched vocals which is obviously common in hip-hop, so I think it has a lot that modern pop stuff, blended with the alternative rock, in a way that I feel like would be a good introductory track for people who have never listened to our music and probably the best way I could spin it for them to understand with one track what we sound like as a whole, but it’d be tough though for sure, ‘cause like you say there’s a lot there’s a whole funk element to the record, there’s a very electronic element, there’s a lot of pop, there’s rock so it’s all over.

You hit on some really personal stories with Nella Vita when writing it were you ever in doubt as to how much you wanted to share with the world, or was it a catharsis?

Collin: That’s a really good question, it absolutely is a cathartic cleansing thing for me as a lyricist when I’m at home, I do a lot of reading and writing, I write a lot of poetry, I write lyrics and stories and what not. All of it is really done in an effort to cleanse myself, it’s kind of just the way that I feel I communicate best. The topics on the record, many of them are very very personal to me, a lot of very personal stories, and they are difficult to write about and so much so, I feel like on Adornment I was very open, but I think this release I brought that level of honesty, rawness and vulnerability to like a different level. Y’know wanting to be more straight forward in some ways and a little more open. I think a lot of that was inspired by, after releasing Adornment and touring it the last few years hearing a lot of fans be so open with me and explain how much it helped them, I feel like that kind of… not only for me wanting to articulate those things in a more honest straight forward way but also hearing how much and what a profound effect that our first record lyrically had on a lot of people, definitely pushed me to want to be more open this time around.

You’ve spoken about how when you recorded Tommy’s Song for example how it was quite difficult to record and handle the vibrato in your voice, do you plan to include that in tonights set or perhaps other future sets?

Collin: So when we recorded we assumed we would probably never play it live. However we finished our first headlining tour just 9 days ago in the US, the last show and the last show only we did play it. And the outro of that song has a choir, and we actually had a gospel choir come and play with us, we had a full 7 - 9 piece choir from Philadelphia and the band, so we performed it as it is on the album just one time, and y’know we definitely won’t be playing it tonight, and we won’t be playing it any time soon. I think that’s a good thing, just because I feel like I wouldn’t want to play that song and not do it the way I feel is the right way, and I’m so thankful that we were able to do it the right way that one night we played in Philly in our hometown.

How did it feel playing it?

Collin: It was crazy man, I barely got through it, some of it I didn’t but I mean, y’know that was the biggest show of tour, the TLA in Philly, and we did it and it was October 5th, it was unbelievable, it was absolutely unbelievable I feel like I was on another planet. It was like such a emotional rush and seeing the crowd singing along and stuff, and the record at that point had only been out a little over a month and it had been just about a month exactly that night, so to hear eleven hundred people singing that back, I’ll never forget that the rest of my life that’s for sure.

That’s amazing, so you’ve done acoustic versions of songs before like Atlantic from Adornment, have you got any plans for an acoustic cover coming out of Nella Vita?

Collin: Good question, yes. I won’t hint too much, but there will be, we plan to do some interesting things in terms of revisiting some of the songs on Nella Vita… I’ll keep that one there.

The new sound you’ve created on Nella Vita is a lot more pop/electro infused, with funk and soul as you’ve mentioned, is this something you plan to stick to with future releases or do you want to push the envelope further?

Collin: Good question man, I think that’s what makes Grayscale us, we don’t force anything, it’s a very natural writing process, and we’re always writing music. I think y’know, that trend isn’t something we’re going to divert away from. We probably will push the envelope further in some regards, and in some regards stay where it’s at. I think we’ll always have a rock DNA but I think pop has always been in the DNA too, it’s just a matter of how much it shows up. I think we’re not moving away from the sound, if anything we’re gonna lean more into it. But it’s like I said, we write what feels right, and we wanna write, so we’ll see what comes on the next one.

You’ve discussed previously how in writing Nella Vita you tried to put yourself in the shoes of loved ones who are in the midst of a struggle and how it was sort of like method acting for you, are there any interesting realisations you came to during that process, by thinking how other people think?

Collin: Yeah, I mean that’s a really good question, that’s one of the best questions I’ve been asked. I think, In My Arms is the song I use as an example of that method acting introspection that you’re talking about, and I think that one it tells a story of somebody, as the song progresses, the voice of the song is more and more desperate sounding and the meaning of the song is telling a story from the perspective of somebody struggling through an addiction, abusing substance and the way that it’s effecting them, and the way it’s effecting the people around them. I think that was one, that I really realised during the writing process and after, how exhausting from an emotional standpoint with like family members, because I’m generally on the other side of it like, this person is putting through so much, I’m so frustrated worrying about this person constantly, I’m losing sleep over this persons wellbeing, but I think it made me realise, writing it and putting myself in the other shoes, there’s a lot more worry maybe from that angle than I think of, selfishly I’m just like “Why is this person putting me through this?” And it’s easy to be very curt and jaded with that kind of thing. When writing it made me realise that there’s people that struggle with that go through a lot, and I had a hard time being patient with it, but I think it’s just because I’ve been around it a lot. It made me kind of think about the other side further and what that’s like.

Amazing, thanks for your time, have a great show, any last words now’s the time!

Collin: I would just say as a band we’re just thankful for the support we have from people all around the world, we absolutely love the UK, we love Europe, we’ve been looking forward to this tour for a long time, and we hope we’ll be back again soon.

Nella Vita is out now via Fearless Records. For more Grayscale content check out our photo gallery of their show at London's Electric Ballroom and our review of their show at Bristol's Thekla! Grayscale will be back in the UK next year for Slam Dunk Festival 2020, check the lineup and details below!