A beautiful album, dissected piece by piece.
Grayscale have just released their new album 'Umbra' via Fearless Records, and it is an incredible piece of work.
Combining their vast love and passion for music with some heartfelt and, at times, harrowing songwriting, the band have created a batch of songs that represent who they are more viscerally and colourfully than they have allowed their music to do previously. Breaking down any boundaries that they may have put up and opening so many more doors for where they may head in the future, it's an astounding record from a group of creatives letting their fire burn brighter than ever.
There are a few different elements that have allowed this album to exist and that make up its DNA, so we sat down with vocalist Collin Walsh to discuss and dissect them....
"So much of ‘Umbra’ is predicated on that feeling of freedom. ‘Adornment’ was like us stumbling through the woods, writing rock songs and trying to find our way. ‘Nella Vita’ was us just getting a bit of a hunch that the trail was close and trying to find our way. ‘Umbra’ is the moment that we have discovered the trail. What I mean by that is that you can write music, but then you can create something that's specifically your sound. We love our previous albums, but they were the stepping stones to get to the sound we have unlocked on this album.
"It was always a matter of trying to find that balance between rock and pop. We’re a band that prides itself on writing rock songs, pop songs, ballads, everything. But musical freedom comes into finding the balance between all of them. Nick and I played jazz drums for our years before we played rock drums. Andrew grew up playing in church, playing gospel, playing blues, all very traditional styles to play. Dallas grew up loving the 80’s. And Herb is all over the place. So it wasn’t a matter of it. It was a matter of when. Nothing has changed. We have just fine-tuned things to where we feel like the way we do it will be successful and organic to Grayscale.
"This album between us is the most fulfilled artistically we have ever been with a record by a country mile. It’s that feeling of authentic expression, and it doesn’t come from a place of changing things up. It’s what we have always wanted to do. It was just a matter of how and when and making sure we can do it well.
"I love our band because when we want to write a certain song, we will do it. Throughout our discography, that’s something that has always been important and will continue to be important."
THE JUXTAPOSITION OF CERTAIN MUSIC WITH CERTAIN EMOTIONS
"There are two sides to this feeling. There’s the lyrical side and the musical side. ‘Umbra’ is a record that has this consistent energy to it, and a lot of that energy comes from this feeling of internalised confliction. A lot of the narratives that exist on it are man vs self and man vs nature.
"So with that in mind, some songs feel a certain way and sound another. ‘Motown’ is an example of that. It’s the most playful song on the record, but the lyrics are very explicit and raw. Then there’s ‘Dreamcatcher’ may sound like a song where you’re moving on, but it’s actually about really struggling mentally. ‘Without You’ sends it with all of this huge musical feeling when it’s a bit more of a 'Fuck You'.
"Pretty much all the songs come from this same place, and it keeps on coming back round to that again and again and again."
A BETTER UNDERSTANDING THAT LIFE IS FULL OF CHANGE...
"‘Bad Love’ and ‘Dreamcatcher’ are songs that are specifically about trying to change. The process of living with something that you know isn’t good for you, and you need to adapt. Then there are songs like ‘Live Again’ that are super personal and about my father being sick. I feel as though writing about all of these experiences made me feel like I aged about five years in just a year. I think my mindset has changed a lot.
Everything I have ever written is personal and coming from my point of view. They are real stories. However, on ‘Umbra’, you hear it even more honest and blunt than before. I’m not just telling the story. I’m talking about how I feel about those stories.
As an adult and as a person, I have focused on getting through the shit that I have been through, where I have hit the point where I can accept people more and understand how the world works, and how within all of that, my feelings are okay. Knowing that people have different life experiences and knowing that’s where their perspectives come from. So I feel like I’m in an After Death point of my life, where I am more accepting of everything around me."
...AND THE WAY THAT THOSE CHANGES REMOULD THE WAY YOU THINK
"I feel like ‘King Of Everything is a good example of this. It’s an expansion on ‘Tommy’s Song’ from ‘Nella Vita’. In that song, I explain this horrible thing and then ‘King Of Everything’ is me saying, ‘I’m still living with this, and this is how I feel’. It feels weird that I’m angry about it, but that’s just how I feel. When I was younger, I don’t think I would have been comfortable writing like that. With age and experience comes an emotional and spiritual maturity where you understand how you feel is okay and express it in different ways.
"My Dad, at one point, was in such a bad position he was being read his last rites. But now he is making a recovery, and we are teaching them how to be again. I’ve got to help him to learn how to do things again, and those things humble and change you. My Dad is my hero, and he was always a very guarded man. I’m that way in a lot of ways, and that’s what drew me to writing music in a lot of ways. But seeing him broken down to the foundation, it changes the way you think. You put all the bullshit aside. All of that has to lead me to the point where the way I want things to be portrayed and put out has to change as well. All of that comes from those experiences."
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY AND THE SUPPORT THAT IT OFFERS
"As people and as musicians, there was a lot of growth throughout the making of ‘Umbra’. I feel like our band looks, feels and sounds like everything has shifted in a way that we couldn’t be happier with.
"Within all of that, our fans have still been fucking amazing. They have embraced it so much. The thing is that we will always do whatever the fuck we want, and that’s just the way we are. But the fact that we can do it with complete impunity and know that our fans are still going to eat it up is a fantastic feeling. I feel like many of our fans realise that they are watching this change within us unfold in real-time, and that’s a special thing to be a part of. We’re not doing anything other than what feels 100% right, and it feels good to be ourselves in that way. To feel like there is something bigger than us there in this community makes that feel much better."
KNOWING THAT THINGS WON'T BE DARK FOREVER
"This is the reason that we ended the record with a song called ‘Light’. You come through all these stories that start light-hearted, then become a bit more sombre and honest. At the very end, you go out of it all with ‘Light’, and it’s a reminder that no matter how twisted and conflicted you feel at the core of it, you push through, and you find your way back. It’s okay to feel that way towards things, but there is always light at the end. You have to restart the cycle all over again, and we feel fortunate to write our music in that way."