written by Matt Mrowicki
Late last year, Chorus and Verse was fortunate to meet Ray Greiche, a New York City-based musician, who was building a reputation as a successful solo performer. He had just met up with a fellow guitarist and producer named J Edmund T, and the two were developing a new collaborative project, a band called Redshell. The duo performed a series of shows around the city, while working on adding to the band's roster and continuing to define and develop their new sound.
In June, Redshell released their first CD, a self-titled six-song EP of new material meant to highlight the band's strengths both as songwriters and musicians. Featuring Greiche's words and music, with J Edmund T's - now working as the JET - capable and talented hands on the dials and faders as producer, offers a testament to their amazing development as a cohesive unit in a short period of time, as well as road map to where they may be headed in the future. Although, as Greiche and the JET highlight in their interview with Chorus and Verse to discuss the CD, the band's music is still evolving while at the same time reinforcing a rock base to their sound.
When you last spoke to Chorus and Verse in November 2002, you were in the process of writing music for Redshell and working on the new album. How has the last year been for the band, and have there been any surprises, good or bad?
Ray Greiche: Well, the last year we were busy with finishing up the record, and all that goes with that - finalizing the artwork, mixing and mastering, booking the CD release party this past June, promoting it; while at the same time, constantly playing gigs, which is one of the reasons it took so long to finish. We were definitely multitasking.
the JET: We were playing a lot of acoustic duo gigs, up to four times a week. The CD release party at The Cutting Room was a great success, almost too successful. I could hardly breathe, there were so many of our fans that turned out to support Redshell! At one point I lost my mom, who came up from Maryland for the event.
RG: Nice lady.
JET: My mom thanks you.
RG: It was an overwhelming night. We also went up to Providence, RI and played my college reunion. It was interesting to go back and say, 'Here's what I'm doing now.'
JET: One surprise that came out of all that gigging was two new managers.
RG: We're lucky to find people who are moved by the music we create and who really want to help in any way possible.
For readers not familiar with Redshell, how would you describe the band's music and who is the type of fan you're looking to reach with the album?
JET: That's a tough one, because we're in flux right now in terms of our sound. I've written some new songs, a few of which we'll be playing this Friday night at the Baggott Inn. There were sounds and flavors that I wanted to capture from the covers we played on our acoustic gigs.
RG: With the CD, we were concentrating on making it radio ready, so I guess you could say it's a pop/rock sound. I am a strong believer in thinking that songs need to be good first, then genre second, or sometimes not at all. But now I finally own my own damn electric guitar. So the acoustic is going back into the case for awhile. Oh, and I got a few pedals, too.
JET: The girl at the store said the pedals would make you ROCK!
RG: She was nice. I guess what we're saying is we want rock fans.
Was the decision to make this an EP strictly a financial one, or is the record meant as more of a promotional introduction to the band's sound? Do you have any future recording plans to follow-up Redshell or release a full-length LP?
RG: The decision was mostly a timing thing. Plus, we had a new band and needed to define its sound. Get away from the Ray Greiche solo thing and into the band thing.
JET: We already have a new demo of songs that we may be selling at future gigs called The Red.
RG: We'd like to do a full album. I think that is the next logical step. The idea is, we want to be a full working band - we write, we record, we gig, we promote, we tour, it's all a part of what we do as a band. And now it's like, 'Who wants to come along for the ride?'
JET: I do. But I still think we need tighter clothes.
How did you select the two Brooklyn studios where the CD was recorded, and how long did the recording and mixing process take? Were you involved much in the technical aspects of the project, or were you content to let producer J Edmund T and engineer Peter Karl handle those duties? Are you pleased with the sound that was achieved on the CD?
RG: About the studios, I trusted the JET's experience here.
JET: I engineer at one of the studios where we recorded. The other is my home studio. Actually, I don't record anywhere else. That studio (PKRS) has such an amazing sounding live room. Just listen to the drums on "The Answer" for proof of that.
RG: I think I learned a lot about the process, but I'm no expert. I just tried to absorb as much as possible and question when necessary. Peter and the JET have such great ears.
JET: I have little ears and I'm very self-conscious about them.
RG: Truth is, I am very pleased with the results. I don't think it could have come out any better. My eight-year-old nephew and five-year-old niece agree.
[ To Ray ] How did the musical relationship between you and J Edmund T evolve during the production and recording of the album? Did you enjoy having a collaborator who was able to bring so much to the project, and what did it mean to the record having one of the major musicians also serving as producer?
RG: Well, where do I begin. First of all, the record wouldn't exist without him.
JET: I wouldn't exactly call myself a collaborator, perhaps enhancer is a more apt term. The songs were already complete when we began the recording process. I just helped flesh them out a bit.
RG: I found it to be extremely important for the producer to know and agree with the band on what the record should to sound like at the end of the process. Who better to know than one of our own band members? He is one of us when we are rehearsing, and one of us when we are on stage, and we all have that look in our eye. He knew how things should sound in the end.
Talk a bit about the six songs on the EP. When and where was most of the music written, and are there any themes that you found yourself return to again and again during the writing process?
RG: The six songs were written here in NYC over the course of a year or so before we began recording. When you look at the songs together, there are definitely some themes of searching and waiting. You know, waiting for that big thing to happen, whatever's supposed to happen when you get a little bit older. Maybe being a little let down when nothing happens, but still hopeful. That hope is an important and necessary thing. There are a lot of people out there in this city my age saying, ok, I'm ready for it, where is it? You know we've gone to school and we've prepared. But I think the truth is, you gotta make that thing happen yourself, 'cause nobody else is going to do it for you. Well, I guess some people have connections (laughs). But I'm no critic, I think it's obviously up to the listener to take for themselves whatever he or she can from the songs.
Would you consider this a "New York" album, since the band lives and performs in the city? Do you find that living in New York contributes to your creativity as an artist, and how important is where you live to your identity as a musician?
RG: I'd consider it a New York album only in the sense that it's been written by a guy who's been living here for seven years or so. We're all from somewhere other than this city; the JET is from Maryland, Patrick is from Kansas and Ben is from France.
New York is arguably the most creative city in the world. Yet for artists here, it can be hard to keep your eye on the ball. There can be so many distractions. Of course, there are artists who are completely focused all the time. You can't forget to go out and experience other art for the sake of being entertained and inspired. It's not too hard to find something to do. That's why so many people visit from somewhere else and then leave. It's great to taste for many, then great to go home. Living here is a different story, and can be draining if you don't get away once in a while.
As for my identity, I'm really a New Jersey guy who lives in NYC. We played an outdoor town concert in early September next door to my hometown. It's always a great feeling to go home for any reason. Everyone can identify with those emotions.
Keeping on the topic of New York City, what is the state of the live music scene in New York these days? How difficult has it been to find venues to play and where are some of the rooms that have been most favorable for you?
RG: The state of the live music scene in New York is probably the same as it has been. Busy. There are a ton of bands playing on any given night. Probably too many. The upscale venues are still difficult to get into for an unknown artist starting out. Even the promise of good crowds is not enough. You need an industry connection. When you toil at this for seven, eight years, you are lucky enough to meet and make your connections. I always took to playing in bars over the years. That way I wasn't limited to 45-minute sets. Your audience could come and hang out for the whole night, and I'm lucky to have a good memory for a lot of songs.
We had our CD release party at The Cutting Room, and played there again in August. They've been great to us, and we like the room. Plus they have a sit down Ms. Pac Man/Galaga arcade game there. We're fortunate enough that wherever we play, they usually want us back.
As with your first solo record, Redshell is being self-published. How have you gone about promoting and distributing the album, and how successful have you been in getting response from radio stations and the other usual media outlets that artists need to promote their music?
RG: Believe it or not, we're still in the process of getting the CD out there and into the right hands. Everyone we know who knows someone is passing it along, and the responses have been great. We're waiting on some reviews and trying to lure these people out to the shows. The CD is not enough. It's an important thing to us and these people that Redshell have a fan base outside the city, and Redshell intends to spread the word.
How can fans get their hands on the CD?
RG: You can get the CD at our website (www.raygreiche.com/redshell).
JET: Although, the best place to get one of our CDs is at a gig!
RG: It's also the best place to get your hands on the JET.
What's going on now with Redshell, and what can fans expect next from the band?
JET: We have a new bass player, and now there are three of us singing. So, more vocals. We also rock harder, but in a good way.
RG: You can expect us to get out of town more. I'd like to get back into the studio and get some of the new songs down. Just keep moving and creating.
JET: There'll be a new track on-line soon, things like that. New t-shirts soon. Oh, and I think that we have the best fans in the world!
RG: Your mom doesn't count!
JET: Man, that's not right (laughs).