After catching up a little and working through a few pre-interview questions like “Should we swear?” and “Where can we find better looking and taller stand-ins for our band promo pictures?” Lansing-based ska-core band, Grey Matter, admitted that this was their first real interview.
Sure, it’s not 1996 anymore and ska isn’t on the forefront of popular culture. But it’s still unsettling that a band percolating with hyper-aware lyrics and violently catchy hooks remains a Midwest scene-secret.
Formed in 2014 by guitarist and vocalist Mac Doyle, bassist and vocalist Jake Matter, keyboardist Will McPeek and drummer Nick LaForge, Grey Matter followed up their 2015 full length, “Failure,” with a slew of splits and EPs, releasing “Visitors,” their newest EP, April 7 of this year.
As they prepare to headline Mac’s Bar Thursday, Aug. 10, City Pulse sat down with Doyle and Matter to talk about touring, breaking guitars and what it’s like to be the only ska band in Michigan.
Grey Matter might be the only ska band in Michigan, what’s that like?
Mac Doyle: No one likes us and it’s hard to find bands to play with. We’re just this strange middle ground. We’re like a hardcore band but we’re not hardcore enough for the hardcore kids. We’re not going to open for Freedom in Detroit.
Jake Matter: We’re ska, but we’re not a third wave ska band. We don’t fit bills with other ska ska bands.
You’re not ska enough for the ska kids?
MD: The thing about ska kids is they’re pretty open-minded to different types of music.
JM: But this is the Lord’s year of 2017, and there aren’t a lot of ska kids around.
The lyrics on “Visitors” are socially conscious. In being politically aware, what are your responsibilities as a band?
MD: We’re a band that mostly comes from privilege, but I think it’s our place to say when things aren’t right — even if those things don’t necessarily affect us. It’s important that everyone speaks out when they see something that isn’t right.
Every time I’ve seen Grey Matter, Mac, your guitar has had a massive malfunction. What sort of guitar disaster are you expecting when you headline Mac’s?
MD: We’re expecting my guitar to spontaneously combust. At least that’s my theory.
JM: Well realistically, Mac bought a new guitar. So hopefully nothing is going to go wrong, but I’ve played with Mac long enough to know that he’s going to find the thing that’s going to break on that guitar and break it.
You guys tour incessantly. What’s the best thing that’s happened on the road?
MD: That’s the thing about tour: it’s all so good. Any show where there are people and they’re receptive to different kinds of music is a great show.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened?
JM: I can sincerely say one of my least favorite things that’s ever happened was last summer. We were on tour in Colorado and we had some time before the show so we’re like, “let’s drive our van up into the mountains full of gear.”
We stop somewhere to get out and hike and Nick’s like, “I think the vans leaking a little bit,” and I just remember getting out and thinking, “I bet it’s just some condensation from the air conditioning.” We walk around the front of the van and coolant is just spraying out of the radiator like a pressurized hose.
To calm ourselves, we went on a hike. Afterwards, we booked it back down the mountain in neutral and coasted all the way into an AutoZone parking lot.
You all got tattoos last tour that say, “Who Cares.” What’s the story behind that?
MD: “Who Cares” is the name of an album by Nuclear Moms, a band we love and a band we did a split with. We met Nuclear Moms right about the time we started touring and they gave us sort of a role model to look up to. We listened to their album “Who Cares” over and over again in the van.
We all deal with anxiety and depression and shit, and the phrase “Who Cares” is like that anchor tattoo that means, “stay grounded” — but a lot less melodramatic or cheesy.
This is the second time you’ve headlined Mac’s Bar, how do you expect it to go?
MD: Great! I’m really excited about this lineup. There are a couple bands that we’ve never played with. Dasterds, they’re a pretty new band, and their recordings are super good. John in Rent Strike has always been around and has been a really good contact for us. His music is phenomenal and we’ve always wanted to play a show together but never did. We’re excited to finally get the opportunity.
JM: They’re all bands we’ve never played with. Vital Sea is great too. And we’re playing a couple new songs, too.