Earlier this week we released the reissue of the 2010 digital 7" by International Grey. Today we have an interview with Jeremy Wilkins, the singer/guitarist, from the now defunct post-rock band. Check it out and stream the digital 7" plus the bonus track, "Burning Of A Witch", below.
Interview by: D.
PFR: International Grey was a short-lived post-rock band, started in 2009, that included you, Jeremy Wilkins, on guitar and vocals, George Lewis III on keyboards and vocals, Denver Bon on bass, and Daniel Kopton on drums. So I want to start with asking specifically about the band - when did the band officially form? And what prompted the band’s existence?
Jeremy: International Grey started out as Allegra Gellar. George, Denver and I asked Dan to come on board as a live drummer. I’m not sure how long we struggled down that path, but it wasn’t working and wasn’t very fun. We had a pretty clear idea by 2009 of what we wanted Allegra Gellar to be and it was very much based in acoustic guitars and electronic programming, so there wasn’t really room for a real drummer. I don’t really remember when or how we made the transition to International Grey, it was probably Dan pushing us to just rock out. But, at some point, we decided to put away all the acoustics and laptops and try being a rock band. I had been in love with shoe-gaze since the early 90s and discovered that I had assembled a nearly perfect shoe-gaze guitar rig that was basically just sitting in the studio till we decided to loosen the reigns a little.
PFR: International Grey officially released a digital 7” in 2010 that included, “Maybe You Won”, along with “Choose A Machine”. These tracks are clearly more rock driven - heavier and louder - than the past work found in Allegra Gellar. It’s apparent the 3 of you were trying something very different with International Grey. What inspired you guys to replace your acoustic guitars for electric guitars and beef up the sound?
Jeremy: The thing is, the acoustic guitars really just left Dan’s basement and returned to my studio. We were really actively engaged in both bands at the same time and they were acting as alter egos to each other. A good chunk of the live set for International Grey was Allegra Gellar songs played as loud post-rock shoe-gaze. “Choose A Machine” and “Burning of a Witch” (from the new reissue) were really two of the rare songs specifically written as International Grey songs. The original demo of “Maybe You Won” was written for the Allegra Gellar record, The Secret Plans of Men. In the end, there never was a finished Allegra Gellar version of “Maybe You Won”. But, we were recording The Secret Plans of Men the entire time we were in International Grey and several songs like, “Our Bodies Connect” and “Maps Of Florida” had radically different versions that existed in both bands. Other than the lyrics they were barely recognizable as the same songs. International Grey also played several older Allegra Gellar songs live, like “Judas, Yesenia” and “Post-Rock Idol”. In some ways the International Grey versions were more true to our original intent. If you listen to Allegra Gellar, particularly older Allegra Gellar, there’s an underlying tension of wanting to rock out a bit more than we were capable of or comfortable with. International Grey gave us a chance to exercise that muscle.
PFR: International Grey very much presented itself as a serious and ambitious project - it was big, loud and bold - it wanted to be seen and heard. However the group unfortunately disbanded after 6 months together. If the group had not ended and continued on, what would you had hoped for the band? How did you see the band developing and progressing?
Jeremy: What I wanted at the time was to just keep playing live shows. Allegra Gellar was never a very good live band, but International Grey was and I wanted to keep playing to get even better, tighter and probably louder. At the time there was a division within the band over the idea of playing more shows versus recording an album. I wasn’t particularly happy with the recordings we had done up to that point and just wanted to keep playing and writing until we could rationalize spending a lot of time in a studio working with an engineer or producer familiar with the sound we were going for. I absolutely did not want to record and produce the record myself, or as a band, because I felt recording a rock band was not within my particular skill set as a producer. I think if we had just played a few more shows we could have built a buzz and enough momentum to keep going and probably would have eventually made a really interesting companion record to The Secret Plans of Men. After that I would have hoped to sever the two bands for good and start writing exclusively our own songs!
PFR: Some years have gone by now, so I am curious: what are your current thoughts on the band? What do you miss the most about International Grey? What do you miss the least? And while this probably is an absurd question to ask, but is there any desire within anyone in the band to reform - either with the original 4 members or new members?
Jeremy: No, there is absolutely no talk of ever reuniting. It was really fun while it lasted, but we’ve all moved onto other things. I still think the band was great. I really loved our sound and energy. I loved the musical tension within the rhythm section, the bass and drums never really worked in a traditional way. I was not a fan of the personal tension within the rhythm section! I liked that George and I were really just having fun for once, not over thinking everything. I loved that all of our solos were synth instead of guitar solos. I liked that nobody ever told me to turn down! I don’t miss singing or being a so-called front person. I’m not very good at that role. I’m happier in the background, like what I do now in Hawks Do Not Share. I guess I really missed the songs since I stole both “Choose A Machine” and “Maybe You Won” (re-named “The Fool”) and reworked them as Parasols tracks…To continue the recycling between bands.