The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, June 20, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A: Greg Cartwright

Formed in Memphis, Tenn., Asheville’s Reigning Sound’s members are David Wayne Gaye, Lance Wille, Greg Cartwright and David Amels.
Formed in Memphis, Tenn., Asheville’s Reigning Sound’s members are David Wayne Gaye, Lance Wille, Greg Cartwright and David Amels.

Greg Cartwright is a staple in the garage rock scene. Cartwright has been churning out a fast and furious blend of punk, soul and pop as the frontman of punk rock band Reigning Sound since 2001. This week, Cartwright released a side project with Coco Hames of The Ettes under the moniker The Parting Gifts. As the musician preps for his Reigning Sound show this Sunday at Local 506, Diversions staff writer Anna Norris chatted with Cartwright about covers, the state of vinyl and keeping the new ideas coming.

Diversions: How did you first get into the garage and punk scene?

Greg Cartwright: In the late ’80s when I was in high school, that was just kind of the scene that was available to me. People I knew in school played in punk bands and rock bands. By the time I was in my early 20s, I wound up playing in a lot of bars and punk rock clubs. The great thing about the rock, punk or bar band scene is that you can pretty much do whatever you want — people are going to define what it is later. When you’re playing in bars to local people sitting around drinking, you can experiment and find your own sound and go from there.

Dive: There have been instances where people have uploaded Reigning Sound covers to places like YouTube claiming you as the songwriter. How do you choose which songs make good covers?

GC: Well, I’m a record collector. I go to record swaps and yard sales, and that’s my favorite way to find records. Wherever I can, I try to find and discover a song I’ve never heard before. That’s how I find the songs that I want to cover. Anything that’s going to be instantly recognizable is not going to work, because then you’re automatically competing with the original since everyone’s heard it. When people hear your version, they quickly put it up against the original in their mind and think, “The original’s better.”

So for me, the thrill of it is to find something that’s fresh and new to me, and try to reinterpret it for everybody else. You want to start with a good song, something that’s new and interesting, and then you try and add your own little thing to it.

Dive: The area just had its own all-vinyl store open. Do you feel like vinyl is coming back?

GC: That’s how it used to be. I’m kind of glad to see this transition to where records are becoming the way. CDs have become such a disposable item. Now everybody realizes they were just a delivery system for this digital format, and everybody has an iPod or whatever, so you don’t really need the CD anymore. The way it will be in the future, I think, is for people to collect the actual physical item. Those people are record collectors, and they are going to keep buying records, and they will always buy records. The people who just buy the music and don’t really care about the physical item are just going to download. That’s perfect. That is the way it should have always been.

Dive: You’ve been with Oblivians, the Compulsive Gamblers, Reigning Sound and now Parting Gifts — how do you keep bringing forth fresh material?

GC: I think the key to that is to constantly be introducing yourself to new cohorts — people to make music with, to write music with. With each band there’s been a different group of people, and even sometimes within each band there have been new players coming in and old players going out. I find that the best way to stay fresh is to bring fresh people into the mix as much as possible. Because the way you play off different people changes the way you yourself play. So I think that’s the key, at least for me. Don’t be stuck in the same mode all the time, or try to recreate the same sound. If there’s one thing that’s become really obvious to me over the years, it’s that people will say, “Well, I wish your new record sounded like your older record,” and then other people will say, “I like what you’re doing now, but I didn’t like what you were doing before.” What it really boils down to, is you can’t always give people what they want, so you might as well give them what you want. You have to just keep moving.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel 2024 Orientation Guide