The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday January 26th


Gray Young heats up with Bon?re

UNC-CH alumnus Dan Grinder, bassist of the Raleigh-based band Gray Young, understands too well the struggle for attention when you’re a band-on-the-move during March Madness.

“One of our first shows, stupidly enough, was at Local 506 the night of the 2005 national championship,” Grinder said.

“I’m watching the game, cheering for us to win — Chas (McKeown, guitarist/vocalist) is wondering why I’m so pissed off when Illinois scores,” he added. “Finally we win, everyone is out on Franklin Street and we start to play, and we literally played to an empty room. It was a real learning experience there — at least we got to celebrate on Franklin afterward.”

Years later, Gray Young sings different story. After Grinder and McKeown found drummer Jeff Dopko to form the current incarnation of the group, the band released its debut Firmament in 2009. From there, it became an integral part of the Raleigh rock scene, earning much local praise.

Friday, the band is celebrating its most recent work, Bonfire, with a show at Kings Barcade in Raleigh.

This record, Gray Young’s third, provides an interesting and matured contrast to the band’s prior releases. On top of being recorded in a different studio with a different engineer, the record was funded by the band’s fans through an aggressive Kickstarter campaign.

Because of the campaign, the budget for Bonfire was more clearly outlined and called for a shift in the band’s creative process, Grinder said.

“I almost feel like this record is a culmination of what we’ve been doing as a band,” McKeown said. “I don’t want to predict the future, but I feel like this record is what we’ve been trying to say all along.”

Some contributing factors behind the change in Gray Young’s sound for Bonfire were the ideas of sound engineer Matt Damron.

“I think that they didn’t really have the comfortable friendship sort of dynamic going on before — I think they felt a little bit stiff,” Damron said.

“Having known Chas, especially for a number of years, I figured it would be fun to get together and let them be them,” he added. “We tracked everything live with a few overdubs here and there. It was really just the three of them in one room doing what they do best, playing live.”

Also different on Bonfire is the occasional presence of cellist Josh Starmer.

“I think that (the cello) really helped us create something unique,” Grinder said. “It drove us to find new sounds — new ways to express the music and new song structures that we hadn’t explored previously.”

The band is going to play with Starmer live for the first time ever at Friday’s show.

“What’s cool is that we’re going to do some one-off versions of some of the songs off of the album,” Starmer said. “Some of the songs are going to be played ways that they’ll never be played again — I think it’ll be a very special show to go to.”

Unlike 2005, the band can rest assured knowing that a repeat of that April night is unlikely — and not just because the Heels are out of the tournament.

Gray Young plays Kings Barcade in Raleigh tomorrow night with Wesley Wolfe and Bronzed Chorus. Tickets are $6, door open at 9 p.m.

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