By now, “indie folk-rock” seems to be that go-to genre label bands slap on their album. For us fans, it might even induce some major eye-rolling. But all five members of this Boston band can give you a million and one reasons why they’re not just another indie folk-rock band.

Grey Season sometimes sounds like an acoustic grassroots band when playing a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal.” And sometimes, they sound like a gritty rock band with a hint of bluegrass on their own track “New Kind of Dirty“. The members of this band – Jon Mills, Ian Jones, Matt Knelman, Ben Burns, and Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz – could not be any more different from another. With an armory of acoustic guitars, banjos, basses, drums, and even a mandolin, these five guys add up to become something greater than its individual parts.

The first time I discovered Grey Season was how most fans happen upon them: when they’re out busking. A set up free of mics and amps (save for the amp for Ian’s electric bass), a drum kit consisting of two pieces, and the usual guitar case strewn out in front of them to collect donations from passersby, Grey Season is most at home on the streets. You might have already seen them out on Newbury street playing some tunes. “On a good day, we’ll have forty, fifty people just stopping in the street at a time,” says Ian. Yet they’re ready to be heard in the home: on the front of their money-collecting guitar case is a line of the band’s EP Troilus CD’s and a sign that says “Like us on Facebook!” “That sort of was our big moment of making lots of money while busking,” says Ian.

The band attributes most of their growth to busking because it teaches them to play together as one unit and to perform so other people will stop and listen. “You learn how to entertain because you’re not gonna make any money on the street if you don’t learn how to entertain,” says Ian. Busking also helps them get a feel for new songs. “For the most part we build our songs by just going out and playing acoustically,” explains Matt. This allows them to see if people actually enjoy the song – even just as it is on a bare acoustic set-up. They get a feel for them acoustically before they move on to a more traditional rock band set-up. “We’ve had like two separate lives,” says Gooch, “an acoustic street life and an electric full-out life”.

And Grey Season takes a lot of pride in being able to play stripped-down versions of their songs. “A lot of bands start out and they’ve got all their amplifiers,” says Ian, “and we started out very grassroots and very basic, like it was an acoustic sound.” It’s not that these guys don’t use the occasional amplifier, but their acoustic sound is what sets them apart from other bands in Boston. “I bet you could go to a ton of bands in the Boston area right now,” says Ian, “you would find that if they didn’t have their amplifiers, if they didn’t have their effects pedals… they would be very exposed.”

Grey Season

Boston seems to be the best city for Grey Season to flourish. Being from the LA area, Matt appreciates that the bands in Boston don’t play music with the goal that they will simply get discovered by a major label and ‘make it’. “I feel like people are looking for the easy route,” he says, “in LA, there are a lot of people out there who think they’re stars and they haven’t really gone out and tried to do anything.” Boston is more DIY, more collaborative, and more of a collective, according to Grey Season. It is largely the people in Boston that make being a musician here so great.

Not only is it far removed from the cut-throat competitiveness and big labels of LA, Boston is also teeming with college students just eager to be involved with anything new and creative. “You have a lot of that energy around,” says Ian. Even if you’re not in a band, you’re involved in music somehow and there is a lot of support from fans. Bostonians seem to be highly receptive to new music because Grey Season’s fan base has largely been built up from people who catch them busking on the street. In fact, a recent house show hosted by a Northeastern student all started when she saw the band performing one day was just “blown away”, so she started to recruit fans. “We build an audience on the sidewalk,” says Matt. And Boston sure does provide Grey Season with loyal fans. Their more recent house shows have have been packed with almost eighty audience members and they’ve played in well-known venues in Boston such as the Middle East.

Grey Season

But even with their strengths in playing the acoustic grassroots sound, Grey Season will be moving on to bigger projects – studio projects, to be precise. After playing a gig at the Middle East one night, Benny Grotto, a producer who has worked with Aerosmith and The Dresden Dolls, approached them and told them that was the best live show he’d seen in Boston. This serendipitous meeting could not have come at a better time because just as Grey Season was looking to record their new album in the spring, Grotto offered Levon Helm Studios – also known as The Barn –  to record in. Grey Season could not be recording in a better-suited studio. The Barn has been the recording studio of bands and musicians such as Mumford and Sons, The Black Crows, and Eric Clapton, and is practically the birthplace of the Americana genre as we know it today.

If the band could have their choice of studio, they would pick this studio. “We wanna be in Woodstock, New York in the winter… the vibes are gonna be great, it’ll be a new year,” says Ian, “I’m turning 21 on the day we’re going!” Although the band does make money busking around Boston, it’s difficult to make that money when it’s too cold to play outdoors. That’s why Grey Season launched their Kickstarter to raise $10,000 dollars (and then some). With the help of their effective Kickstarter video featuring some very delicious pizza, they succeeded in exceeding their goal. Looks like we should be expecting an album from these guys in the near future.

Grey Season

It doesn’t matter if these guys are playing in a crowded basement, in a quiet bar, or on the street, Grey Season will always be playing their music with the same amount of passion and will continue to be entertaining. Even with recent success of scoring their dream studio and the chance to record with Grammy-winning producers, we’re hoping we’ll still be seeing these five guys out in Boston somewhere. “We’re a good, solid team,” says Ian, “and we go out there and people love that we’re having a great time and they love music.” “And we mean it, you know?” adds Matt. “We mean it.”

3 Responses

  1. Benny Grotto

    Heya. Nice writeup. Just a quick correction: I have not won any Grammys. The mighty Justin Guip, on the other hand, has. He’s the fella co-producing with me on this project.

    But I am the best foosball player amongst us, so I got that going for me.


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