An Interview With The Alternative-Pop Band, GRAYSHOT Made Up Of Brothers Aaron and Christian Ankrum!
Posted On 26 May 2016
Grayshot is made up of brothers Aaron and Christian Ankrum along with drummer Reese Kling. This alternative pop band has been busy steadily crisscrossing the US and parts of the UK/Europe as well as writing and recording material (their first full length album Stay/Go was self-produced) in their Minneapolis studio. Their songs are a rare hybrid of indie depth & heart with a large-audience ready sound that has seen over 40 placements, notably Emmy winning Brooklyn Nine Nine, UK feature film ‘Love Me Do’ and CBS College Football.
Having honed their live sound while supporting international bands The Boxer Rebellion and Citizens! on their respective US tours, as well as Switchfoot and Empires, Grayshot has become a formidable live band that consistently wins over new fans and delivers for returning audiences.
After two years of hard work the band is ready to release their second studio album “Borders” on April 1st. With the additional production of Ben West (Jr. Jr., P!NK, Matt Nathanson) and mastering by Huntley Miller (Tallest Man on Earth, Poliça) Grayshot was able to create an album that stirs the sounds of The Blue Nile, Doves, Aqualung, and Keane.
Learn more about Grayshot in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So, how’s 2016 been treating you? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you and your music?
Christian: 2016 has been moving FAST!!! We spent January and February putting the finishing touches on “Borders” and then printed it in March, went to SXSW, had our CD release, all the while figuring out videos and setting up supporting shows for the album. 2015 feels pretty slow comparatively, but that gave us a breath to write more songs in.
Can you talk about Grayshot first formed? Aaron and Christian, have you two always wanted to play music together?
Aaron: We’ve been making music together since Christian was in 7th grade. I had been in bands for a couple of years and Christian decided he wanted to switch to bass from guitar. It was a matter of days until he was up and running and it was immediately like ‘yeah, this’ll work’.
As brothers, what is something silly that you two have argued about when it comes to your music? Do you find that it’s easier to work together since you are brothers? What have been some of the unexpected challenges?
C: Something silly….probably a single note in a backing track that is most likely inaudible to anyone but us?? We both trust ourselves a lot, and over the years have had to trust each other. We both think we’re right, but then it’s just figuring out what is right for the song, or the show. There are some things that make it easier as brothers, like when we’re tracking mentally together, and we’ve had all this time to have conversations about direction, but it becomes harder if we argue and all of a sudden I start thinking, “Oh man he’s doing that thing to me again just like in 4th grade!”.
How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard it before?
A: Dynamic, Layered, Patient-Pop. It’s Pop in the way that there’s an immediacy to the songs, but we grew up loving records that reward attentive listening. It’s kind of engrained in us to do the same. The way those records grew on us they became very important to us, and that’s where we hope listeners land with us.
What was it like recording your first full-length album in your MN studio? What’s your studio like exactly?
A: I love working this way. We have total access to the project whenever inspiration strikes and there’s really no element of ‘watching the clock’ and worrying about money (though this can lead to drawn out deadlines!). We are able to go wherever we want to creatively and feel very comfortable in our surroundings. The studio moved towards the end of the record from a home studio to a built out studio nearby. The new studio is concrete ceilings and floors with white walls, it’s very open. It’s filled with instruments, has a lot of space, sounds great and has already got me excited about new material.
How would you compare your first record with your newest album, “Borders”? How do you think you have grown on this album?
C: Stay/Go was us doing what we knew we could do, poppy big sounding and still eclectic in sound. “Borders” was us pushing ourselves to find sounds that could really sit in a listenable environment. I think we grew by not rushing the music. Before we we’re always trying to cut a bar here and there to keep it moving, and this record we wanted to build more environments that the listener could stay in longer.
What was the inspiration behind “Borders”? What are some of your favorite songs on this collection?
A: Looking back on the songs we had it felt like the common thread was finding our own way, not necessarily on one side or the other of seemingly anything, more just treacherously balancing on the borders between. Favorite songs is like deciding what I want to eat– depends on the time of day! Right at this very moment they’re Left Foot Right Foot, Secret and Opposites Attack.
What is the music scene like in MN? How has growing up there influenced you as musicians and really your sound?
A: There’s a lot of great hip-hop & R&B, obviously with the Rhymesayers thing. There’s roots/Americana most recently championed by Cactus Blossoms, and then there’s kind of a indie thing with bands like Hippocampus and Night Moves. So much cool music coming out of here. We have a ton of really supportive friends in music and the arts, but there’s not really a scene we exist in here so we’ve spent a lot of time on the road. We actually grew up in Fargo, ND, and so we didn’t have a strong tie to MPLS music growing up– we just listened to whatever we could get our hands on… maybe that’s why we never really fell into a scene here! We’ve just been doing our own thing.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who inspires you? Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
C: Oh boy, Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters is always near the top. I think overall though, and maybe I can even go chronologically, Pete Yorn, U2, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Keane, Aqualung, Kings of Leon, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Muse, Tears for Fears (we have a cover we did a couple years back for free on noisetrade). I’d love to collaborate with Doves probably out of anyone. They have such a unique way of building their sound I’d love to grab some of that brilliance.
A: I love The Blue Nile, Doves, Wheat, Citizen Cope, Tallest Man on Earth to name a few– kind of a random assortment. I would love to collaborate with Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile as well as the guys from Doves or Matt Hales from Aqualung. Such a huge impact on me emotionally and also with approach/process and how to communicate a feeling through music.
Can you talk about your time at Daytrotter? What is that all about?
C: It definitely was a change for us, because after spending 2 years in the studio crafting these songs and the little intricate parts, to put it down in 1 or 2 takes feels like you just gave your baby to a stranger! The room is great, tons of vintage gear and a great vibe. We’re looking forward to doing it again some time!
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from you songs?
A: If there’s an overarching message, it would be that there’s the version of each of us that just ‘happens’ and then there’s the version that is each of us at our very best– relationally, creatively, emotionally, physically, spiritually… That second version takes continual intentionality and effort, but when we’re working towards that we start to see what life can really look and feel like and the impact we can have on the world. At the very least I hope the songs take people somewhere beautiful in the way that music can, and to allow themselves to feel things, good and bad– to be present to it all.
Thank you for spending the time with us and for the thoughtful questions, we enjoyed it!