Grayceon's tunes are mammoth in scope. Since 2005, the trio — cellist-vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz, guitarist-vocalist Max Doyle, and drummer Zach Farwell — has mixed metal, prog, and post-rock influences, with an emphasis on the sprawling and cinematic. They've refined this approach on This Grand Show, their recent sophomore release for Virginia's Vendlus Records.
The album begins with powerful riffing and athletic drumming, the cello alternating between emphatic support for the guitar and a strident lead role. "Still the Desert" earns the band frequent King Crimson comparisons with rhythmic complexities and start-stop errata. "This Grand Show Is Eternal" twists a thrash riff through several badass iterations, while "Sleep" is the album's centerpiece. Clocking in at more than 21 minutes, the latter's mournful opening showcases Doyle's fingerpicked minimalism and adept note choices.
This Grand Show is designed for attentive listening, a sense amplified by the ghostly vocal harmonies placed low in the mix, inviting you to crank the volume. Ambient touches complete the picture: Among many headphone treats, a distant cello drones and feedback screeches on "Sleep," while the sound of an old projector textures "Love Is."
Grayceon takes listeners on a sonic journey that inspired SF Weekly to begin a little adventure of its own. Navigating the treacherous maze beneath the Cesar Chavez freeway on-ramp on bicycle, we sought out the band members at Secret Studios. They were kind enough to reveal a few secrets of their practice space, from the legend of the mighty Rock Block to their take on the pressing issue of beer preference.
Here are our findings.
Al Cisneros' colossal former weed container
Max Doyle: "This is the Tupperware that Al from Om kept all his weed in. It was full of weed. You can smell it if you want. It was in here for, like, three years."
MD: "It's our buddy Steve's. He plays in this other band we share a room with, and we've been like, 'Steve, please hang that up' for the last two years."
Custom-made electric cello
Jackie Perez Gratz: "When I first started with [her other band] Amber Asylum, I was playing an acoustic with a pickup and it was just a nightmare. Major feedback and tuning problems. Ever since I switched to electric, I'm just like, 'Oh yeeeeaaahhh.'"
Velvety purple rock stool
Zack Farwell: "Nothing but the finest for Jackie's ass."
JPG: "I take it everywhere because sometimes we'll go to a show and they'll only have a stool that's too tall, or they'll have a chair on wheels with armrests. This is my 'to go' chair."
Mixed beer caps
JPG: "We should have way more Miller High Lifes. I don't understand why there's not more Miller High Lifes."
MD: "Tecate's my shit."
ZF: "I like Guinness because it doesn't give me heartburn. I've been on a big Guinness kick."
"Critical Ass" sticker
JPG: "Our friend organized a 'Critical Ass,' where he and his buddies basically did Critical Mass but just wearing underwear."
ZF: "They all ended up in my house in a mudpit, wrestling while I was at work. Then I got to go home and clean it after everyone left."
MD: "I had mud stuck in my throat somehow for, like, two days after that."
JPG: "This is a very important member of our band. This is Rock Block."
ZF: "Rock Block number two."
JPG: "Yeah, this is Rock Block number two because the first one got left somewhere. I don't have any casters in the front [of my speaker], so we use that. It's the item that doesn't have a place, but we never forget. It's like, 'Who's got Rock Block? Did Rock Block make it into the car?' Oh, yeah, Rock Block's never gonna get lost again."