An Interview With Greyhounds, Memphis-Loving Austinites (Guest Post, Part One)
Ed. Note: I'm happy to share this guest post by Rhodes College senior and music writer John McHugh. John spent a week digging into Greyhounds – listening to their new album "Accumulator", attending two shows, and an exclusive interview with the band. Similar to my Interview With Marco Pavé post, here's part one of a two-part post on Greyhounds, the interview. I'll put up part two soon. You can read the full-length version of this piece on John's blog, Blame It On The Stones.
After over fifteen years as a duo, Greyhounds have finally released their proper debut LP through Memphis’ own Ardent Music record label. Greyhounds is Anthony Farrell and Andrew Trube – longtime friends and road-worn musical veterans who have toured for the last five years as the keys/organ man and guitarist for Southern funk/blues group JJ Grey & Mofro.
With Greyhounds, Ardent Music adds a third major artist to their roster of contemporary alternative acts, which also includes hometown favorites Star & Micey and the art pop of ex-Longwave rocker Mikey James’ one-man show, Admirers. This is an exciting time for an already vibrant Memphis music scene, as one of its most historic labels continues its resurgence with a group whose music continues, in many ways, the legacy of its contributions to the Stax sound and beyond.
Their sound is a little trickier to pin down than one might take away after a quick first listen, but at its heart are classic soul, funk, and the blues. Their newest work, Accumulator, is an impressive album whose track list finds Farrell and Trube playing limbo in reverse, constantly pushing beyond the stylistic barriers of the song before.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with Farrell and Trube to ask about the history of the band, the making of their new record, what it means to be associated with the Memphis music scene, and whether Austin or Memphis has better BBQ.
Photo courtesy Shore Fire Media.
Why were you guys attracted to signing to a label in Memphis? What are your connections to the city?Trube: “We’ve always had a lot of friends in Memphis, and we’ve always loved Memphis – coming there, performing, just the whole thing. Shoot, Art Edmaiston – sax player who plays with Mofro – we’d been hanging with him even before we were in Mofro. Elliott Ives, who plays with Justin Timberlake and used to play with Lord T & Eloise, he’s an old friend of ours. The list goes on…JC over at Central BBQ, he gave us our first gig a long time ago at Legends on Beale Street; Howard Grimes, famous drummer out of there. I’ll go ahead and stop but basically we have a lot of good friends there, we’ve been coming through for years, and we’re infatuated with the vibe and the scene in Memphis. The whole thing man – the music, the food; we’ve always wanted to do something here. We were trying to figure out how to do something and then Ardent hollered at us, having no idea that we had the connections to Memphis that we have. So, it was great to bridge the gap between all these great musicians in Memphis and us. It was just one of those meant to be kind of things. It was serendipitous, the whole thing man.”
Everyone likes to skirt around the term “side project”, but Greyhounds is a group that the two of you had established before even touring with JJ Grey & Mofro. What has taken so long on getting around to doing a proper album?
Trube: “Basically, we needed some time to get our stuff together. We toured, we jumped off the road, we stayed in Austin, we had our regular weekly [gig] going on. Finally, Farrell and I just kind of implemented our plan of action as far as, ‘we’re gonna do this’. We released an EP and then that garnered the interest of Ardent. That was the whole purpose, like – let’s do an EP, let’s do a tour, get our music out there, do some cool videos, and see if anybody bites; anybody, anything, cause it’s been just Farrell and I forever. When Ardent bit, we told ‘em we had a full album’s worth of material and a catalog of tunes. Together we figured it out, and now that we’re on the right track everything is just falling into place. We’re just trying to stay steady and keep working as hard as we can on our end and hope everybody else is working on their end too. So far it seems like that’s been the case.”
So when were the songs on Accumulator written? Are they more recent, or were you working on them throughout the time you were touring with JJ? What material did you already have recorded? What was the process for crafting this album?
Trube: “Everything on Accumulator had been recorded before. We didn’t record it at Ardent because we already had it in the catalog, ready to go. Basically Ardent came in and just cherry-picked kind of what they wanted, the tunes they liked. See the thing is we’ve never been on a label (as Greyhounds); we’ve never had the support. It’s always just been our own thing, super renegade and grass roots. At first we were like, ‘Well, we have this whole album’s worth of material of new stuff’, but Reed [Turchi, from Ardent] pointed out to us that there’s a lot of great tunes here that a lot of people have never heard. So we basically compiled all of these reels of tape and hard drives. We got it all together and they picked it. Then, Adam Hill (engineer at Ardent) went through and mixed and mastered all the stuff and got it up to speed, sounding great. You know, this is just the beginning. Accumulator is just an accumulation of what we’ve done up until now and to get people hip. It’s the introduction that never happened. And then we’re gonna keep firing ‘em off man. Keep on firing it out. We’ve got tons and tons of songs man, so it’s just a matter of when they want to put them out.”
In terms of the roots of your music and what you’re doing with it, what do you think you’ve taken from the Memphis music scene vs. the Austin scene, where y’all have your home base? What are the differences between, one, the style and the vibe and, two, the scene – Austin being the “Live Music Capital of the World and all, as well as a huge DIY market?
Farrell: "That’s interesting. I love Austin and a big part of the reason I love it is that community. It’s so easy to meet like-minded folks and find other musicians to collaborate with and experiment with. I think now, in Austin, they are breaking away from that tradition of singer-songwriter, country, and blues kind of thing and expanding, and that’s really exciting because I think for a long time that’s all people thought of, really, when they thought of Austin. Now there are a lot of different things happening there. As far as Memphis is concerned, I think that musical tradition that the city is known for is still alive today. I don’t think that it’s trying to change necessarily. I think it’s trying to bring or continue that legacy into the future. And what’s interesting about that for me, or what’s so attractive about that for Greyhounds is that we are all about modern stuff. We love so many things that are out there today, but a lot of our sound is rooted in more traditional styles. So, it’s interesting for us. Our style is basically taking all those traditional elements we love and trying to update them for new audiences. And, at the same time, doing something different with it. I think those two cities are a great reflection of that mindset. It just seems like a good fit. I gotta admit, the more and more I think about it, the more things seem to have fallen into place and point to our being in Memphis as something that was supposed to happen.
With the variety of the material on the album, it doesn’t really fit directly into any one particular genre. But what were y’all listening to when you wrote these tunes? Who were some of the biggest influences on the sound of this record?
Trube: “Well, shoot, just so much various stuff. I mean anything off Stax. Anything that came out of Stax and Memphis, period, is an influence to us. I mean everything from the country, to the soul, to the blues – so much of it came from Memphis. We’re also influenced highly by the Meters because of all the melodies and the inter-workings of the instruments that they do so well. It’s like everybody sounds like they’re jamming, but, really, they all have parts and they just play ‘em like themselves. Again, anything from Memphis is just…that’s that stuff that we dig. And, you know, old country…Buck Owens, Willie Nelson. I was brought up on Country Gold with my grandmother. And then also, ya know – if it makes you groove, we’re into it, dude. You know it when you hear a song and it just feels good? That’s what we’re into. We love that.”
OK, who’s got better barbecue? Who has the upper hand between…
Farrell: The best barbecue? Ooh, that’s tough. There are a lot of great places in town. I’ll have to keep from giving a single name for fear of pissing somebody off. But, hey, I look at it like this – there are as many types of barbecue as there are people who make it. And there’s no real right way. I feel like, for anybody who wants to find out, they need to just come to Austin and try it all. It’s worth it, it’s worth the trip.*
* Author’s note: I’m 99% sure that Farrell didn’t quite hear me qualify the question as one between Memphis and Austin barbecue . In my defense, he jumped in right in the middle of the question and there was no stopping that train of thought. In all fairness to Farrell, sometimes barbecue just can’t wait for qualifiers.
Anything else you want to add? Any message to get out there?
Farrell: “Basically we’re just really happy to be a part of the Memphis landscape and we’re looking forward to being a part of and hopefully expanding that history.”
Get more Greyhounds:
Check out their touring schedule, and keep up with all the latest band news on their main site.
Download "Accumulator" from the Ardent Music store. Watch videos on Ardent Music's YouTube channel.
Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
About the Author
John McHugh is a senior at Rhodes College and an intern at the Memphis Music Foundation. Born into a musical family in Nashville, he was raised on the sounds of Memphis soul and rock ’n’ roll. He lives on Kwik Check’s bi bim bop, loves to spend hours flipping through records at Shangri-La, and firmly believes that Otis Redding was the greatest singer to ever walk the earth. Check out his brand-spanking-new blog Blame It On The Stones.