Shades of Gray

After 13 years of thrilling crowds throughout the Detroit area, garage-punks Grayling are calling it quits. The news comes hot on the heels of their fourth album, Spilling Over, a nine-song set released last month. Still, according to vocalist and guitarist Jarrod Wolny, this is a time for celebration and not mourning. Indeed, he's never been more excited about his songwriting.

Isn't that how it works?

"Anything I'm writing now will go towards whatever the next project is," he says." I'm excited to start again. I have a lot of new songs written that are slightly different from the Grayling sound. I've been writing the songs for so long, it's not going to be a drastic departure from what I've been doing. But I'm excited about it. I don't have a name yet and I don't know who's going to be in it — but I'm excited to be moving on and doing new things."

It was way back in the fall of '95 when the original Grayling trio came together, and the energetic frontman is the only original member left. "It was me, Shawn Grzyb [drums] and Dave Bingham [bass]," Wolny says.

"This band has always been a three-piece. [The original members] played in bands together before Grayling. We'd always had a musical bond, so we formed Grayling and started playing all over Detroit. But our bass player, Dave, had a kid and didn't want to do it anymore. And Shawn soon followed him out. We're still a three-piece, but members have changed over the years. Jackson Smith was in the band for a hot minute in late 2004. Now I have Joe Leone [drums] and Greg Beyer [bass] in the band with me."

The term "garage rock" is still too eagerly applied to bands from the Detroit area, but it's always described Grayling's loose, minimal-production vibe perfectly. Wolny describes his band's sound as "abrasive and melodic. It's very song-oriented. Back in the day, I wrote most of the material and, lately, I've been writing all of it. I like for there to be stories to the songs."


"We like early Dinosaur Jr. a lot. I've always been a classic rock fan — the Doors, Hendrix and Bowie. I've always liked that stuff. But we've always had a punk influence too, like Black Flag and the Subhumans. So we're just a mesh of different things. I also really like the Beatles, Wire and the Pixies."

The band's live shows are regularly pretty grand, which makes the exit of the trio a bit sad. "Our live shows are pretty intense," the singer agrees." They're very close to what you hear on the CDs."

But with Wolny's continued enthusiasm for Grayling, why split are they splitting up now?

"There comes a time with every band where it makes more sense to stop than to keep going," Wolny says, "and we've just come to that point, I think. Personally, I'm looking to do other things. I want to start something new, something fresh. It's something I've been kicking around for a while now and the time has just come. It was my decision. The other two are with it. They backed up my decision and they think it makes sense. I don't know what those guys will do next, but I'm sure they'll be busy. Greg [Beyer] has always done other things on the side."

Despite Grayling's forthcoming split, the singer says that, in some ways, Detroit's current rock 'n' roll scene is something to be proud of. "It's been better, I'll say that," he says, tempering his thought. "But there are some great bands. I like the Skeemin' NoGoods. They're a great band. The Hi-Fi Handgrenades were doing it for a while, but they're also gone now. Easy Action, I love. They're a good Detroit band. As far as music like that goes, Detroit rock 'n' roll is still great."

This Saturday, Grayling plays its final live show at Smalls in Hamtramck. Although the band will inevitably be missed, the evening promises to be a hell of a party. "We're going to pull out some old material that we haven't played in a while, plus some new material," Wolny says. "We promise people are going to get rocked off their asses. It's going to be the ultimate Grayling experience and nobody will go away disappointed."

And then, just like that, it'll all be over. Grayling may now end up as a footnote in the history of Detroit rock 'n' roll, but for 13 great years, they entertained and deafened wherever they went. At the very least, Wolny hopes his soon-to-be former band is remembered fondly: "Hopefully, people will remember us just for writing good, solid rock 'n' roll songs. I think we contributed at least that to Detroit. We put out four CDs and I'd like to be remembered for just rocking. We played a lot of shows over the years and I like to think that we've left some good music behind."

True enough; but if recent history is any indication, watch for those reunion dates.

Saturday, Nov. 15, at Smalls, 10339 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-873-1117.

Brett Callwood is a music writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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