Written by Colin Kirkland
In Malaclypse The Younger’s 1963 text, Principia Discordia, there is a man named Greyface who ultimately curses mankind with an everlasting “bad trip.” While naming his LA band in reference to the medieval curmudgeon, as well as a cat who roams the alleyway behind his house, Jutty Taylor’s Greyface is not a band that provokes unwanted vibes. Instead, it is a passion project between three connected souls who don’t avoid painful subjects but honor the disorder within our everyday life.
When I spoke with Jutty Taylor last week, he was doing some “spring cleaning in January” at his home in Los Angeles. He had just returned from visiting his family in the area of Southern Florida where he originally met Ryan Malina and Julien Bellin, co-founders of their power-pop grunge group, Greyface. When Taylor was a kid, he took bass lessons from a rather distinguished music-man named Rich Penny. Penny would show twelve-year-old Taylor polaroid’s from his recent travels with the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. “I was lucky enough to catch some music lessons from an old punk-rock legend…It kinda sparked my lifelong passion for playing in bands,” reflected Taylor while we spoke about the deep-rooted foundation of his newest endeavor; “I wanted nothing else but to travel the world and play music.” With the ability to dedicate himself to his craft by shifting through a wide variety of genres, he has done just that.
In 1998, at the age of fourteen, Taylor, Malina and Bellin started their first band; they played tunes infused with punk and metal elements. Since his teenage years, Taylor signed to a label in Tallahassee, created a pop hit in Europe, formed an experimental art-rock group, toured the world with Mumford and Sons, and landed a single on Fifa 2016 – the rest of his experiences are filed under what he dubbed a “strange and wonderful musical journey.” The most astonishing aspect of Taylor’s trip, though, is that he and his friends’ careers have formed a communal sonic timeline. They have all created or been a part of projects together over the years, while ultimately honing their skills and soaking up an eclectic template of influences. Taylor hit on this while telling me about his 2013 Euro-hit, “I See You,” a song that ventured out of his genre-comfort-zone, but simultaneously took he and his friends around the world: “It’s always been kind of incestuous. I involved Ryan in the Jutty Ranx project after that song started to blow up…and Julien was involved in that thing in the beginning…The three of us have always played music together. You know, they’re my best friends so it’s always fun traveling with your best buds. I’m just so lucky that they’re so capable and such great musicians that it’s always felt like it’s made sense.”
Taylor’s musical intuition proved true when he, Bellin, and Malina entered a dimly-lit rehearsal space in LA almost a year-and-a-half ago – night one of a spontaneous three-part jam-session. Taylor said that it lasted “for a few hours…you know, with some booze and a little bit of smoke creating a late-night vibe.” They planned on seeing Blonde Redhead in concert afterward but never made it to the show. The next day, Malina sifted through the several hours of footage and came out with something that would allow Greyface to take root. Taylor knows his musical abilities well by now; his strengths and weaknesses – “If I have a gift or a talent, it’s a lot of ideas…Ryan helps sift through the ideas…A day or two after the jam he sent me twenty-five minutes or so and that became the Greyola record for the most part.” After Malina captured what he thought was worthwhile, they took the clips to renowned LA producer, Tom Syrowski. Taylor didn’t go into Syrowski’s impressive list of achievements, of which I later uncovered online – I guess he has worked with artists like Bruce Springsteen, Brandon Flowers, Incubus etc.– but instead he touched on their personal relationship: “He’s an old friend of mine, we lived together when I first moved out to LA in 2004 and we’ve been friends ever since.” Syrowski ended up producing the incredibly eclectic compilation, Greyola, which will come out next month in February. Taylor also expressed his views on the album: “What I love about the way the Greyface project came together is that for better or for worse it was all in-house, an all-family affair of sorts. Sometimes it’s good to have someone from the outside to give input on things…But from even the album cover – the picture was taken from my old friend from Florida named Forrest – there are very few people involved in the project who we don’t have a familiarity with…I think we’re distilling our various influences and combining that with what feels good to play. I know there’s a much more technical approach to making music.”
In the original sessions, some of Taylor’s musical instinct came out through lyrical improvisation, or what he referred to as a form of live “journaling.” During that first session, Taylor sang through things that he had been thinking of, thoughts and ideas he felt close to. However, the only reason he was able to do so in a band-setting was because of Malina and Bellin: “Because I’ve known these guys so long, I suppose I felt comfortable to do that…You know, on a first date, you’re gonna keep things light and not go super personal and deep until you get to know them…I’m grateful for the level of comfortability I feel with those guys.” The more we talked, the more I picked up on the warmth and truth embodied in Taylor’s vocal reactions. When I mentioned that I used to listen to a song put out by he and Bellin’s band, Blacks& (pronounced “Black Sand”), he paused, and then let out a gravelly “aww, man, no fucking way.” I felt his honest appreciation for such a small gesture. For Taylor, and I presume for Bellin and Malina as well, their creativity is doused in the hope to connect. Toward the end of our conversation, Taylor mentioned that “if a handful of people dig this record, or if it means something to anyone else, that’s enough for me.”
My favorite song on the upcoming album, Greyola, is probably “Answers,” a layered pop-ballad with a hardened edge and otherwise spacey guitar. I asked Taylor what the track was all about. He began by telling me that it touched on the relationship between his father and his grandmother: “Violence is a response, right? The child misbehaves and the parent disciplines them with violence. An uprising is quelled with violence…In some forms it’s talking about – ‘Just come here and kiss me and do it with your palm’ – how sometimes that’s the only answer.” He concluded his statement with, “Shit, I coulda written a more upbeat song…” Taylor reflected on some of the other content on the album in a similar way, sounding surprised by the gloomy yet telling lyricism they recorded together. When Taylor’s words surfaced, they were in those original jams and he was simply letting the words pour out before organizing them around the music. When I mentioned this, Taylor described his approach to songwriting: “Some people can write by assuming a character and it’s not as autobiographical…when I’ve tried to do that it’s always better if I’m being as honest as possible, that’s the easiest way for me, not saying the other way is dishonest,” he continued, “Either way, I think music has to be believable even if the person is not experiencing the things they’re singing about…I think people can smell lack of authenticity especially in this day and age with so much music in mind. You have to rip yourself open.” His philosophy is sometimes challenged when he takes the stage and performs personal pieces of himself on tour: “Sometimes you write these songs and in a way if it is that kind of catharsis, you put that to bed but then you have to go on tour and sing these songs every night and you’re like man, it feels like you’re reading yesterday’s newspaper to everyone. You have to remember that it’s all new to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.” In accordance to Principia Discordia, it seems as though Taylor’s Greyface is bringing attention to humanity’s bad trip in order to shed light on it. On “Problems,” one of the first recorded tracks on Greyola, Taylor repeatedly sings, “We can’t decide on function and desire in our life.” Our shortcomings and pained reactions are sometimes unavoidable. If we learn as we go, and listen to the observations of artists like Taylor, constant disorder seems like something to celebrate, not fight.
Listen to Greyface’s debut single, “Delilah”!