No matter how much touring an indie band does, the logistics of scheduling and cost-effectiveness ensures that millions of potential fans will never have the opportunity to see them live. Decades after the ‘80s heyday of MTV when video clips ran 24/7, groups like Daytona Beach, FL indie pop/rock powerhouse Greye know the value of videos in translating the intensity of their music and electrifying onstage presence of lead singer Hannah Summer and her four male bandmates to the world.
In addition to countless clips of actual live performances, Greye – starting with the concept video for their ballad “I Love You” in 2014, has racked up massive numbers for their professionally shot clips on YouTube. The eerie, haunting video for “Lucky,” a pure showcase for Hannah shot at the Grievous Gallery – the Carolinas’ first anger and rage room - in Salisbury, NC, currently has over 1.2 million views. “Under the Weather,” recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, has over 55,000 views. “What If I” has over 100,000 and their most recent clip, “So Far So Good,” is closing in on 350,000.
Greye’s secret weapons in translating their music to compelling visuals with immense reach are three brilliant producer/directors they trusted implicitly with creating visual representations of their tracks. Brett Bortle, founder of Weekend Warriors production studio, is a huge name in the race photography world and a horror film director who was once a student of Greye’s drummer Ray Grimard at Seabreeze High School (also alma mater for band members Hannah, Jett Wolfe and Josh Reid). Brett directed the clips for “I Love You,” “Under the Weather” and “Lucky.” Jason Liermann of Majestic Digital Media helmed “So Far So Good,” while Damian Max Hardie Silva directed “What If I.”
Hannah Summer: We trust these guys to give a visual interpretation of what each song is about. If what they come up with is a little out of left field that’s cool. We’ve never given them any strict directions. We’ve always just trusted their vision. Videos give us an opportunity to perform our songs for people. As much as we love recording in the studio, sometimes the full emotion of a song doesn’t come through in a visceral way. The way they do these videos gives me and the band a chance to be ‘performative’ in ways we don’t have a chance to be otherwise. The way they shoot us, we can show emotion when we want to or withhold it before we unleash it. Especially with the “Lucky” video, Brett has a way of getting things out of my I would never be able to find on my own.
Ray Grimard: Let’s drill down to the real question. When I was growing up, everyone was listening to songs on the same radio stations. Without those terrestrial platforms making the same kind of dominant impact as they once did, and with so many platforms to buy and stream from, the audience can be scattered. You really have no other way of reaching that potential extra million people unless you drop a video. Everyone lives on their phones, so when an update hits them and encourages them to click a link, they’ll watch and stare from wherever they are.
Josh Reid: I’ve been asked by musician friends, ‘Why would you want to make a YouTube video?’ My simple response is that everyone these days thinks they are professional mixers because they have computer and can generate and release a song. But how many can produce a beautiful, high quality video truly representing their music like this? I’ve found it’s so much easier to get somebody you don’t know or only sort of know to watch a video than listen to a song on Spotify or wherever. We’re visual creatures by nature, and the old cliché is true – seeing is believing. I think platforms like GarageBand and free mixers have destroyed real talent. Back 20 years ago, a band had to tour for years to get the kind of exposure they can get with a single high impact video now. These videos that Brett, Jason and Damian have done for us are excellent representations of what we can do – and fun to watch as well. More importantly, most of our gigs are in Florida, and they allow people to see us without ever having to come here. They showcase all our strengths as a band and just how dynamic Hannah is as a performer.
Jett Wolfe: The value of a video is priceless, absolutely essential. If people don’t actually see you, in their minds, you don’t exist. Josh is right about us being visual creatures. The correlation between music and visuals can transport us in incredible ways. Like if I go on YouTube to watch a Jethro Tull performance from 1978, I’m experiencing a show from a time before I was alive. Yet it’s as current and powerful as it was the moment it was shot. YouTube is really an incredible medium that can create a sense of community in a very different way, as buzz gets around about the videos we share.
Hannah: The shoot for ‘Lucky’ was a hell of a good time. Brett just told me to bring a suitcase full of clothes. Since it was just me at Grievous Gallery, which I call the “bottle throwing place,” multiple outfit changes were one way of making the visuals interesting. There is a lot of freaky stuff in the background as well – old timey dentist drills, creepy dentist chairs and rocking horses dangling from the ceiling, straightjackets on mannequins. He also put me in a bathtub with roaches. The backgrounds are all seemingly unrelated yet somehow, they are also representative of the theme of the song. The guys aren’t in this one, but all of us were cool with that since in some ways, it makes it easier for the audience to focus on my vocals and the message of the lyrics.
Ray: We never know what’s going to happen when we show up on set. Though it wasn’t shot like the actual live performance videos we have posted, the video for ‘So Far So Good’ looks like a live video rather than a concept piece. It was all Jason Liermann’s brainstorm. We did the three-camera shoot at OPAV Orlando, a showcase rental warehouse packed with gear. Hannah shot maybe 50 takes, singing different parts of it and the rest of us played on a soundstage four or five times and then everything was edited together for a seamless, live feeling presentation. With some video shoots, the singers just lip synch, but there’s no way Hannah could convey her emotional power that way, so she sang her heart out.
Hannah: Jason and Brett are so cool the way they’re always acting behind the camera, bouncing around if they need more energy from us. Brett sometimes yells to get the point across and to help us get in higher gear. I don’t often say I’m proud of one of my performances, but I am proud of the ‘Lucky’ video. For different reasons, we all loved ‘So Far So Good’ because many of our older videos are less saturated and this one was vibrant and super colorful.
Jett: “What I love about the ‘Lucky’ clip is that Brett is a brilliant cinematographer who brings a wonderfully dark, twisted texture to everything. That one was typical of his incredible work in the horror genre, creating contrasts with the shadows. And I agree with Hannah on the ‘So Far So Good’ clip, how much it pops color-wise in contrast to the look of ‘Lucky.’ We all know the value of video production on conveying what Greye is about, and we’ve been lucky ourselves to work with these three masterful directors throughout our career.
Greye is a Progressively Independent band from Daytona Beach, FL. Their most recent album, Lucky, is the follow-up to Greye’s critically acclaimed fifth album Under the Weather, which was recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and mixed by multi-platinum engineer Brian Reeves, who has worked similar magic for everyone from Billy Idol and U2 to Elton John and Miley Cyrus. Reeves is currently mixing tracks for Greye’s upcoming album, which is due to drop later in 2020.