GreyMarket: Lights, laptops and a supermassive sound
(All this week, we're spotlighting tbt*'s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: GreyMarket.)
The first time you see GreyMarket in concert, it’s tough to comprehend what you’re seeing.
What’s with the semi-formal outfits? And the spaceship logo? And the otherworldly light show? And the furious onslaught of sound?
And how is all of it coming from just two guys and a laptop?
“It’s funny how many interviews we have where we’re asked, 'How the f--- do you do all this?’” laughed drummer Mike Gargiulo. “It’s a recurring theme, which is funny. We’re not magic.”
You wouldn’t know it from the band’s evolution over the past year. Ever since their blazing set at Tropical Heatwave ’09, Gargiulo and singer-guitarist L. Cave McCoy have landed an ever-more-impressive series of gigs, touring the east coast and midwest and opening for bands like the Hold Steady and Fiery Furnaces.
Their sound — an epic wave of guitars, sci-fi electronics and McCoy’s falsetto wail — is best experienced through their fireball of a live show, which has earned the band comparisons to Radiohead, Muse and Led Zeppelin. Last fall, a music writer in St. Louis wrote: “This is arena-sized rock on a small stage ... but not for long.”
GreyMarket gelled together a few years ago, when Gargiulo, then a mass comm student at the University of South Florida, was in a band with another guitarist. McCoy, an engineering student, signed up to play bass based on a flyer at USF (among the directives: “Don’t sound like Creed”). Eventually the guitarist left, and McCoy assumed the creative reins of the band.
For a couple of years, they played together while auditioning musicians from all over Tampa Bay to sing or play guitar or keyboards. But every time, the band’s sound, vision and direction came right back down to Gargiulo and McCoy, who was coming into his own as a songwriter.
“I don’t think any band can really work unless there’s somebody who’s going to sit down and take some sort of creative dictatorship role,” said McCoy, who writes and composes all the band’s music electronically, before adding his own guitar and vocals and Gargiulo’s drums. “Somebody has to see the greater concept of what the song’s going to be about and where it’s going to go; otherwise it’s just a meandering set of parts, and you’re a jam band.”
Ultimately, Gargiulo and McCoy decided they didn’t need a third member. What they couldn’t play live themselves, they would simply add in as a pre-recorded track on a laptop, a la the Ting Tings.
“It wasn’t just a novelty thing and it wasn’t because we had no choice,” McCoy said. “There were really cool opportunities that opened up through being able to use a laptop, doing all this electronic stuff.”
“If we want to play with a choir, we can do that,” Gargiulo said. “If we want to play with a 20-piece orchestra, we can do that.”
What makes their live performances even more exotic is that every song is set to a professional-quality light show, which showers the stage in beams of gold and green and fuchsia. It started, Gargiulo said, because “nobody else was doing a light show, (and) it eventually just escalated.” Through lots of trial and error, the band has gotten better at programming the lights, but it’s still a painstaking process, taking at least two or three hours per song.
But it’s worth the extra effort, they said. They can’t picture GreyMarket any other way.
“We have a very specific idea of what we think is cool,” McCoy said. “The expression goes that you can’t create in a vacuum, but we do our best, with the goal of trying to make something that is totally our own.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*.