I first met Joshua Gray as a member of Vladimir, a band who excel in dense, heavy set of sonics with a sweet honey core in the middle (writes Andy Wood)
Joshua Gray’s solo material is gentler, more delicate but the four recordings he has completed still have a sweet, beautiful sound.
It’s probably no surprise as Joshua always struck me as the quietest member of Vladimir – he seemed to be content to observe the world around him, slightly apart from the chaos of being in a room full of people.
There’s a melancholic feel to each of the songs but also a sense of beauty. The sound is more stripped back, clean guitar lines painting beautiful patterns with the vocals and melodies laid bare. Each song has a similar aesthetic, from the brief titles – ‘You Said’, ‘Esther’, ‘Mist’ and ‘Never Leave’ and sound remarkably accomplished, particularly given the fact that these are the first efforts of a brand new project.
Each song is a glittering prize, my favourite perhaps being ‘Mist’ with its joyous chorus ‘I see all the simple things in you / I know all the fiction there too.’ The songs are evocative, full of a sense of loss, confusion and mystery. They will be released soon as a demo E.P. into the wider world but for now they feel like being part of a secret world – a world that sounds personal, private and enthralling. And good things don’t stay secrets for very long.
Ahead of his debut solo show, Joshua answered some questions about his music and striking it out solo.
How are you feeling ahead of your debut solo gig?
“Thinking about singing on a stage in front of people is giving me this weird feeling. It’s going to be nice to play my first show in Dundee though, especially because some friends will be there.”
You are performing live with a band. Can you tell us a bit about how that came about?
“It was a struggle to get the right band together at first despite being in a city like Glasgow. Euan and I were friends when we both lived in Dundee but lost contact for a while. We happened to randomly meet at a gig in Glasgow and he was up for it. I met Elliot through Joshua who I’ve known from playing gigs together when we were younger.”
Are you an autocratic bandleader, benign dictator or is it a democracy?
“I’m not really sure, I guess I’m conducting it as I’ve written and recorded all the material but the guys can add a little of their own thing as well.”
Were these songs written specifically for your own project or do you have a backlog of songs?
“I’ve been writing songs since I was a lot younger but I was never really enamoured by the idea of taking them further until I was ready. Some of these songs have been around 2 years and others were written recently.”
Do you have any plans to release the songs as an E.P.?
“The songs I’ve recorded are going to be released as the ‘’Clean Demo’’, which I’ve had made into a small run of tapes. I recorded them with my pal Robbie Gunn and the front cover was designed by my friend Lyne Politi who is based in Berlin.”
You recently moved from Dundee to Glasgow. In terms of a music scene how do you feel the two cities differ?
“Glasgow is obviously bigger and there’s a lot more going on. I feel Dundee has a unique quality as there will always be this uniform air of sadness in its music. I haven’t been to that many gigs in Glasgow yet as I’ve been busy working on my music but I’m interested in experiencing it.”
What are your influences, musical and otherwise?
“I really love Ariel Pink, Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and how they have this unique thing going. I also hugely appreciate pop music.”
What would you like to achieve with your music?
“I’d like to release some albums that I’ll be proud of. If people can enjoy that with me then I guess I’ll have succeeded in the real world as well as in my own. It’s not really important what level I do that on but as long as that’s happening I’ll be satisfied.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“The Cool Cat Club is great, I’ve always loved going to these gigs and playing them is a pleasure. There’s always a great soundtrack going on between the bands as well.”
Here’s a chance to hear some of Joshua’s material:
Joshua Gray supports the Van Ts at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Sunday 8th May as part of a Cool Cat Club bill which also features Edinburgh’s Tongue Trap. More info on the show here – advance tickets available from Groucho’s and online.