Rochester's Greener Grass band rocks steady and rolls easy. It effortlessly blends elements of reggae, country, and blues, and swirls it into a heady blend of bonafied barroom rock 'n' roll. The music takes on a laid back casual tack despite its serious groove. It's a flipped routine as if the music is playing the band in spots. Formed in 2010 by songwriter Justin Gurnsey, The Greener Grass Band is now a staple on the region's jam rock scene.
As Gurnsey explains it, he just wanted to flesh out acoustic guitar material he had been banging around and road-testing at open mic night at The Jukebox in Spencerport. The GGB grew out of this weekly showcase.
Having just released its first, self-titled six-song EP, the band has perfected its brand of cohesive blend, meshing styles without burying them in one another. Yet the band — guitarist Evert Brungard, bassist Colin Corner, French horn player Aaron Shewan, drummer Cam Griffith, and Gurnsey — is still in the discovery phase as it tightens up more and more and finds out just who and what it is. It's an excellent ride with Gurnsey's whimsy, as its guide. Dig it...
Gurnsey stopped by City to discuss juggling multiple influences, getting comfortable in the studio, and not getting the band too baked. Here's what was said... what I remember, anyway.
City Newspaper: What was the mission you set out to accomplish with The Greener Grass Band?
Justin Gurnsey: Initially I just wanted to put some music to these songs I had written on acoustic guitar.
What style were they written in?
A little bit of everything. I always take from what I'm currently listening to, or take from other songwriters around me. So based on whatever week it is I could be writing reggae, country; I could be writing blues.
What's the common thread running through the way you play each of those styles?
Upbeat. Entertaining. Rock 'n' roll. Whatever it is, it all comes back to being rock 'n' roll you know? Good, driving drums, a lot of guitar work.
Which do you prefer: playing live or recording in the studio?
I like the live performance and the recording is just something you have to do as a marketing tool so you can keep playing.
Do you write with the band?
No, not really. I have only brought about three or four songs to the band that weren't already done. I'm lazy, I have to get back to writing. I'm not opposed to collaborating, I'm open to it, I know the guys in the band are interested in that, and I actually welcome it. I'm just such a scatterbrain and get distracted.
So the hardest thing to doing it is sitting down to do it?
Oh sure, I think when you do make the time and clear a chunk of your day, sit down with your pen and paper and guitar and you're feeling all motivated, that's when you get hit by that brick wall. I think when you plan to be creative it comes off really stale anyway. So you kinda have to wait for that creative spark to happen and ride it for every second.
What was the most difficult aspect in the studio for you?
The hardest thing about the recording process was my own personal hang-ups, it was new to me — the mixing more than anything, the production aspect — I'd never done it before it was very intimidating to me.
What were you afraid of?
I don't think I was afraid of anything, just confused and I would overreact.
Did this happen to the other members?
I just make sure they don't get as baked as I do in the studio. Besides, not all of them partake and don't like to get lumped in as dope smoking musicians.
What did you find came naturally in the studio?
The tracking aspect was easy. We knocked out all the songs in one evening like champions.
Has your style gotten more focused as the band matures?
Not really. I don't want to be in one set direction. If I'm listening to country I'm gonna write something that twangs, listening to reggae it's gonna shuck and jive, listening to blues it's gonna be dirty.
At the end of the day it's still rock 'n' roll.
Any plans to hit the road and see if the grass is greener on the other side?
We're all grown-ups with lives and jobs and children. Actually, I'm up for it; looking for other places in other cities, find new fans. I want to get around. I want to sing to people.