Listening to Greylag’s debut EP, The Only Way To Kill You, one can almost hear the relief pouring out of Andrew Stonestreet and Daniel Dixon’s gentle, lilting harmonies and spare, acoustic guitar murmurs. Although new on paper, the Portland, Oregon-based band is the product of a multi-year, cross-country journey of friendship, emotional trial and self-refinement that while finally complete, is really only just beginning.
Both talented musicians in their own right– Stonestreet grew up in a highly musical family and began performing at age 11; Dixon attended the esteemed San Francisco Conservatory of Music and plays a gaggle of instruments—Andrew and Daniel entered each other’s musical wavelengths in 2007 through a mutual acquaintance. Stonestreet was living in his native West Virginia and Dixon had taken up shop in Louisville, Kentucky. Neither however, were content in their surroundings. “I felt pretty displaced,” Dixon, a native of northern California says of Louisville. “I felt like I didn’t have a home anywhere.” Adds Stonestreet, who had recently left Nashville feeling quite disenchanted, “I had entered into a kind of dark state.” When they started playing music together, the two immediately were attracted to each other’s sensibilities, and their friendship quickly followed suit. But it wasn’t until they both permanently made the move to Portland– Dixon arrived in May 2009 and Stonestreet would come approximately nine months later– that their musical partnership went beyond “jamming” and evolved into a full-_edged creative endeavor. “That was the first time we got the sense of, ‘it’s on,'” Dixon says.
Stonestreet estimates that from February to April 2010 the duo knocked out 20 to 30 songs. The idea was to strip down the sound and focus almost exclusively on acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. The most refined of which, with the help of newfound producer/friend Sebastian Rogers, became Greylag’s first record, The Only Way To Kill You. Rogers– with whom the two now live— had heard them demo some songs in their living room, and insisted they maintain the same pure, bare-bones approach in the studio.
Greylag’s sound hinges on the pair’s meditative, hymn-like vocal harmonies, complimented by folksy, bluesy runs on the acoustic guitar. Along with the help of local musicians who regularly join them on tour, the duo laid down the album in four days. The result includes the jazzy, airy meditation “Tiger” and the sprightly backwoods march “Black Crow.” Stonestreet is hesitant to compare Greylag to other artists, but name-checks the likes of Wilco, Feist and Grizzly Bear as inspirations. “I was able to see the world through a fresh lens,” he says of the recording process.
In the past year, Greylag has worked at developing their home base in the Paci_c Northwest, reaching sell-out status in their home town of Portland along with recent tours through the western US and Canada. This last fall, Greylag was part of the Gomez and Kopecky Family Band tour and is expected to support a few high profile tours in the first part of 2012.
Both men leave the future open-ended, but are in common agreement that it’s time to further expand the scope of Greylag, both musically and creatively. And this makes sense: after all, both their band and friendship have always hinged on leaving the doors open to new possibilities. “”The band has continued to evolve,” Stonestreet says. Adds Dixon, “Our paths have really lined up.”