Arts & Entertainment, Features

Local bands Grey Season and Dirty Bangs amp up for Boston Calling

Boston-based bands Dirty Bangs (pictured) and Grey Season will be performing at Boston Calling Music Festival this weekend. PHOTO COURTESY DIRTY BANGS
Boston-based bands Dirty Bangs (pictured) and Grey Season will be performing at Boston Calling Music Festival this weekend. PHOTO COURTESY DIRTY BANGS

About a week after performing at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, last March, two Boston area bands each received an interesting email. One was addressed to the members of Dirty Bangs, and the other was to Grey Season. The first was from the coordinators of one of the city’s most popular music festivals, and the second was from Michael Marotta, editor-in-chief and co-founder of the music blog Vanyaland. Both, however, asked the bands if they wanted to be suggested for a set at Boston Calling.

“[That was] some weird rock ’n’ roll magic,” said Steven Lord, a Dirty Bangs guitarist, in a phone interview as he drove from practice in Boston to his home in New York.

Grey Season and Dirty Bangs will perform at Boston Calling Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The two bands will be representing the local music scene at the annual music festival, alongside major players such as alt-J, Hozier and The Avett Brothers.

Although the members of Dirty Bangs haven’t even been playing together for a full year, they have all been “around the block” for the past five to six years, playing in bands like Thunderbloods and Bodega Girls.

When Dirty Bangs lead vocalist Evan Kenney approached Lord with skeleton tracks of songs in an email, Lord used them to create songs that would later lead to the formation of their band. The two presented this nameless project to guitarist Jesse Vuona and later added bassist Ben Voskeritchian and drummer Rob Motes, who, according to Lord, “have been Boston music scene acquaintances forever.”

After a successful online debut, Dirty Bangs was offered a spot in SXSW, which was when they decided to officially form and name their band. Lord said that the band was “formed by accident,” and “happened very organically.”

As SXSW gathered performers, Grey Season was already hard at work. By this point, the band had already been together for almost two and a half years and was preparing for large festival recognition.

“We all met virtually [during] our first month at [Berklee College of Music], and then none of us could manage to stay in Berklee,” said Ian Jones, Grey Season bassist and vocalist.

As a freshman at Berklee, Jones marveled over the acoustic-folk trio Grey Season, which was then made up of college students Jon Mills, Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz and Matt Knelman. The three often performed on Newbury Street and Harvard Square, where they began to receive attention.

By the time Jones’ childhood friend Ben Burns enrolled in Berklee after taking a gap year to explore India, Jones had already befriended the original band members. The five students then moved into a house together and, as Jones said, “the gestation period began.”

Grey Season developed their sound while living together for three years in a “disgusting” house in Allston. In January, a friend at Heavy Rotation Records at Berklee signed the band up for SXSW, which Jones described as “a nice way to be recognized for the hard work.”

Jones said that Grey Season’s performances are meant to emulate the tradition of American music, incorporating interplay between musicians, rhythm sections and the lead singer to produce improvisational and planned musical harmonies.

Jones, a self-proclaimed “musical historian,” claimed that their sound is commonly labeled as folk rock and Americana, when in reality, it is rock ‘n’ roll.

“We’re modern guys that like a classic sound,” he said.

After performing at Boston Calling, Grey Season plans to tour in several northeastern cities. Next spring, the band hopes to release a new album.

“[It] won’t be as easy to slap with a folk-rock label,” Jones said.

Dirty Bangs is already looking into the future as well. Since the Boston Calling lineup was announced, Dirty Bangs has been booked for two major music festivals, both of which cannot be disclosed to the public yet.

“I think a lot of people are like, ‘What the f—?’” said Lord. “‘You guys just formed and now you’re playing Boston Calling.’ The people that we know are very, very excited for us, and I say what the f— in the best way possible.”

Lord also described the fast-paced progression and success of Dirty Bangs as a product of chance.

“It’s funny,” he said. “When you try for those things, they don’t really happen.”

But for Grey Season, the process of getting to perform at Boston Calling was almost the opposite.

“We’ve worked our asses off, I think as much as any other band, if not harder,” Jones said.

Despite how unintentional or deliberate the bands’ beginnings were, both are mentally preparing for their sets the same way.

“It means a lot to us, but we also have to treat it like it’s just another gig,” Jones said. “Because if you get too big for the boots, then you’re likely to f— it up. We [have] nothing else to fall back on.”

And on Saturday and Sunday, the audience can expect to see two bands of brothers performing their hearts out onstage.

“We’re going to give the audience something special,” Jones said. “You’re talking about five incredibly good-looking guys. Slightly stupid, but also very good-looking.”

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