Greet Death on exploding ice cream machines and being called ‘Target music’.

Photo by David Beuthin

Middle school friends Sam Boyhtari (bassist) and Logan Gaval (guitarist) have been making music together since their early teens, with Greet Death being a long-term passion project accumulated from previous experiences growing up in Flint, Michigan. Established in 2011, the profound success of their slow-burning studio releases Dixieland and New Hell and signing with veteran hardcore label Deathwish, Greet Death make a brand of quiet-loud shoegaze at a slow tempo and sad thoughts that keep you up at night.

With the addition of fellow Michigan rockers, Jimmy Versluis on drums and Jackie Kalmink on bass, we sat down on Zoom to discuss what makes them all tick, and diving deeper into their latest single releases.

In terms of songwriting, do you and Sam have a Blink 182 Tom and Mark situation going on where you have songs specifically catered or is it more of a collaborative effort?

Logan: That’s pretty much it. Tom and Mark thing, I think, me and Sam always thought that it was cool that when you listen to a Blink 182 record, there are Tom songs and then there are Mark songs, but then there are also songs where they clearly collaborate, you know, so we pretty much just dropped that from Blink 182 Or, as you say, blink one eight two which I thought was really cool. What do you think of Blink one eight two, are they your Beatles?

I’ve got mixed feelings. The self-titled album, in particular, holds a lot of nostalgic value for me. When I was 11, I was given the Greatest Hits CD which got me really into drums, I never got to see them in their heyday, but I did see that reunion show that you mentioned, in 2009, So before Matt Skiba joined.

Logan: Yeah same, we saw them on the reunion tour, but it was before they put out all that new stuff. So they just played the hits and it was awesome.

So aside from Blink, what made you interested in guitar music and more specifically this genre of slowcore guitar music?

Logan: I’m honestly not sure. There’s a super old photo of me as a child playing an inflatable guitar. And then after that, my parents bought me a toy classical guitar, but I’m not really sure why. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that everyone in the band is around about the same age. When we were growing up, it was still very cool to play guitar, in movies and TV, skateboarding or becoming an artist in general. Those are the coolest things that you could do. I’ve always gravitated toward the guitar specifically. A lot of my earliest obsessions were guitar rock bands such as Nirvana and Guns and Roses, Ramones, and Good Charlotte. I’m not sure how exactly that correlates to the music that we play now, but I’ve always been pretty about guitar music. Jim can speak now and probably say something smarter.

Jim: I grew up on a lot of pop music and the music from my parents. So, as far as guitar music, I was really blown away by “Good Times Bad Times”. That was a big song. So it was from the Led Zeppelin two disk- this fucking thing they reissued five times, I had that. I remember being blown away by that kind of guitar. Black Sabbath was a big one. My parents totally let me listen to whatever and showed me whatever so that was neat for music. For the guitar music that’s more adjacent to what we do, I think probably getting into thrash in middle school is- I know that everybody in this band, at one point or another was obsessed with Metallica. Maybe not for Jackie though!

Jackie: I grew up on similar classic rock stuff as Jim. I was a huge Boston fan. I think that was my favourite band for my eighth-grade year or something. So I always kinda liked that poppy rock, sort of sound. I feel that being in this band is really cool because it’s a mix of more accessible songwriting. To play the music itself, It’s really cathartic because you just load a bunch of fuzz on.

Logan: That’s honestly a very good answer, Jackie, thank you for saying that. I don’t know if many people have picked up on this and I know aesthetically we come across as shoegaze or slow indie rock, but honestly, we’re mostly inspired by classic rock chops, even down the equipment we bring to concerts. We use a lot of super loud tube amps and pedals that aren’t really necessary with today’s PA systems. When I’m onstage I just feel I’m on some kinda School of Rock shit you know?

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I love that! Jackie, how did you end up joining Greet Death?

Jackie: So Jim and I are still currently in a band called The Fever Haze and we’ve known Logan and Sam since before Greet Death. We went on tour together and yeah eventually we just naturally thought it would be cool to join.

Logan: We scalped Jim and Jackie because no one else wanted to be around us. In a way, The Fever Haze is minor league Greet Death. We drafted them, made them sign a contract and now they can’t leave.

How did you end up getting signed to Deathwish? I’ve not seen many bands from your scene be on their roster, to be honest.

Logan: I can’t remember if it was Jacob Bannon or someone else’s podcast, but Jasta from Hatebreed saw that we had recently signed to them and said “Oh fuck yeah, this shit could be played at Target!” I don’t know how much of a compliment that was intended to be but whatever. I’m aware the label has a very passionate audience but for whatever reason, they picked up our first record Dixieland and put it on their website. I think we were selected by a few staff members in their playlist picks over the years. I believe that was mostly this person, Mark Connolly that used to work at Deathwish. So I don’t know, I don’t know how much responsibility he had for us getting signed, but I have a feeling that it was 99% him. And he’s also now our manager.

I think another thing I read said that at the time we were selected, Jacob Bannon was really sad. So even though Greet Death has that sort of pop, rock feel I think lyrically, it’s still driven by the same emotions. I feel like it’s coming from a place in common with a lot of heavier music. And certainly, like, some of the textures with the guitars are reminiscent of metalcore or whatever you’d call that. To be honest, I don’t know, I think we still stand out on their roster, but I like that because a lot of our work isn’t typical of a heavy band. I feel like it works, even though it is kind of weird. I’d rather stand out in that way on the label than just be on like, you know, ‘we’re on the shoegaze label is like one of 100 different bands with reverb pedals’ or whatever.

One of my favorite facts about your band is that the title for New Hell came from an exploding ice cream machine at Logan’s work rather than something necessarily deep and profound.

Logan: Yeah, we love transforming the mundane into depressed, that glorious arc. That’s the connection that people need, like, take some boring shit and make it very sad. That’s what the people want. So that’s awesome. And as you mentioned that fact about Dairy Queen. So the general theme is; you think things are bad, and then they just keep getting so much worse. That’s the basic theme of that album, especially in shitty fast-food jobs.

What has it been like to record and write the new material during the pandemic?

Jim: I’ve recorded with Jackie more than anybody. So getting to lay down a lot of what we’ve put out so far with her has been like second nature. And so basically, recording new songs, new material. With Jackie, as she’s joining the band, it felt very, very seamless. The studio we recorded is great because it’s a cool place to hang out. You can just, fuck around and watch Bar Rescue and Trailer Park Boys or play Mario Golf or whatever. And maybe you’ll get to recording something, but at least you’re together. So that was that’s the only difference I guess it’s just that it was just even more comfortable for me to record with the new material.

Jackie: So since the pandemic has happened, I feel like I’m kind of a studio rat now. And it feels like having the band in there with me is a really fun way to kind of put stuff together without it all being completely set in stone.

Logan: Originally Sam and I would write a song and hash it out on the road, but obviously this time around, there weren’t really shows when we were developing our new material. A lot of those ideas were pitched and developed in the studio rather than months in advance. So I think for example ‘I Hate Everything’, the final recording is the third or fourth time we had played that song, having learned it just an hour or so beforehand. I definitely think I’ve always appreciated live recordings. I think it’s really easy to just keep revising and making revision after revision as weeks and weeks go on when you’re trying to make some sort of solid recording. I texted Sam, earlier in the pandemic, and I just told him that we should try to come up with some songs just to see what would happen if we tried to record them as quickly as possible.

What you’re starting to hear now is this stuff that we came up with at the height of the pandemic and a lot of it’s being described as mellow or acoustic. And I think a lot of that is just me and Sam not really feeling like rocking the fuck out. In those songs, you can hear that you can hear the environment that they were created, and you know, that it’s not that we’re writing something intended to make the crowd sing along and get lighters out, It’s just made out of sticks and stones, staring at a wall in the dark. I hope people don’t think that we’re not capable of doing the fuzz-rock thing. It doesn’t feel that much different than our older stuff. I think some of the textures are a little different, but I’m also not interested in making the same record twice. There’s a piano in the studio. So Sam has been using that a lot and he’s a very good piano player.

On “Your Love Is Alcohol” you talk about getting drunk with your girlfriend whilst watching Fox News, have there been any particular moments of watching that channel that has seemed funnier or even more ridiculous when you’ve been drinking?

Logan: I would like to clarify that. It was me and my girlfriend drinking, passing a bottle of Tito’s vodka back and forth. At this time, I lived with my parents still. So I would, I would hear the Fox News broadcasts that my parents were listening. That song to me is just about how my relationship with my girlfriend has helped me live in a lot of ways. It’s certainly taken away a lot of the pain and the fear of, you know, whatever, like the things that we all deal with.

Another song I wanted to have more of an insight about was ‘Crush’ from New Hell, what was the inspiration behind it?

Logan: When I wrote that song it was mostly just like intrusive thoughts in my head late at night. Hold on let me get the lyrics up from Genius….so it’s definitely a breakup song and not having a mutual group of friends with that person….I mean other than that, I know I was listening to a load of Big Thief at the time so at least that’s where it’s at musically speaking.

Okay so, in verse one you got some basic problematic, soft boy stuff, talking about killing yourself out of spite. By the idea that if I killed myself, what I would really want is to watch everyone around me hurt. So I’m not going to do that because I don’t believe in the afterlife. Damn, this is a sad song. I don’t normally do this. In general, the song starts off with a lot of unhealthy ways of coping with heartbreak. And then the last verse is basically if I were to run into you, I’d like to think I’m in like a better place now and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone in any way.

Speaking of which, have you caught up with Big Thief’s new material?

Logan: Dude no I actually haven’t just yet. I would say I’m much more of a fan of the group’s solo material under the name Buck Meek but it’s been on my list. As you can tell though I do fuck with that band, another great band. carrying the torch for guitar music.

Any thoughts on your upcoming tour with Infant Island next month?

Logan: I always think it’s interesting to have a tour package with an interesting juxtaposition between the bands. Cloakroom have been hugely influential to us. But I think people can only take so much of slow, heavy, quiet, loud type music, you know. And before that, we had an opportunity to tour with Deafheaven, nowadays they’re more similar to our sound than they were back in 2019. I think it’s an interesting dichotomy. It’s also just fun to tour with different kinds of bands. For some reason, it’s always ended up being heavier bands. I’m looking forward to watching Infant Island play every night. They’re very good. I’m also looking forward to not going to work. I would say, that’s like, number one.

Jim: I’m excited to go to San Diego, home of Blink 182 and I’ve never been there so I’m excited about that. There’s a few other cities that I don’t believe we’ve been to. So that’s always interesting. A lot of times, it’s kind of hurry up and wait, you don’t get a lot of time to hang around. But we typically get in the habit because we have two people that like to drive through the night to get somewhere usually in the early hours of the morning or the night before. So then you can kind of set yourself up to go around or take a nap or go to a park or something. So I’m excited for more of that just more bonding time. And yeah, I’m excited to see Infant Island every night. I think we like to tour with those bands just because we want it to eventually be Portrayal Of Guilt. So yeah, we’re just like trying to we’re just trying to work our way there.

Jackie: Yeah, I definitely am looking forward to not having to go to a day job. That’s probably my number one also, but I think what I’m really excited for is like to meet the people in Infant Island. On the last tour we did with The World Is (TWIABPAIANLATD) and Bent Knee I made some really good friends with both of those bands. I’m really excited to like meet another set of people who all become lifelong friends with because we spend too much time together.

Logan: Jackie’s doing fucking doughnuts in the parking lot by the sounds of things, that’s how stoked she is!

I’ve never done an interview where someone has looked up their own lyrics on Genius before..

Logan: When you asked me that earlier I was living in a fucking nightmare. So in an interview like confronted with my own writing I was like ‘damn it’s kind of fucked.’

Well as much as I love the shoegaze genre, sometimes the lyrics feel more like an afterthought because of all the layers so when I discovered you guys it was a great change of pace to hear something so relatable!

Logan: When I think of New Hell, I think of Sam and I before we left for the tour at Great Lakes Crossing which is an outlet mall in Michigan, buying new shoes there. And then I remember showing him the demos on my phone-it’s fun to like go back since my short term memory is really fucking terrible, but my long term is painfully clear – crystal clear visions of whatever I was going through at the time, whether it was at the mall or in my bedroom. I remember it all.

US TOUR DATES with Infant Island, buy tickets HERE:

3/24 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club *
3/25 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
3/26 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium *
3/27 – Des Moines, IA @ Gas Lamp (Matinee) *
3/28 – Wichita, KS @ Barleycorn’s *
3/29 – Denver, CO @ Meadowlark *
3/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
4/01 – Boise, ID @ The Olympic *
4/02 – Portland, OR @ The High Water Mark *
4/03 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile *
4/05 – Oakland, CA @ Elbo Room *
4/06 – Los Angeles, CA @ Resident *
4/07 – Costa Mesa, CA @ The Wayfarer *
4/08 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick *
4/09 – Phoenix, AZ @ Nile (Underground) *
4/11 – Fort Worth, TX @ Tulips *
4/12 – Austin, TX @ Spider House Ballroom *
4/13 – Houston, TX @ Eighteen Ten Ojeman *
4/14 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa *
4/15 – Mobile, AL @ Alabama Music Box *
4/16 – Atlanta, GA @ Boggs *
4/17 – Nashville, TN @ Springwater *
4/19 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor *
4/20 – Richmond, VA @ Richmond Music Hall *
4/21 – Washington, D.C. @ Pie Shop *
4/22 – Philadelphia, PA @ Milk Boy *
4/23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus *
4/24 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East / Upstairs *
4/26 – Middletown, CT @ Rednawa *
4/27 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Funhouse *
4/28 – Columbus, OH @ Spacebar *
4/29 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
4/30 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary *

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