Cambridge, Ontario’s Greber do things a bit differently from most bands. The duo, featuring Marc Bourgon of Fuck the Facts and Steve Vargas of The Great Sabatini, keep it stripped-down to a drums-and-bass combo, sans guitar player – who needs ’em, right? Greber obviously don’t because the result of these two super talented musicians together is some pretty crushing sludge- and doom-filled crusty grind. Their latest offering comes in the form of a split seven-inch with New Brunswick’s Anthesis, which is set for release on May 17 and features two new tracks from Greber. They’ll also be heading out on the road shortly, joined by Anthesis for a few dates, but before they do so, Bourgon and Vargas took the time for an interview with Svbterranean. They discuss their unique lineup, the new split and the kinds of bands they’re influenced by, as well as their lyrical approach, how Greber compares to their other bands and more.
What’s the story behind Greber’s inception?
Marc: Greber started after another band [Tugnut] we were playing in together broke up. We had been playing together for five years at that point and decided to keep going together with just bass and drums.
I can’t think of another band that forgoes the whole guitar-player thing. Why did you decide to keep it to just the two of you, without a guitarist?
Marc: At the time it seemed like bass and drums was all we needed to get the point across and it still is, for the most part. We were both willing to practice a lot and do what touring we needed to do. I guess finding another guy really didn’t occur to us. Over time it has become more of an adventure to try and fill out our sound, both sonically and melodically, using only our two voices, the drums and the bass. We have to make the songs really strong because we don’t have the luxury of layering and harmonies.
Despite not having a guitarist, your sound still manages to be incredibly full and heavy, incorporating some diverse styles (grind/sludge/doom). How do you describe your sound?
Marc: We always write for the live setting. If it doesn’t work there then we scrap it. The performance side of it is crucial to us and I feel that is the one constant that ties all of it together. It’s fun to see how far we can push it until it starts to come apart at the seams and not sound like anything anymore. I realize that this is not much of a sound per se, but that’s pretty much the benchmark we go by to make sure it’s something that we’re happy with.
Steve: Loud beat.
How did your new split with Anthesis come about?
Marc: We’ve known the Anthesis guys for years, so when the idea to do a split started getting tossed around it was a no-brainer. They are an incredibly talented band that just keep getting better over time and I consider them to be some of the best friends I have in this life. We contacted Lee at No List and he was interested and Scott Miller (Anthesis guitarist) was starting a label with a guy from Saint John (Ancient Temple Recordings) so it all came together pretty easy after that. Scott did a shit-ton of the legwork while the rest of us put up our feet and sipped margaritas (in the winter).
How are you feeling about the new release and how your two new tracks turned out?
Marc: I’m really excited. People are pretty stoked on it, which is always great.
Steve: I feel like the whole package is well thought out, and as a split it doesn’t waste any time. I feel that certain splits have one or two tracks that just act as filler. I guess it’s a good platform for a band to experiment a little, but whenever I hear solid songs on a seven-inch I find it’s more enjoyable to listen to. It’s also good to move forward with writing new stuff now that these are now pressed.
What was the writing and recording process like for the new tracks?
Marc: I came up with the skeletons for the songs and just let Steve run wild with the drums. It’s always exciting for me to see what he’ll put in there because it’s rarely what I would have done. It’s almost like getting the song back as a completely new song. The structures got tweaked a bunch to work with the vocals and the new drum parts. We rehearsed them a bunch and then I recorded all the drums, bass and vocals at our practice space. Mixed them and then sent them off to the pressing plant. Pretty stock routine.
How do you feel the new material compares to your previous album, 2014’s Kiln Hardened Psalms?
Marc: It’s definitely in the same vein as KHP. Like I said, the songs were a bit older so they gel a bit more into the past stuff, which is fine. It takes little to no time for me to get sick of material. I feel like as soon as it’s developed into something permanent, it’s time to move on to something else and start over. Greber is a ton of fun because we can get ideas out into songs fast, which helps keep it new and exciting.
What are you influenced by, musically?
Marc: Pretty much everything, I’d say. I particularly like bands and artists who are totally fearless in what they do. Their “give a fuck” nerve has been completely burnt out and their imaginations are running wild. I like a lot of music that isn’t heavy or aggressive too. It’s a challenge to see what you can bring back from other types of music into your own even though it would never seem apparent. My mind is still blown at how much really great music there is just waiting to be heard.
Steve: I’ve been really into the no bullshit/no agenda type bands. The social media rat race of play counts, likes, followers, etc. makes for some shitty music.
Lyrically, are there specific themes that you gravitate towards? Where does the lyrical inspiration come from?
Marc: I always like to tell someone else’s story in a song. No one really gives a fuck about what a 30-year-old white man’s story is. At least I don’t. It’s more of a challenge to bring someone else along with you and get a look at things through their eyes. Most of the time it’s about the sad, painful and lonely parts of the human experience, but it’s always nice to dash a bit of hope and potential in there as well. I’ll usually add some all-too-personal details into lyrics as well. Shit that is painful for me to admit that I feel or think. It adds to the discomfort of the song, but is a huge relief when it’s put out into the world.
How does your experience in Greber compare to that of your other bands (Fuck the Facts/The Great Sabatini)? What do you get out of Greber that you don’t from the others?
Marc: Different band, different dudes, different music. It’s all pretty different.
Steve: Every band I play with I get to exercise a different part of my musical muscle, so really it’s a different type of clay used to create something out of. Communication is a bit easier to manage since we see each other a lot more often. Greber is a nice throwback to being in a band with someone in the same goddamn city as you haha.
Is it ever a challenge to manage your time between bands/work/family? What motivates you?
Marc: It’s always a challenge to balance out your day, but I feel like we make it work. Steve is the one that should answer that one.
Steve: It’s definitely a challenge in discipline. Now more than ever I realize that time is fleeting and I really have to keep myself in check as to not waste it. The hardest part is trying to give everything that I hold dear to me the appropriate amount of time. It’s a new puzzle every day that I’m trying to piece together. The goal is to maximize every day and be as productive as possible, but 24 hours doesn’t seem like enough time in a day.
Are there any challenges and/or stereotypes that you face as Canadians?
Marc: Not really. The border to get into the US is a bit pricey if you do it legit. Other than that Canada is a great place to play music. The talent that comes out of here is amazing. Must be the cold winters.
Steve: I’d say the biggest challenge is driving across this galaxy of a country. Let’s get a Kickstarter going so I can just hologram myself from Vancouver to Halifax. Sheesh.
What can be expected from your upcoming tour?
Marc: Nothing exuberant. We’ll play, Anthesis might play, some local bands will play. Same old. Should be a great time though. Eastern Canada is always a blast. We’re playing a ton of new shit, which I’m excited to do. Vitamin “O.”
Following the release of the new split and the tour, what’s next for both of you?
Marc: We started tracking for our next full-length last weekend so that will probably be what we mainly focus on when we get back. Writing some new songs I’m sure and just playing some one-offs here and there in southern Ontario, I suppose.
Steve: Sabatini are slowly working on new stuff, so aside from the ol’ weekend jaunt with Greber, mostly writing. Tell Musky to send me more riffs.
The four-track Greber/Anthesis split is available on May 17 through No List Records and Ancient Temple Recordings. Order the vinyl over at Greber’s Bandcamp page here and catch them on tour in eastern Canada on the following dates:
Wednesday May 11th – Hamilton, ON @ Doors Pub
Friday May 13th – Montreal, QC @ Turbo Haus (final Alaskan show)
Saturday May 14th – Moncton, NB @ The Esquire Tavern
Sunday May 15th – Charlottetown, PEI @ The Sportsmans Club*
Monday May 16th – Fredericton, NB @ The Capital*
Thursday May 19th – Saint John, NB @ TBA
Friday May 20th – Halifax, NS @ Menz/Mollyz*
Saturday May 21st – Sherbrooke, QC @ Le Murdoch
* select dates with Anthesis