Nothing shady about ‘The Grey Agents’
The quintet known as The Grey Agents hails from Morgantown and Bridgeport West Virginia. They’ve recently released their debut album “Classified Misinformation” and it is being met with very enthusiastic reviews. Of “Classified Misinformation, Indie Music Review writes “…the musical charisma of The Grey Agents is of rock legend” and GigBand.com writes “It should be heralded as a gem.” The Grey Agents, whose personnel is Davin Seamon on keyboard, John Farmer on bass, Bob Workman on drums, John Forester on lead guitar and Brian Cottrill on rhythm guitar and vocals, will celebrate the album’s release at a party later this month in Clarksburg.
Graffiti spoke with the band about “Classified Misinformation,” about the band itself and those mysterious pseudonyms.
Graffiti: You guys have had the experience of playing in other bands – is there anything that makes being part of this band special or distinct?
Forester: I believe it all boils down to musicianship. We clicked the first time we played together, in fact some of the end product on the album was from the first time we all played together as a band. That is exciting to me because there is a lot of musical territory to explore.
Seamon: My goal as a musician has always been proficiency in as many styles as possible. As a result, I have done live and studio work in numerous genres, including jazz, rock, soul, funk, country and Americana. However, I had never been in a band that explored rock and a large number of rock’s sub-genres. The Grey Agents was born (out) of repeated discussions with Brian about how I wanted to be in such a group and “Classified Misinformation” definitely delivers this type of exploration.
Graffiti: Tell me about the inspiration behind the name ‘The Grey Agents’. Also, how was it decided that each musician would have a band pseudonym, for example Brian is ‘Strummer Grey’ and Davin is ‘Whitey Grey,’ along with their real name?
Farmer: The name, ‘The Grey Agents,’ came about as a consensus after going through a plethora of possibilities. It was a sort of combination, like a cut and paste of a couple of suggestions. We just picked the name after we found that no one else seemed to already have it.
The pseudonyms just sort of happened. There really wasn’t a revelation of ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have alter egos’ or anything like that. I think it started with Bob referring to himself in emails as ‘Grumpy,’ which made complete sense at the time. I’m the oldest guy in the band, so ‘Geezer’ sort of stuck and I began signing my emails as ‘Geez’. Forester plays a mean lead and picks a banjo, and ‘Plucker’ fit. Brian has this inane sense of rhythm guitar, so he became ‘Strummer’. And then there’s ‘Whitey’…well, Davin is…do I have to be Captain Obvious here?
Graffiti: Describe the process of writing songs for an album like ‘Classic Misinformation’; do you have an idea, beforehand, what songs will be about or is it a jam session that sparks an ideaor a little of both?
Cottrill : I had only written about three of these songs before the band was discussed. But as the band was being talked about and formed, I got very inspired to write because of the high level of talent of these guys. The songs came to me very quickly, sometimes writing two on the same day. Farmer wrote a new cool song, too. The band members had great ideas for changing and adding onto the songs to make them better. ‘The Alley Of The Unknown’ was just a basic blues riff and lyrics, and all the guys wrote their parts and drastically changed everything to give that song an identity. The first time all five of us were in a room together, we recorded that song and ‘City Of Gold.’
Graffiti: Listening to the album, everybody just plays so well together. Would that be attributed more to rehearsing to get the songs right or the level of musicianship that each person brings to the table?
Seamon: We really didn’t rehearse prior to tracking and recording. For the songs that we cut all playing at the same time, we usually began recording just a few minutes after we formulated the arrangement, and had the final track maybe 30-40 minutes later. For the songs we worked on in our home studios separate from one another, we would record several parts to give Brian some options when mixing and arranging after discussing what the arrangement should sound like via e-mail and texts. This is a long way of saying that everyone’s individual musicianship being based in tastefulness and playing what was best for each song was the impetus for the arrangement being so cohesive and appropriate for each composition.
Graffiti: The album sounds very new and fresh and, at the same time, we hear some really classic rock ‘n’ roll sounds – quite a balancing act. Any thoughts?
Forester: I think we all have solid roots buried in classic rock; however, we musically germinated and sprouted in different directions from there. Each of us have synthesized musical influences throughout our lives and are able to cross pollinate our songs with our musical stamens. It’s kinda exciting, don’t you think?
Graffiti: Members of Grey Agents have had experience playing in churches. What influence, if any, has playing in a non-secular setting had on the way you view music and being musicians?
Farmer: I probably have spent the most time playing in churches than the other guys in the band. I’ve been doing that since I was 12 years old. I’m 55 now and it’s still going on. All the while, I’ve also played in secular projects. I don’t really play any different in secular settings as compared to non-secular ones. If anything, I guess I feel freer to improvise in those non-secular settings. In church, I usually rehearse right before I’m playing. So, I’m usually playing more by ‘feel’ than anything else, and, by the grace of God, it works. In this project, the sound of the band is paramount. It’s playing what is best for the group. I work to mesh with Bob’s drumming. Davin makes sure his left hand isn’t walking over my bass lines. I’m working to hold down a bottom that compliments Brian’s vocals and Forester’s leads. This band isn’t about standing out as individuals, but playing in a way that builds us up as a unit.
Graffiti: What’s next, creatively, for The Grey Agents? Has making ‘Classified Misinformation’ informed where you will go next as a band?
Workman: First, we’re going to work to become a great live band and go out and play as many dates as we can. Creatively, there are already songs in the pipeline for the next record. I think the success of this record tells us that we’re on to something, rock ‘n’ roll-wise, so I doubt you’ll hear us straying too far from that path. We each have genres of music that we love. For example, I’m an old Prog rocker who also loves Steely Dan and Davin loves jazz and country, but I doubt you’ll hear us make the next Prog or Fusion epic. What you hear on ‘Classified Misinformation’ is the Venn diagram of our individual tastes. I think we’re all happy to stick with that direction.
“Classified Misinformation” can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and at the Music Center in Bridgeport on Main Street.