Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Girl's Not Grey" by AFI/Davey Havok

ARTIST: Davey Havok of AFI
SONG: "Girl's Not Grey"
WRITERS: Davey Havok, Jade Puget, Hunter Burgan, Adam Carson
ALBUM: Sing The Sorrow on DreamWorks Records
YEAR: 2003
BUY:  Sing the Sorrow - AFI

In the summer of 2003, I probably drove my neighbors crazy. AFI's single "Girl's Not Grey" with its mysteriously dark and twisty lyrics blasted from both my stereo and mouth non-stop. I love the whole album, but there's something about the energy of this one song that makes me feel like I can do karate . . . and also fly. Davey Havok, the lovely and captivating front man for the band, kindly gave me some of his time to discuss the music.

BA: Hello, Mr. Havok! I’m so delighted to have you in the series!

Thank you Buick. It’s a pleasure to be a part.

BA: First, I have always loved this song, as well as the rest of the album, Sing the Sorrow. How much of recording “Girl’s Not Grey” do you remember?

Honestly, I remember very little of it. I do recall that the daunting high note in the outro came with fewer takes than I feared.

BA: Tell me about this song coming together in the studio with legendary producers Butch Vig and Jerry Finn. I’m very interested in how they added to the sound and concept of the music.

Jerry and Butch were a pleasure to work with. I miss Jerry very much and think about him often. The specifics of their input on that song are hazy though I do recall spending hours with Jerry trying out pre-amps and microphones until we found the perfect match for my voice. I believe that I sang through a Blue during the recording of that record.

BA: Was this song any one member’s brainchild, or was it written completely by the group, punk rock style? 

GNG ["Girl's Not Grey"] was the last song written for the record, as I recall. Jade had taken a trip to Portland and came back with the music entirely written, including the melodic concept for what was to be the “what follows,” group vocals in the chorus. That’s how the song began.

BA: Your voice goes through a lot in this song. The verses have a lower, more controlled delivery, and then the chorus and bridge escalate, both in your vocal range and the emotional capacity. Was it a breeze to sing, or did you have to do some work to strike that perfect balance?

If I remember correctly, I enjoyed tracking this song. At that point, vocal dynamics within AFI were relatively new. There were a few moments on BSITS [Black Sails in the Sunset] and AOD [The Art of Drowning] but I remember being excited to track a song like GNG. Though I doubt that it was a breeze, I don’t believe that it was terribly difficult to sing.

BA: I really enjoy the way the chorus vocals are divided between being sung as a group, gang vocal style, and just you, in the responses. Was it always written to be performed that way, or was that a choice made in the studio?

The gang trade off in the chorus was written from the beginning. We grew up listening to (and then in our early years playing,) a lot of hardcore. We learned from the greats.

BA: In the last line of the first verse you say:
This art does drown...
Was that an intentional reference to your previous album, The Art of Drowning, or just a coincidental use of language?

Purely intentional.

BA: Who were you listening to at that point? What music was saving your life?

When we were tracking STS [Sing the Sorrow] there were a few discs that I’d listen to repeatedly in the studio - the first three Dead Can Dance records, and Low’s Trust, which had just come out. Out of the studio, I recall listening to a lot of Underworld, Dirty Vegas and First, Last and Always. Interpol had also released their first album then. That got a lot of spins.

BA: I’ve been to enough AFI shows to know that this song is a HUGE fan favorite. Does it make it that much more exhilarating to perform, getting all of that energy back from the audience?

Absolutely. Receiving that energy from the audience really made the shows what they were. With the help of that single, we were lucky enough to elicit strong reactions for all of the new tracks at the time.

BA: What’s your favorite song right this minute?

The first thing that popped in my head was Usher’s “Scream.” Gotye’s hit is undeniable though “Somebody That I Used To Know” and I now need some time apart.

BA: Thank you for your time, friend.  I hope to see you again soon.

Thank you!

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