interview: graveshift, a family affair

May 25, 2011

I had the pleasure to speak with Graveshift, a young band from the Bronx. It’s a family band that consists of four unique siblings. The eldest is the bassist, Erica (21), then the lead guitarist Alexis (18), the drummer Joshua (15) and Jonas the lead vocalist (14). Starting out six years ago, the band’s name stems from the family last name, Grave, melded with the term “graveyard shift” because on their first gig, they were the very last act to go on, and the last shift of the work day is the graveyard shift.

Interview by Olivia Haynes

Originally, everyone started playing piano but no one liked it, and hence they stopped playing for a while. Music was only reintroduced into their lives when their dad wanted to cut down on time spent playing video games and help his kids be more productive with their time. “He got us a drum set and in about a year we were all playing drums. And then after that year we kinda split up and started doing our own thing,” Alexis described. Erica took on bass because dad was originally a bassist himself and Alexis always wanted to play guitar. The boys were somewhat at a different musical start, Jonas and Joshua performing at a jazz school sticking with the drums but, as Joshua expressed, Jonas could not really stick to any instrument so that’s how he became a lead singer. Everyone liked music but no one really listened to rock before. Alexis quips, “The first band I got introduced to was Creed.”

When asked about why they perform in rock, why not hip-hop, especially since they live in the very city that is the birthplace of hip-hop, New York City, their response is that they just like rock music. They see nothing wrong with hip-hop, they like the genre as well but not nearly as much as rock in regards to playing. Joshua added on, “If we did hip-hop, it will come out bad and corny.” The music that the members of the band usually listen to are that of Paramour, Kings of Leon, U2, Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte and more.

The parents are very, very supportive of their children’s musical endeavors. “Our Dad,” Joshua says with some background support of Jonas, “is all for it. And our mom is just laid back, she likes it.” The music does not affect their schoolwork, everyone still strives to do well academically as well as musically. They say that the combination between school work and band work is not a problem. Still the band has not had any official on-the-road tours, but they have learned a lot from doing music videos and being in the recording studio such as the many retakes that are done to get a shot perfect. And while imagery is everything, it certainly doesn’t always tell the truth. “If they look like they’re warm, they’re probably cold,” Alexis mentioned in regards to being in a music video.

When asked about Afro-punk, Joshua said, “I’ve heard of it but I’m not sure if I ever heard it before,” Joshua said. After some clarification of what Afro-punk is, Joshua burst out laughing. How they feel of being Black and outside the monolith, the general consensus is that they don’t really care what others say about them. They already have friends who are Black, Latino and of various other backgrounds, and listen to the same kind of music as they do. So they don’t really feel like outcasts.

In the future, they want their music to be heard all over the world and to change lives with the sound of their music. As for personal endeavors: “For myself, the drummer, I want our band to have respect and to become respectable musicians and not as, you know, as an act or a gimmick. And I want to be a respectable drummer,” Joshua says. He doesn’t want the fact that Graveshift is a Black band filled with kids that are playing rock to turn them into a one-time act. When faced with the question next, Alexis quickly answers, “Get rich and famous!” but her real answer is, “I want for people to really like our music and I want to be able – to become a notable songwriter… um, to have a music that is, like, really diverse. As our albums go by, I don’t want them all to sound the same. I want to, y’know, sound like we grew, and that we grew in a good way.” Alexis would like Graveshift to be really well known in the industry. She reflects that Graveshift has a lot of different sounds and writing styles melded together that they would like to refine and explore. Jonas says, “I want us to be really well known in the music business so that we’re not just y’know, those kids that makes money just because they just have a whole bunch of idols – I mean, not idols but a whole bunch of screaming fans. I want it to be, like, y’know, to be respected musicians and to be able…to be well respected as musicians and, um, to be able to play music and to make people feel better.

Jonas, as well as other members of the band agree that music as gone too far into the technology age. When approached with the question of music and how it is today and how it may be in the future, Jonas remarked, “I’m not too fond of it.” They believe that the industry is too focused on hit-makers, chart-toppers and one-time hits, not genuine music. The music that is on the radio is too one-dimensional. “They’re not really trying to make music anymore, it’s just marketing towards people,” Jonas adds. They feel that the industry is just trying to make money, not put out worthwhile music.

This young group of musicians is very promising and their sound was a very refreshing hear for those who sometimes are a bit tired that a lot of rock has screaming and anger and roughness all around. It is always intriguing to hear diverse sounds of even Black rock. We can’t all simply scream our heads off and it’s probably better that way to keep such a genre from going stale.