Interview: Von Grey on Artistic Freedom, Family, and a New Album
Photo credit: Allister Ann
Multi-talented trio of sisters VON GREY creates rich, moving alt-pop that moves seamlessly among a broad range of instruments, from cello and violin to synth and electric guitar. Add in the sisters’ perfectly matched voices and fierce creative drive, and the result is raw, emotional portraits of internal struggles and complex relationships framed by a sound that is both dreamy and dark.
We had to opportunity to talk with singer, violinist, and pianist Annika about their new album In Bloom (reviewed here), how the sisters have progressed as artists, and what inspires them to keep creating.
Tell us a little about who you are.
We started playing music very early, about 5 years old, and we were homeschooled. The band has always been a family gig, in a very immersive at-home way. We have been playing as a band and touring for about seven years now. We still play classical music sometimes. We’re happy to still be doing this and not getting comfortable or stagnating. We all identify as women which we feel is a very powerful thing. We are also a queer band and we want to exist as visible, not timid or scared, and also let people see our tenderness and openness.
How has your music evolved over the last few years? What led you to decide to make a fully acoustic album?
It has been a very focused evolution. We started out as acoustic with string instruments – cello, violin, viola – and piano. As we grew we really felt called towards more experimentation, so we did a lot with synth, programmed drums, basically a lot of things that you can’t do without the help of computers. That was new and exciting and really helped build our confidence as songwriters and producers. Our live songs are sometimes acoustic and sometimes very synthy. But our roots are in acoustic, and we didn’t really even discuss making an acoustic album until we had already started working on it. We started with some ballads with just piano and sometimes acoustic guitar, and it felt different in an exciting way, like coming back to a home base we’re already really comfortable with.
How did you choose which songs to remake for In Bloom?
These are songs we were really attached to and wanted to connect to in a new way, to re-experiment and reconnect in a way that is more intimate, and express them in a way that comes quickest and most naturally. We wanted to focus on the emotion and the way it felt to sing together, and that evolved into In Bloom. Since we had just put out Trinity it still felt fresh and relevant, but these three songs felt more evergreen, like we could have written them yesterday.
What is it like working so closely with family all the time?
It’s really special, and I think we all think of it as a gift. We’re grateful to our parents for the gift of music and beginning this experience for us. When we started touring, the oldest of us was 14, so we have really had to consciously avoid getting burned out, not just on touring but also on each other. So we have to navigate that relationship in two ways, the professional and creative side and the family side, which is definitely the most important to all of us, that we are sisters and best friends before anything else.
What would you want someone to know about you who has not listened to you before?
That we love music a lot, that we are very connected and want our songs to be a reflection of all three of us in a wholesome, transparent way. We put our head space and our heart space into our music and hope it can connect with people, to be not only emotional but be human in a way we can be proud of.
You really can have as much autonomy as you want, if you learn the tricks of the trade.
What other artists are you listening to?
Individually we are all over the map with what we like to listen to. While we were recording Trinity we listened to a lot of acoustic, a lot of Joni Mitchell, Cat Stephens, Laura Marling, not because we were wistful for that sort of music but as more of a balancing act. Then recording In Bloom we listened to a lot of Brian Eno, James Blake, St Vincent, a lot of experimental stuff. It’s a bit of a yin and yang with what we’re working on.
What other arts do you draw inspiration from?
Visual art is really, really important to all of us. Aesthetics and colors are really two sides of the same coin as music for us. We love to spend time in nature. It’s our greatest muse, seeing all those textures and colors and patterns that weren’t made by any person. We love going to the North Carolina mountains or the Hudson Valley and being overwhelmed by all these patterns that exist in a harmonious way.
What’s next? Will you be touring any time soon?
We just did some touring this spring and we will be doing a few one-off shows the rest of the year. We love playing live but also have this sort of crazed need to write more things. We live a lot in our own headspaces and need an outlet for all those feelings. It also helps us develop our production and engineering skills more, to hone in on those technical skills.
I understand you did everything for the “6 AM” video yourselves, including all the filming and producing.
Yes, Fiona is very into photography, so we went out to a place in north Georgia and rented a big warehouse to film in. You’ll notice there are not a ton of shots with all three of us together because one of us was always behind the camera. We also did the production for the video of “Poison in the Water” and all the photos for the EP. You really can have as much autonomy as you want, if you learn the tricks of the trade.
Finally, a fun question: If you could have a drink with anyone living, dead, or fictional who would it be?
I really had a fascination with Ann Boleyn when I was younger. She was kind of manic but also very smart and beautiful, the first of Henry VIII’s wives. So I would go hundreds of years back and have a drink with her, sort of like meeting my ultimate muse.