With their soulful four-part harmonies, poetic lyrics and indelible melodies, it’s easy to see why the Atlanta Journal Constitution would hail von Grey as “nothing short of stunning.” They sound like they were born to play together – and, in fact, they were. The four sisters have been playing music nearly their entire lives. Classically trained from an early age, the Atlanta-based quartet – Kathryn, Annika, Fiona and Petra von Grey – have built on that foundation by performing over 200 shows in the past two years, from recurring residency tours at intimate venues throughout the southeastern U.S. to supporting gigs with such artists as Sarah McLachlan.
Working in a vein similar to that of such contemporaries as The Civil Wars and Mumford & Sons, von Grey masterfully melds folk, bluegrass and country influences, imbuing time-honored musical idioms with a distinctly modern sensibility. From the opening “What Am I,” a stirring plea for unity and understanding, to the bittersweet “Shane,” the collection on their recently released 5-song EP provides a remarkable introduction to von Grey.
Atlanta Music Guide caught up with Annika von Grey to ask her some questions about the band, their music and their upcoming plans! Check it out!
Do you remember when you and your sisters started making music together? How did von Grey come to be?
We started with the classical piano and string instruments, so we kind of had a string quartet going on. It was pretty natural for us. We played weddings and did classical stuff together. We went to India about four years ago for three months. My dad knows Indian musicians over there who kind of play Eric Clapton music and really western kind of classic rock songs, so it was a strange round about way for us to be exposed to that kind of music. We came back to Atlanta after that and we were really inspired to incorporate our instrumentation background into music that was a little bit more contemporary. We started with bluegrass, kind of country music. Since then weʼve progressed on to different genres and experimented with other sounds, but it still has an acoustic foundation.
Do you and your sisters have a difficult time agreeing on things musically?
As far as the music goes, Fiona and I are the primary songwriters so we make a lot of executive decisions on the creative side. I think the two of us as well as my other two sisters, we all have a shared creative vision and I think throughout our evolution weʼve been able to agree on what we want to do musically.
Where do you pull your inspiration from?
We have an EP out now and a lot of songs on it are kind of your typical romantic songs, but a lot of them are drawn from personal experiences. I write most of the lyrics and Iʼm about to turn seventeen so I havenʼt had a massive amount of life experience to pull from, but I have a little bit. I also tend to be inspired by things that Iʼve read or seen people go through around me.
Over the past few months, you all have played at SXSW, been on The Late Show with David Letterman as well as Conan and you will be playing at Bonnaroo this summer. How are you handling all this attention?
Itʼs very exciting! Thankfully, I think that we were raised in a way to keep grounded and I know Iʼm speaking for myself but I donʼt think anything has gone to our heads. Even though weʼve had success recently and we seem really lucky to have a very positive response and reception to what weʼre doing, weʼve spent three or fours years out in the public eye so weʼve had time to try to cultivate our skill and make sure we were prepared musically, but also emotionally. We are very excited, but I donʼt think weʼre overwhelmed, necessarily, because itʼs something we have been working for and weʼre still going to continue to reach for that.
What would be your dream gig?
Weʼre really big on festivals. We get to play for a lot of people and we get to be in a place, in a community, for a weekend that is just so artistic and inviting of music. Bonnaroo has been at the top of our list for a long time. The fact that weʼre playing there this summer is extremely exciting for us. As far as collaborations with other artists go, something that we really like and are really drawn to right now is the electronic music thing. There is a duo called The Knife, that I know Kathryn and I are very into, so maybe experimenting with people that are a little bit more well-versed in technology. Itʼs such a juxtaposition compared to the acoustic instrumentation that we were brought up with.
Can you think of that one moment where you realized your dreams were becoming a reality?
We went on tour in late 2012. It was our first west coast tour and it was the first time we were opening for somebody that we were going to do more than one or two dates with. We played a show in Berklee, California that had a lot of people there and it was a standing-room only kind of venue with a lot of energy and a lot of college kids. I think it was on Election night so it was a very energized situation. David Letterman was obviously awesome, Conan was really cool, so all those things that are a little bit more national are awesome and then it translates to having excitement back in Atlanta.
Where do you see yourselves as a band in the next few years?
I think one of our immediate goals is just to be able to tour with bands and acts that we think are really compatible with us and who inspire us. Hopefully, we can put out new music that weʼre excited about that other people can get excited about. People continue to evolve creatively so we want to make sure that weʼre always surrounded by people who allow us to evolve that way and to change our music subtly to match who we are as people.
von Grey will be performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival at the Masquerade Music Park on Sunday, May 5th at 12:30pm in support of their self-titled five-song EP.