Some of the best music is brought about by collaboration. For their seventh and most accomplished album, “A Little Voodoo,” Grey Eye Glances took that idea to its logical conclusion, from the writing of songs, to working with an all-star cast of producers and engineers which included Jerry Marotta, Kevin Killen, Peter Moshay, T-Bone Wolk, Paul Bryan, and Todd Vos.
During the writing phase, a series of rehearsals were held at each band member’s home, the stipulation being whoever hosted the session had to bring something to the table – be it a lyrical snippet or a finished piece of work. The resulting burst of creativity produced 50 songs with a variety of musical perspectives. The group whittled the list of songs down to 19, and sent them to a wish list of producers. An overwhelming response prompted the thought: Why not work with all of them?
So the album’s working concept was born: Record the album over a six month period, spending two weeks at a time with the various production teams at their favorite studios. “The idea was to keep the energy level up,” Eric says. “When you start, everything is exciting; everybody likes each other. But after a while, if it’s not working, you end up going through the motions. We were lucky to get these amazing people. They worked us into their schedule, 10 days to two weeks at a time, and the idea was to finish two songs with each production team. There was no room for any sort of nonsense to develop.”
Grey Eye Glances’ desire on “A Little Voodoo” was to enhance the melodic themes of their previous releases, by adding a more rhythmic approach – to reproduce the distinct and distinguished pop sound the band achieves in concert. “We knew what we did well,” Dwayne says, “so we took that and amplified it. Our goal was to make an album that showcased our strengths.”
With that in mind, the group cut four songs with Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann) and Kevin Killen (U2, Elvis Costello, Tori Amos) at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, NY. Then it was off to Woodstock, NY for two tracks with Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls, Paul McCartney) and Todd Vos (Paula Cole, Natalie Merchant, Phish). The next stop was Pawling, NY to work with Peter Moshay (Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Sean Lennon/Yoko Ono) and T-Bone Wolk (Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Hall & Oates). The band members finished up the album by producing and recording two tracks themselves at FarmHouse Studios in West Point, PA.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of “A Little Voodoo” is that, despite the use of various production teams, the album holds together as a single, cohesive piece of work. “We knew this was going to be an experiment,” Jennifer says, “but the finished product is one complete set of songs that really do work well together. It’s the first of our albums that I can listen to and not want to change anything.”
The history of Grey Eye Glances – the name is cribbed from an Edgar Allen Poe poem – begins with Jennifer, Dwayne and Eric recording a pair of Indie albums, “Songs of Leaving” (1993) and “Further On…” (1994), for their self-owned label, Sojourn Hills Records. In 1996, they signed with Mercury Records and released “Eventide” (1997) and “Painted Pictures” (1998). During the recording of Eventide, guitarist Brett Kull and drummer Paul Ramsey joined the band. Prior to “A Little Voodoo,” the group’s most recent work was the six-song EP, “If I Was...”
An integral part of the band’s history is their innovative business sense. It was Grey Eye Glances who, as recognized by Billboard Magazine, invented the practice of using Borders Books & Music as a venue to perform and promote their music, as opposed to the traditional in-store appearance. They were one of the first bands to recognize the value of a website – something that seems natural now. “I remember a music executive telling us, ‘The Internet and music: that’ll never go together,’” Eric says with a laugh.
Their innovative thinking continues. “A Little Voodoo,” on the band’s label, Sojourn Hills Records, was financed by forming a partnership with their fans called: The Grey Album, LLC. It seemed logical to form a company made up of those who cared the most about the music. “It’s a unique idea,” Eric says, “a band and its fan base joining forces to produce, manufacture, market, and distribute a music CD. We started with the dollar figure we needed to raise. We’ve been at this a while now, and we know what works and what doesn’t, where money is best spent and where it’s not.”
To go into business, a priority is having quality goods, that’s where “A Little Voodoo” excels. The album presents a variety of musical moods, thanks to ebullient, uptempo numbers like “Big Red Boat” and forthright rockers “If I Was,” “He and She” and “Keep On.” There are the quiet, contemplative offerings “Good Folks” and “All Because of You.” “Close Your Eyes” and “The One” have the potential to cross over into various music genres. The album reveals the band’s musical strengths, a richly textured approach to song writing and arranging, and a perfect balance of rhythm, melody and vocal harmonies.
The band is doing the best work of their career. While vagaries of the music business have taken many of their contemporaries down, Grey Eye Glances has not just survived, but also thrived. The reason, as Jennifer puts it, is simple. “We started out as friends and we’re still friends, whatever has happened to us, it’s only made us stronger. Being in a band is a lot of work, and it is stressful, but it’s also a lot of fun and very rewarding.