Express & Star

Future far from dull for Wolverhampton's Graywave - unsigned column

Escapism is all anyone longs for during these long days cooped up as part of the current coronavirus lockdown.

Wolverhampton's Graywave Photo: Kayla May

Yeah, everyone loves binging boxsets, watching trashy films, curling up with a book or blasting through enemy forces on a games console.

But filling so many hours a day - with many people's experiences lengthened as anxiety decimates sleeping patterns - can leave us seeking more to fill our time with.

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So step forward Jess Webberley, AKA Grayscale, who might be able to help.

"Whenever I sit down to write new music for Graywave I aim to capture a feeling of escapism - hence the name of the first track I ever put out; Afternoon Escapism," the 23-year-old from Wolverhampton tells The Star.

"I always start with guitar and often play into a loop pedal so I can start layering sounds pretty much straight away. I quite often make sure whatever I am writing sounds good acoustically too. I tend to spend a lot of time focussing on the guitars in my songs and everything else flows naturally.

"Most of the time lyrics come last, I like to keep them quite abstract to ensure they can be interpreted in different ways."

Again, brain training like that will help a lot of people out during these difficult times.

And independent artists know more than a lot of others just how damaging a period like this can be where their work opportunities are cut to pieces and those streams of income, as little as they can be, from gigs and such are ripped from their hands.

And the 23-year-old former Codsall High School pupil who also studied at Birmingham City University was one who was just getting into her stride.

"Funnily enough my diary was just starting to get pretty lively," she bemoans. "The shows I had lined up have now been cancelled sadly. I have also had to postpone a studio session I was supposed to have this month to get two new tracks recorded.

"That being said I am trying to see the advantages to this unexpected downtime - it means I have more time to work on new music and create new content.

"I have been keeping pretty busy so far. A lot of my time has been going into teaching myself more about music production and working on new demos.

"If all goes well I may post these online at some point in the future.

"I have also been working on new merchandise designs and other creative assets. I hadn’t really thought about live-streaming [any gigs], however now you mention it, I will definitely put some time aside to do that."

That's something to look out for then both for her long-time fans and those reading this column who may not be familiar with the name.

"I have been performing and releasing music under Graywave for around a year now," she adds. "This isn’t my first venture in music, I used to play guitar in a hardcore band called Stranded. The music I make now is quite the change from my background. However, I would say that Graywave is the music I always wanted to make but never quite had the guts to put out."

Webberley has many strings to her bow. We know her from previous conversations with former Star Unsigned column act Bryony Williams, also from Wolverhampton, who alongside Webberley formed the creative duo behind GRRRL GROANNN.

Having now grown into an all-female music collective, they kicked off 2020 by taking over Digbeth’s Centrala on January 10 to celebrate the release of their third fanzine – Zine 3.

The project started as a fanzine, before growing to its current set-up promoting the artists who take part and even releasing some of their material, such as Williams dropping her singles through them.

Although Williams has taken some time out to go travelling, recently getting stranded in Bali as part of the worldwide flights shutdown also caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, Webberley has been keeping it moving back here in the West Midlands. In particular, her graphic design skills come to the fore.

"GRRRL GROANNN actually started out as a uni project for Bryony when we were both in our final year at BCU," she adds. "When I heard about what she was making I offered to help by designing the layout.

"We had so much fun with it that we decided it deserved to live on beyond uni and become a real project. A couple of years down the line and we are still going.

"Things are moving considerably slower without Bryony here to spearhead it. We are still plugging away, just at a slower pace.

"I make all of the artwork for Graywave, I really enjoy doing it and I also work as a graphic designer for a living. I have helped quite a few bands out in the past with logo designs etc. I don’t tend to do it as much anymore though due to being low on spare time to do so."

Of course the current grind of social distancing and/or self-isolation won't go on for ever. And artists like Graywave will eventually be able to head back out onto the gig and recording circuit in a bid to get their hard work out to audiences.

So what will the rest of 2020 look like for her when things eventually start returning back to some form or normality?

"Fingers crossed, there will be new music by the end of the year and a number of shows will have been played," she muses. "This year was set to be bigger and better for Graywave, and despite the circumstances I am still determined to make that a reality."

Determination can go a very long way.

Graywave can be found on Twitter @Graywaveuk and Facebook @Graywave - her GRRRL GROANNN project can be found on Facebook @grrrlgroannn