Q&A: Greet Death

[Photo provided by Mark Connolly]

By Julia Weber, Features Editor

Greet Death are a Michigan-based rock band and one of the headlining acts for ACRN’s 2023 Lobsterfest. Before their Saturday night performance, I talked with Sam Boyhtari of Greet Death about everything ranging from new music and touring, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, shameless adoration of music and the process of learning.

Read more: Preview: ACRN presents foxtails, Kaiba, Wasp Factory, and Sign Language on April 16 at The Union

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Julia: You released New Hell in 2019 followed more recently by New Low. First I’m wondering, is there any association between New Hell and New Low?

Sam: Logan came up with the New Hell title, so New Low was his idea too. … it’s definitely supposed to be exploring some new stuff but wrapping up, something to bridge LP three because it ended up taking definitely more time than we would have liked to put another full record out, so it’s nice to put the EP out in the meantime.

Julia: Could you walk me through the writing and recording processes for both the works and the progression as to where you are now as a band and as an individual artist?

Sam: When we wrote the first record, we kind of just reached a point where we have like enough songs for a record so we were like, alright, let’s finally make a record whereas New Hell was a lot more intentional. So when Logan and I began writing songs for it, I think we were on more of the same page as far as what the themes would be. It’s definitely more of a themed record, right as opposed to more of, we always call Dixieland like more of a mixtape type of record, a lot more intent behind New Hell and New Low. The strange thing is that we had already started writing songs for LP three. COVID hits and we’re holed up and we still continue to play music. We’ve been playing music the whole time, even when we couldn’t tour meeting up a few times a month, and as we’re working on songs that we were like, ‘well, these are probably going to be on the third record,’ we had these other songs that we wanted to cold release. That didn’t end up happening because our label wanted to do a full merch, vinyl, just actually do it as a legitimate drop. Our original idea was just to cold drop an EP, which I think it ended up working out better, because we did a bunch of single releases. I think that was more like exciting and it passed the time in a more interesting way. We took a little detour from writing LP three to put a record out that both put an end cap on New Hell and also explored some new feelings and ground.

Julia: That’s really interesting. Did you immediately dive into New Low after New Hell or did you take some time to breathe? It kind of sounds like you took the long way and did a little bit of both. 

Sam: Yeah. The New Low songs, a couple of the songs on there, Logan and I had had around for a second, and we were like, ‘Oh, I think we could do some really cool stuff with this, and I guess since we’re trying to put out some music more immediately than if we wait and wait for LP three, why don’t we give it a try?’ We definitely took a little bit of a break after New Hell, even though there were a couple songs that we started to play like right after New Hell came out that are gonna be on LP three that are still not recorded. We’re always writing, so when we put the next record out, we’re probably going to have a couple songs that aren’t going to be on it and they’ll be on the record after that. We write a lot and we record old material quickly. We always want to be putting new stuff out there, both for our entertainment and I guess for people’s, but it’s honestly mostly selfish because we get bored easily.

Julia: You said that New Low is putting a cap on this era that you’re in and you have some new stuff in the works. Can you tell me about the direction you’re headed towards for this new material?

Sam: Yeah, we’re always going to be making loud rock songs, but what you can hear on New Low is an indication of stuff we’re also going to explore which is like more soft stuff, piano stuff, acoustic stuff, trying to incorporate more, be way more intentional and adventurous about our composition. Try to do things in a way that we haven’t done them before. Obviously, we also added a fourth member for New Low. Jackie played on one song. We didn’t have her on the whole thing, so this will be the first record where we have her for all of the writing process. We also have a couple of other contributing members. We’re working with more people and trying to expand the range of our like voices and what we do.

Julia: You’re prepping for an eleven day tour run which you’re kicking off in Athens with Lobsterfest which is super exciting. How do you tend to prepare for tour?

Sam: We have a couple of extra days before tour to rehearse. We like to have a couple days to practice and inventory all our merch and stuff. We also may or may not be touring with an additional member in addition to Jackie, so there are going to be more people on stage with us than there usually are in the past. We have to get more ready than we usually do. I think in the past, we take a day, we practice a few songs and then we fly by the seat of our pants, but we’re definitely going to try to rehearse a little more for this one because we’re doing a little bit more people on stage.

Julia: Do you have a favorite and least favorite aspect of tour?

Sam: The first least favorite part is on the same topic of the question you just asked, which is like not even just waiting the month prior, but the day or two that we spend at the practice space, I’m always just ready to go. I get very anxious, not in a way where I’m scared, where I’m anxious about the tour, but I’m just like, ‘Damn, I’m done. I’m just ready to go. I don’t want to go to sleep right now.’

Julia: It’s like the night before a field trip when you’re a kid.

Sam: Yeah, that’s really funny. I haven’t thought about that. Yeah, that’s always tough. I enjoy the driving a lot. Obviously the 10 hour drives are not that fun. Days off can be tough too. It’s all the time in between the shows, especially if you have two days off, you start to feel pretty aimless. It’s all the spaces in between the performances.

Julia: What are you listening to right now? What’s on your radar at the moment?

Sam: Definitely the new Lana Del Rey record. I think I am a very recent fan of her music. I literally have not listened before last year, but I’ve been trying to listen to more music and I listened to Norman Rockwell. That record is crazy. I still haven’t listened to that too many times, but there’s so much beautiful writing and instrumentation on this new record that she put out and things that have never been mish-mashed into a song before but they work really well together. So I have been enjoying that. I’m excited for the new National record. The National are a band that I did not like for a long time, I did not allow myself to like for a long time. But something finally clicked, I think I heard “Light Years.” I listened to that record that that song is on, I believe it’s the last song, and when I got to that song, I was like, ‘oh.’ Sometimes that’s all it takes for me is one song and then I’m on board. I’m excited for that record. The new Caroline Polachek record was cool. Very sick. Jim is like the pop guy in our band. He turns me on to a lot of straight up pop, which I am very thankful for. That record is cool. And the new Andy Shauf record is cool too. … I did listen to the new Fall Out Boy record, not because I’m a fan, just to see what it was about.

Julia: Aside from music, where do you draw inspiration from, whether it’s other forms of media or non-media non-music?

Sam: I like movies a lot. I’m a big horror movie guy. I don’t think I’ll ever make a movie or anything but I like watching movies, finding good ones. I don’t know how much they inspire my writing or anything, but I’m an avid movie enjoyer. I started making content for video games a while ago over quarantine as another kind of passion project. Another thing that I enjoy is I play a lot of fighting games and in the past I’ve been very bad at them, but I there’s a few creators I watch who are very good at speaking about the process of learning – not just learning how to play fighting games, but how to learn, right?  I think I’m very inspired by people talking about the process of learning and by proxy, the process of learning itself. And I think I’ve learned a lot from listening to people talk who are good at articulating talk about [it], because it applies to so many different skills. I enjoy trying to ratchet your brain into thinking a different way because it’s really made a big impact on how I look at learning things, and being bad at something doesn’t mean you’re going to be bad at it forever. You have to be bad at something to become better at it. … Through learning about something as specific as how to be better at playing a fighting game, it’s telling you a lot about life and how to learn skills and how to not get down on yourself, and how to be patient as a learner. I think that’s also something I’m passionate about: learning and teaching and trying to encourage people both through the videos I make, but in general, that you should try things and not give up on them because you’re not good at them. Because if that was the case, nobody would do anything. We’d all give up immediately. 

Julia: I love when that happens and there’s this little microcosm that ends up changing your life and teaching you a shit ton of stuff.

Sam: I wish primary school would have put a bigger emphasis on that because I think we’re taught that we need to do things, but not why we need to do things or in general how to find the stuff we like and work on it, you know? If you want to do something, you should just do it and try to not be so competitive, or worry about how you are in relation to other people. I say all this because these are all things I struggle with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s