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Finding emo

Steph and Paul O’Sullivan of alt- rock duo Greywind told David Hennessy about being Ireland’s first emo band, seeing their music go viral and being the subject of a tug of war between the major labels.

Killarney alt- rock duo Greywind come to London this Thursday to play the O2 Academy in Islington.

Made up of siblings Steph and Paul O’Sullivan, Greywind came to prominence in 2017 with their debut track, Afterthoughts.

The demo would quickly create a buzz and see them become the subject of a tug of war between major labels.

They would release their debut album, also called Afterthoughts, but not before being dropped by their label.

However the band and their early music has recently enjoyed something of a resurgence with millions on both TikTok and Instagram discovering what got those labels so excited in the first place.

Paul told The Irish World: “We’ve haven’t played a show in the past year but it’s been the best year since we started Greywind.

“We posted a TikTok, first one got 800,000 views. Another one got a million, then got 1.8.

“So then I posted the same thing on Instagram: 5.8 million views.

“We ended up getting 11 million views and it’s been insane from just like a seven second clip of one of our songs.

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“On Instagram, we went from 4,000 to over 100,000 followers in six days.

“We have nearly 100,000 on TikTok as well.”

The band would even get the endorsement of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and other well known musicians in their genre.

Steph says: “Fred Durst commented on it.

“So many bands who we grew up loving and who are like icons (responded).

“Fred Durst is an icon. For him to hear our music is so cool.

“When we started Greywind we were like, ‘Let’s just combine all our favourite bands’, and they’re mostly American emo bands.

“I feel like all of the emos in America have completely got it, they’ve connected to it and they understand it.

“Whereas some people when we were starting out didn’t know how to describe us.”

Greywind tap into the emo sound known for its punk influences and emotional songwriting.

Paul adds: “In Killarney we sound like aliens probably.

“Our dream has always been to tour America, get to America.

“So we’re so excited that our music is allowing us to do that very soon.”

Many, including Greywind themselves, have commented on them being the first Irish emo band.

“When we were growing up, there wasn’t really any Irish bands that I thought of,” Steph says.

“It was always when American bands came to Dublin we’d go to see them and we’d fly over to England to see them because there was literally no scene especially down here in Killarney, there was literally no bands other than like traditional Irish music or something.

“So I feel like now even the amount of messages we get from Irish teenagers, even older people that are like, ‘Oh my god finally there’s an Irish band.”

Paul says: “Even the amount of messages from American fans now like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never heard an emo band from Ireland doing this’.

“So yeah, it’s exciting.”

Greywind have played Reading and Leeds Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, Download Festival and Rock am Ring, some of which came very early on.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Paul says.

“We haven’t even played 50 shows as a band yet so in our first 20 shows we played Reading and Leeds festival which was my personal favourite, Rock am Ring-“

Steph cuts in: “Yeah, that was my favourite.”

Paul continues: “A dream come true.

“We always used to watch Foo Fighters and Linkin Park on MTV Rocks when they used to show the Rock am Ring highlights.

“Our 18th show was in an arena in Germany somehow.”

Steph says: “There was people chanting ‘Kerry’ at us with an Irish flag.

“We were like, ‘What is happening?’”

Paul says: “We found out that it was going to be in a 10, 000 capacity arena, and it’s our 18th show.

“We were like, ‘I don’t care that no one’s gonna be there’.

Steph confirms: “We genuinely thought we were going to walk out to like ten people but we were just gonna embrace it and be like, ‘Okay, whatever’.

“But we walked out and it was packed. It was just crazy.”

Paul says: “They’re chanting, ‘One more song’.

“Steph says: “And we were like, ‘We have no more songs’.”

“We only had six songs,” Paul says.

“We played Download Festival.

“Three years ago just before COVID hit we played Isle of Wight Festival.

“So we’ve done some crazy things and we haven’t even played 50 shows yet.”

Steph adds: “It feels like when we were playing those shows we were kind of growing and getting used to just playing live so now it feels like we’ve just released our album again.

“Feels like we were able to kind of start from scratch again.”

The band have also got to play a home town gig at Killarney’s INEC Arena.

Paul says: “It was crazy we played Rock am Ring, we played in Germany before we played Killarney.”

Steph says: “And I always get more nervous when I know my family and friends are there.

“I can play to 10,000 people in a German arena but in Killarney if my mum and dad are there, ‘Oh God, I can’t mess up’.”

One Irish band Greywind have supported are The Coronas. How did their hard rock work in warming up the crowd for softer rock?

Paul says: “When we got the offer for that we were like, ‘We’re probably gonna give their fans a heart attack’.

“And we were purposely like, ‘Let’s just start with our heaviest song just for the lols’.

“And I can see people like, ‘What the hell?’

“But by the end of it they were loving it but I feel like so many messages we get are saying, ‘I don’t listen to emo music or rock music but I’m obsessed with your music’.

“That’s what my favourite message to get is.”

Greywind play the O2 Academy in Islington this Thursday 16 February. It is finally going ahead after London gigs were postponed three times last year.

“I had Covid twice last year,” Steph says.

“The first time was in March when we were first supposed to play it and then in November, we were supposed to play it and then I was ill again.

“I was like, ‘Oh God no’.

“I was in bed.

“I was like, ‘I physically can’t do it’ and so we had to text our management and they were just like, ‘It’s fine’.”

Paul says: “It’s going to be worth the wait. Since it was first announced our fan base has grown massively so it’s gonna be such a special show for us and we’ll be debuting some new music at the show as well so we’re really excited about that.

“We’re heading into studio next week as well working on some new stuff.

“We can’t wait for people to hear new music because, I don’t want to hype it up but..

Steph says: “It’s our best, if people liked Afterthoughts, then they will lose their minds to this song.”

London was actually where it all started for Steph and Paul doing some growing up in Edgware before he family moved back to Kerry when Steph was arouned seven and Paul was ten.

Steph says: “Every time we go over there, it does feel like our second home.

“I always feel really safe there.”

What was it like moving to Killarney at that age?

Steph says: “I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to learn Irish and then I regretted that a couple of years later.

“I remember being like, ‘Oh my god, mum. I can’t wait to go to school. I’m gonna learn all the Irish language’ and then..

“Then when I went to secondary school I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is intense’.

Paul adds: “And then when we discovered emo music.”

The undisputed kings of emo music are My Chemical Romance.

Known for songs like Welcome to the Black Parade, they reformed in 2019 after a hiatus and came to the UK and Ireland last year.

Paul and Steph were there to see their concert in Dublin.

“That was probably one of the best days of my life,” Steph says.

Paul adds: “One of my favourite things about the My Chem show was Steph was up on the screen for a second and the amount of messages we got on like on Twitter and Instagram, ‘Oh my god, Greywind are here’.

“And saying, ‘Why aren’t Greywind supporting?’”

Steph says: “We would have loved to.”

Paul adds: “It would be like a dream come true to tour with them now that they’re back.”

Steph says: “I feel like they came back at the perfect time even for us.

Paul says: “Yeah, it feels like when we released these songs a couple of years ago, people didn’t get it.

“But now it’s been like the craziest few months ever.

“There’s been so many difficult times even in this band so far. And but we’ve always known that this is all we’ve ever wanted to do.

“We’ve always believed in what we have.”

Paul says the band have had hard times, these no doubt include being dropped by their label before getting to release anything.

When Afterthoughts was picked up by Zane Lowe and Daniel P Carter on Radio 1, a deluge of industry interest followed as well as a bidding war with all the major record labels.

How does that early craziness compare with the more recent ‘viral’ craziness?

Paul says: “It (now) feels like a billion times bigger.

“I don’t care about the music industry. I want real people listening to my music.”

Steph says: “I would rather have 1,000 fans who love my music then one person from a record label who thinks I’m great.”

Paul says: “Back then it felt like we went music industry viral.

“I was like, ‘Oh, amazing’.”

Steph adds: “Then you realise it means nothing.”

Paul says: “When we released that demo for Afterthoughts, we had every single major record label after us: Warner Brothers, Sony, Universal.

“We signed a record deal with Universal Island Records and then we were like, ‘How the hell? We haven’t even played a show yet, how the hell are we signed to one of the biggest labels in the universe?’

“So then we wrote our debut album before we played a show.

“So before the album is even finished mixing, we get a call saying that we’re being dropped: The seven artists that haven’t made enough money for them this year have been dropped.

“And we hadn’t played a show or released music under that label yet.

“But they were gonna give us our complete advance and the rights to our album back.

“So they spent a lot of money on this album. We put it out.

“And now we’ve gone viral on Instagram, Tik Tok, and people are losing their minds.”

Steph says: “You wonder at the time, ‘Why is this happening to me? Oh my god, this is the worst’. But now I’m so happy that happened because we’re so much stronger from that and we are in the position we are now.”

The initial reaction to Afterthoughts came as a surprise to the brother and sister who really only recorded the track for themselves.

When their uncle committed suicide in 2010, they wrote Afterthoughts about the loss.

What is it like to sing a song at every gig that, although has brought them such success, is rooted in deep personal tragedy? Steph says: “Some nights you kind of close your eyes and you think, ‘Oh, this is really, really sad’.

“But then other nights, I can see people singing it back crying at me.

“And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, they’ve gone through something that I know nothing about’.

“I’ve had messages from people saying that song has saved their life, literally they heard it come on the radio and they were about to do something and they pulled over the car and decided not to. And I would rather sing that song every night and be upset about it if it helps someone else.

“I feel like those are the types of songs, as difficult as they are to sing, that you have to.

“You kind of forget about yourself for a minute and think of other people.”

Paul adds: “Afterthoughts was the first song we ever wrote, before we even started Greywind.

“It was such a therapeutic experience.

“We were just doing it for ourselves and just pouring our hearts into a song.

“We felt like that song changed our lives as well and it’s from such a dark experience.

“So whenever I play it, I just feel so proud of us taking one of the darkest moments in life and turning it into something beautiful.”

Greywind play the O2 Academy in Islington this Thursday 16 February.

For more information, click here.

You can follow Greywind on Instagram and TikTok @greywindband.

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