Many in the music world are familar with Nathan Gray as the vocalist of Delaware post-hardcore band Boysetsfire. And while that band is still playing and touring, Gray has a newfound focus on his other band, I Am Heresy. He’s particularly familiar with one of the three guitarists, Simon, as that’s his son. Formed several years ago, the Delaware/New Jersey sextet has released an album and an EP, which led to their signing with Century Media. The band’s first album for them, Thy Will, is out and in stores today. We caught up with the elder Gray about his commitment to his new band, what it takes to be in a band with a family member and who they’d like to tour with.
What do you think makes I Am Heresy stand out? There’s a ton of music out there, what makes you guys special?
I think some of the more easy things that I would point out would be that I feel that we are doing something different, just with even the music alone. I feel that all the different influences that we use – and a lot of those influences we don’t use them necessarily as they’re typically used – like black metal parts that are sung over. That’s not done, and to some people that’s heresy. But I think besides that, there’s also a passion to what we do and the theology behind what we do is a bit more serious than some other bands put out there. A lot of people get really corny with the anti-religion and Satanism thing and it gets real gimmicky. What we put out there is, I hope at least, it comes off a lot less gimmicky and a lot less about this bullshit front we’re putting on, and more about actual ideas and actual symbolism and actual things that mean something to us that we want to put forth to other people in an attempt to show them a new way of being. There’s so many – and I’m sure a lot of metal bands will say this – there’s so many of these occult you know, “occult” bands that are honestly absolute bullshit. They’re just doing it as a gimmick, as this bullshit put-on, because it’s cool and it’s dark.
Right, and usually they’re not winking at it like Ghost does.
Yeah exactly. And that’s the thing, if you’re going to do it if you’re going to wink at it – do it like Ghost does. That’s badass and that’s fun. But otherwise you’re just going to come off as sort of a corny asshole. I feel that we come at it almost on the other side of that. We’re not being overly like wink wink with it, we are actually being very serious with it. Maybe not so much in the Watain realm where they are actually have a more theistic viewpoint on things. But in a more LeVayan and atheistic sense, it is very important to us our message and what we’re saying and the symbolism that we use.
I am Heresy is essentially a new band. You’re a veteran that’s toured a lot, been on labels and have done all that stuff before – are you happy with treating this like it’s a brand new band? Getting back in a van and touring the country and doing all that?
Oh absolutely. I expected it to be that way and I wanted it to be that way. I really didn’t want this to be some pet side project of Boy Sets Fire, you know what I mean? This is a completely different thing and it should earn its own legs. I enjoy the feeling of sort of going back into battle. You got to get up there, you got to force people to listen to you, you got to force people to understand what you’re doing. It’s like going to war, it’s a struggle. The people who show up to your shows could be like 15 people that just accidentally show up there and you have to get out there and you have to prove to them what you’re made of. And I really enjoy that – I believe that music should be based on merit and should be based on work you put into it so that works out very well for me.
What is the status up with Boysetsfire? I know you put an album out last year, is it still very much a thing? Are you going to be able to manage being in both bands?
Yeah, because with Boy Sets Fire it’s something that we do when we do it. All the guys have other jobs and they’re out doing other things and we do it when we do it. Whereas I Am Heresy is a full time, fully-pushing band. So to an extent a lot of things revolve around what I’m doing with I Am Heresy. It’s sort of like it would revolve around the guys in Boy Sets Fire’s jobs. It’s just one of those things where it’s like this is my main focus, what I’m doing, but when we can get together and do that stuff I still enjoy it. I still enjoy my friends and playing music with them.
Are there any dream tours or anyone you’d really like to play with?
There are definitely several bands that I would love to go out with. One being – which I actually think they’re putting out an album and then breaking up, and I wish we could get on tour with them before that happens – Nachtmystium is band that I just fucking adore. As little girl as that just sounded, I definitely have this fantasy of going on tour with those guys and I love their music. They really broke a lot of new ground in the metal scene. Another band that does the same thing for me is Watain. Especially with their new album, The Wild Hunt, I feel like they’ve really progressed past being categorized as just a black metal band. I think that they’ve really done something with their art that’s important and needs to be heard. Those are the type of bands that I get really revved up about, bands that no longer can really be typified. They came out of a certain scene but it doesn’t really matter anymore because they’re artists – they’re not part of a genre.
Do you have any tips for anyone that might want to join a band with their son and/or father?
Make sure you have the same relationship I do because you can end up – and I think it’s whether it’s with your son, another family member or just with any person – you’re going to have to make sure that you are compatible for doing something like that. A lot of times there needs to be this thing that clicks and if it doesn’t, it’s not going to work and you’re going to end up killing each other. Because firstly you get crammed up in a van. And that’s something that we dealt with like in the beginning of this band – like Jay (Sin, guitar) and Gregg (Kautz, guitar) didn’t get along at all and they both know it. They despised each other for a little while. But the cool thing about people like Jay and Gregg – they’re diehard, old school musicians. When it comes down to it, they realized that this isn’t important. All of this goofy little bickering we’re doing isn’t important. What’s important is the music, and once they got in a band together, it clicked. That they were both there for the same thing and they were both there to get this done and forward their art. And at that point that’s when they realized how to get along. Now they get along great!
Your former band / other band is sort of a calling card for many people who probably wouldn’t otherwise listen to I Am Heresy. While they’re two completely different sounding bands, do you want your Boy Sets Fire fans to listen to I Am Heresy?
I do, and I think that not all of them will, because I think there are people that listen to Boy Sets Fire for the almost pop and rock sensibility of it at times. So you might not get that from I Am Heresy, but why I want them to listen to I Am Heresy is part because of the reason that I started I Am Heresy. With Boy Sets Fire, there’s obviously a very political feel to it, about social change and politics. What drew me to doing I Am Heresy is that I realized that what we were putting forth with Boy Sets Fire was the second step to me. If you’re going to move against authority figures, like tangible authority figures, it makes very little sense to speak out against those things if you’re at the same time creating made-up authority figures. And that’s what I Am Heresy is about. Reconstructing and destroying those made-up authority figures in our lives and creating ourselves as our own gods as opposed to making them up out of thin air.