“What happened to the feeling that we can make a change? ‘Power to the people’ is what they used to say,” sings vocalist and keyboardist Anthony Farrell on “Walls.” The song is one of a couple of politically charged offerings on Change of Pace, released earlier this year by rock-soul outfit Greyhounds. That band, with vocalist and guitarist Andrew Trube and a rotating cast of drummers, played the first RiverMusic concert this summer and returns to headline The Grey Eagle on Saturday, Oct. 29.
But despite a growing polarization in the country, leading up to the November election, Greyhounds don’t aim to turn their concerts into a political rally. “People come to the show, and they don’t want to think about that stuff. They just want to lose themselves and have a good time,” says Farrell. “[But] we do have a platform. We can say something. I feel like all art is about processing what’s going on and making your interpretation of that.”
Trube adds that the band’s followers come from across the socio-political and religious spectrum. The band’s songs, he says, don’t avoid issues (“The war is on for your mind / can’t give it up without a fight,” says the chorus of “Before”) but “we try to do it in a way that’s an observation [of] history repeating itself. It’s not our place to tell people how to feel or what to believe in. It’s our place to make people happy.”
That, and Trube likes to concern himself with nonpolitical matters, too. “Something I think should get more press is the monarch migration going on right now,” he says. A shrinking milkweed crop means less food for the butterflies, which travel as far as 3,000 miles to their winter home in Mexico. And, if Change of Pace’s mood-hopping tracklist is anything to go by, Greyhounds also take interest in self-expression (the funk-fueled “Gettin Out Alive”), romance (the soulful and arresting “Cuz I’m Here”) and pizza (the tongue-in-cheek “Late Night Slice”).
There’s something irreverent and, frankly, beautiful, about an album that has room for the lyric “Left your dirty clothes on the floor, box wine from the corner store,” (from “Late Night Slice”) and the sentiment “Now you’ve moved on, packed your things, a new home just for you. But the hurt’s left to always be there to remind you” (from “For You”). The musicians also have their own moon shadow song (“Moon”) that, with its horn jabs and kinetic percussion, blows away a similarly themed folk tune by the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.
“We’re all about balance,” says Farrell. “We have very different songwriting styles. Andrew likes to throw in some comedic style and unusual juxtapositions. I like to be more serious, but he can write great serious songs, too.”
He adds, “I’m glad there are funnier moments, because it it was all social [commentary], it would be too much.”
Trube and Farrell met in Los Angeles — the keyboard player, who grew up there, responded to a Craigslist ad that the guitarist had placed seeking collaborators. They clicked and, when Trube moved back to his native Texas, Farrell visited Austin and fell in love with the scene. “The musical community here is so supportive of each other,” the keyboardist says. “Everybody plays in each other’s projects. It fosters an atmosphere of ‘We’re all in this together — if you succeed, we all succeed.’”
But collaboration is inherent in the Greyhounds’ trajectory. Though Trube and Farrell’s self-described “Hall and Oates meet ZZ Top” duo has been honing its sound for more than 16 years, the two also toured as part of JJ Grey and Mofro (retiring from that band in January), and their songs have been performed by the likes of Ruthie Foster, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.
The Greyhounds, who recently completed a three-album contract for the revived Ardent label in Memphis, are prolific writers. For Change of Pace, they’d written twice as many songs as they needed for the record, yet still ended up penning a few more tunes at the 11th hour.
Unlike previous albums, much of Change of Pace was recorded at the musicians’ houses, allowing plenty of time for experimentation. But both artists are fans of deadlines — Its easy to lose focus otherwise, Farrell says. “We’re big believers that the first instinct is normally the best.”
The next Greyhounds record, which they’ll start on soon, “will be written in a short time, so we’ll have that immediacy,” says Farrell. And future offerings might include a concept album. The possibilities, it seems, are limitless.
“We have a lot more records in us,” says Trube.
WHO: Greyhounds with The Cerny Brothers
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave., thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 29, 9 p.m. $12 advance/$15 at the door