by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
Nearly two years after their first single release, Quincy, Ill.-based rockers Greylight Divide have dropped their second single, “Thieves & Killers.”
“We managed to write most of the music and the lyrics to the chorus before the project fizzled out,” he said of the song. “Putting the final version together was a little more difficult than I expected. There are still elements I hear in my head that never ‘made it to tape,’ but at some point you just have to call it finished and move on.”
The track has been part of the band’s live setlist for a long time, but has been slightly retooled into this final version. Guitarist Ben Beilsmith said the only true difference is a rhythm guitar part and a synth track to fill out the song’s “sonic spectrum.”
Beilsmith said the song actually originated in 2012 when he was trying to get a different project off the ground.
Lyrically, “Thieves & Killers” is about the hero’s struggle, a popular trope seen since the days of mythology about a hero overcoming an obstacle and fulfilling their destiny. It goes deeper than that, according to vocalist Paul Dewey.
“It’s really taking on the struggles of growing up and dealing with the darkness that surrounds us,” Dewey said. “The first verse is dealing with the fact that nothing seems to change, but everything around you is changing. The second verse is that pep talk that you give yourself everyday to keep going and rise above the struggle. The chorus to me is the push to move past it, ‘I will never be a man, until I learn to stand, on my feet I’m in the wind,’ but I didn’t write that.”
When the song was being put together in 2012, Beilsmith explained he and Tim Kayser were writing the original draft and he sent Kayser home with a demo version, and he came back with a rough draft of the chorus, which Beilsmith said lyrically was loosely related to a “certain fairytale.” The next day they worked it into what is essentially the song today.
Sonically, “Thieves & Killers” is very reminiscent of ‘90s rock. The chugging guitars and sharp drumwork definitely harken to groups like Candlebox, but Beilsmith said the main riff of the song was actually inspired by Metallica.
With a roaring guitar solo midway through the track, the vocals come back with a repetitive “eye-e-eye” sung mournfully by Dewey. Beilsmith said the vocal portion really echoes the guitar coming out of the solo and it felt natural so they kept it. A lot of songs across different genres use repetitive vocals for what seems like filler and really detract from the composition, but Greylight Divide uses it masterfully to bridge the song to a really sonically full and heavier finish to the song and giving it a bit more emotion. Dewey said they use it as a call and response with the crowd – fans were slowly waving their arms back and forth to it at a show in Quincy last month.
The two years between releases from the group are for a myriad of issues, but they boiled it down to two things – being perfectionists and life happening. Beilsmith attributed it to the struggles of being too close to the project, “Thieves & Killers” was written, recorded, mixed and mastered at his studio. In December, guitarist Jacob Young moved to Indiana for work which left the group looking for a guitarist.
“It’s been stressful,” bassist Cody Buch said. “Things start to pick up steam, we’re rolling and then life happens, whether it’s good or bad and whether you’re ready or not. As with the recording, I think we’re all perfectionists to a certain level. Personally, the things I’ve experienced with this band, it’s the farthest I’ve gone and the most I’ve experienced in my 26 years of being a musician. So when we release a song, part of me wants to just keep cranking songs out, releasing them. But the other part wants them to sound as good as we can get them. Taking our time, getting it right and getting the great responses to the music we’ve release. It’s definitely worth it.”
Things for the group were further complicated when two members each lost a parent in the last six months. With everything happening in the band’s personal lives, it didn’t leave as much time for music as they would have liked, Beilsmith said. With life forcing Greylight Divide to sit on the sidelines most of the year, Beilsmith said they are super eager to get back out there. “Thieves & Killers” was released on YouTube on August 25, and they surprised fans by releasing a live recording of their song “Defeated” on September 16.
While the group does have some momentum with the YouTube releases and “Thieves & Killers” hitting streaming services this week, the plan for now is to release another single in the near future. Beilsmith said he’d like to focus on writing and expanding the group’s live show, while Buch said he’d like to get a music video done. With everything the group has gone through in the last year, Dewey is ready to get back to normal.
“There has been a lot of heaviness in 2023, music has always been therapy, this release and the live shows are just a great way to distract myself from the heaviness,” he said. “It’s also been great getting Jake back in the lineup, we’re really focusing on building more local support and looking to use that to branch out into some areas we haven’t played yet. The last few shows it just feels like everything is clicking.”
“Thieves & Killers” hit streaming platforms such as Spotify on September 25. Greylight Divide will perform live at The Y Men’s Pavillion in Hannibal, Mo. on Oct. 15. For more, visit the Greylight Divide Facebook page.