INTERVIEW: Greg Hoy Opens Up About Music, Telecasters, & “Jet Black, Get Back”

Greg Hoy

Indie-rock outfit Greg Hoy & the Boys recently unveiled the music video for "Jet Black, Get Back," a track lifted from their latest album, The Special Party. For over two decades, Greg Hoy has dominated the indie rock scene and conquered many areas of the industry as an experienced songwriter, producer, indie label owner, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and more. He also hosts his own podcast, Limited Mileage, where he gets to connect and chat with fellow makers, creatives, and musicians about their unique journeys and adventures.

Hoy has had several musical projects over the years — The Royal Panics, Twice as Bright, Greg Hoy & The Boys, Greg Hoy & The Enablers. His latest single release, "Jet Black, Get Back!," comes just in time to celebrate his Build Back Bitter tour. Fans might recall that his 2020 tour got cancelled due to the months of isolation that ensued with the global coronavirus pandemic.

"Jet Black, Get Back!" comes just in time to hype up and excite followers as Hoy prepares to rejoice with his following and catch up on lost touring time this summer.

XS Noize spoke with Greg Hoy to find out more about the inspiration for "Jet Black, Get Back," his influences, and which artist he is listening to right now.

What three things can't you live without?

We've been on tour, so I'll go with coffee, my band, and a reliable automobile!

What inspired your new single/music video, "Jet Black, Get Back!"

The lyrics are me giving advice to my 13-year-old self. I'm an awkward nerdy musician teenager, and how my crush on a particular popular girl with dark hair that was never very nice to me is never resolved. There's that moment in early adult development where the opinions of others hold high personal impact. (Note: some people never evolve past this). The phrase 'Jet Black, Get Back!' has itself evolved and is now more about rejecting darkness and negativity. 'I'll see you around!' you know, it's that 'talk to the hand' moment.

Please walk us through your mindset as you approached recording the song.

The band didn't rehearse as a team until we were recording! The album was made during a week-long session in bass player Ray Vasko's basement. I flew my recording gear and microphones from San Francisco to Pittsburgh, PA, where the Boys on this particular album all reside. The songs had been demoed and emailed to the band a few weeks beforehand. Everything was then rehearsed and recorded live except the vocals and any solos or overdubs.

How did you get started in music?

My brother and sisters all played instruments in the school band. My mom had a membership to the Columbia Record Club, so we'd get a lot of vinyl in the mail a lot. The house's musical tastes were all over the place: Herb Alpert, James Brown, Yes, Kool & The Gang, Led Zeppelin, The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond. There's a picture somewhere of a 2-year-old me sitting with massive '70s headphones on in front of a record player.

Where are you from?

I was born in South New Jersey; however, my school-age years were incubated an hour outside of the industrial and agricultural mecca known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Did your hometown impact your sound?

Oh, massively! The big thing in Pittsburgh growing up was classic rock' terrestrial' radio. My ears were hammered with tons of loud distorted white man bands — Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Foreigner, KISS, The Beatles, The Kinks, Joe Walsh. The first time I heard an acoustic guitar, I don't think I knew what it was. Then when I was of the age to drink, all the clubs in Pittsburgh were filled with amazing garage and power punk. The Cynics, Modey Lemon... Donny Iris!

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

It all goes back to The Beatles — however, like any good student of rock n roll, I went through heavy phases of listening to all of a particular band's albums. High school years stuff was Prince, Living Colour, Van Halen, Stevie Wonder, Genesis, Beck, The Runaways, Motley Crue, and Faith No More. Then Nirvana came along, and that changed everything.

What kind of guitar do you play?

I have a guitar problem. Like, some people collect shoes, yea? Or purses, maybe? My weakness is guitars - specifically lately, Japanese Telecasters... thin lines, but with humbuckers or P90s as pickups. In fact, my dear pal Spanky at V8 Custom Guitars has been working on building a 'Hoycaster' for my live shows for the last year. Supply chain issues are real!

What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time or remained pretty much the same?

The easiest answer is I like to just plug in and play! I have tried every amp live over the years, especially when my music was more loud power pop — the Fender' Evil' Twin, a killer 1981, 100-watt Marshall JCM 800 (it was actually Leslie West's touring amp), even a few gigs with a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 (big mistake). Bigger shows before the pandemic were my '79 Ibanez Iceman through my '79 Marshall JMP. Since the pandemic, I've downsized a bit to one of the new Marshall Origins 50 combos that I modified the gain sweep on (surprisingly great sound and way easier on my back, too) with either my Gibson 339 or one of my humbucker Thinline Telecasters.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

Anything can inspire a song. Sometimes, it's a phrase that pops into my head that leads to a story. 'Jet Black, Get Back!' was like that. Or just falling into words. The next single, 'Carry Me Back Home,' came out of my humming, 'We're falling down… we're falling down' kind of like that child's song. Everything comes from something!

What can you share about your writing process?

99.9% of the time, the music comes first. Then I sort of scat syllables into a melody to land on lyrics. I'm best with a deadline or some sort of time frame to write. There's nothing super magic about it for me, although there are moments where I think, 'Hey, that's interesting!' — I just need to do the work to get the things written and finished.

Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?

I mean, have you 'heard' Wet Leg? The new Jack White album is a masterpiece. Amyl and the Sniffers' LP is fantastic. We opened our tour with a 1-minute garage rock version of Gaspard Augé's 'Force Majeure.' Meredith Edgar is my new singer crush. She's the next Nikki Lane. I saw Idles on Halloween at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown, CA, and my life has been forever altered.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? New material? Live gigs?

I am currently simmering 3 or 4 LPs worth of recordings half-finished—a lot of moody acoustic and piano, and also some really loud rock. The problem is summer is here, and I just want to go play loud. So, I'm glad the new album 'The Special Party' has a lot of spit and grit on it! We have shows booked here in the Bay area of California once a month until August; then, I'll head back out to Colorado for a few shows around seeing My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks. I'm hoping to take the 5-piece Boys out again on the east coast in late fall, too. Thanks for the great questions!

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