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Atlanta’s Von Grey an ambitious, talented team of siblings

The girls of Von Grey (l-r): Kathyrn, 17; Fiona, 14; Annika, 16; and Petra, 12. Photo: Courtesy

The girls of Von Grey (l-r): Kathyrn, 17; Fiona, 14; Annika, 16; and Petra, 12. Photo: Courtesy

Here’s a typical day for the girls in Von Grey: School work at home from late morning until 3 p.m. Two hours of rehearsal time as a group, then another couple of hours of individual practice. Wednesday and Sundays are five-hour rehearsal days – cut from their former musical workout of seven and a half hours a day, three days a week.

Ambitious, much?

Not only is the quartet of sisters (last name Von Grey) from Johns Creek bright, well-spoken and mature beyond their years, they’re also crazy-talented.

Annika, 16, and Fiona, 14, are the primary singers and songwriters (Annika plays violin, banjo and guitar, Fiona guitar and violin), while sisters Kathryn, 17, and Petra, 12, round out the group on cello and mandolin and keyboards and lap steel guitar, respectively.

Think they’ve mastered enough instruments?

The girls recently convened at an Alpharetta Starbucks to talk about their burgeoning career, which, if you want to get technical, started when each was 5-years-old and first picked up an instrument.

Over the years, they’ve performed high-profile gigs, such as opening for Sarah McLachlan at Chastain Park Amphitheatre two years ago after winning a Lilith Fair-based contest, but otherwise honed their craft the old-fashioned way – by playing any venue possible, wherever possible, as long as mom Jill is willing to steer them there in the family’s trusty Honda Pilot, complete with a “hitch-on thing” for their gear (dad Mike is an entrepreneur who is a frequent traveler himself).

Von Grey just released a self-titled EP (available on Amazon and iTunes), recorded at Third Day’s studio in Kennesaw with producer Nick DiDia (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Train). Of the excellent five-song collection, “Coming for You” best represents the girls’ brand of what they classify as “alternative folk” – equal parts lush harmonies and rustic instrumentation, angelic vocals and thoughtful lyrics.

“We wanted to make sure the songs we decided to record were the ones we were feeling at the time,” said Fiona, who, along with Annika, tends to dominate a conversation not in a bossy way, but a purely democratic one.

Since they are sisters, of course they have their moments when sibling love is better represented in theory than in practice. But the girls appear to have a natural, easy-going rapport with each other.

Von Grey hopes to record a full-length album in 2013. Photo: Courtesy

Von Grey hopes to record a full-length album in 2013. Photo: Courtesy

Kathryn, who is a senior in high school and might take a year off to concentrate on the band before possibly pursuing college and her interest in industrial design, is the shyest and quietest of the bunch, while Petra, the baby, seems happy to let her older sisters handle the talking, though her interest is apparent when asked what kind of music she listens to outside of the band.

“I don’t really listen to much pop music, but right now I am listening to a lot of Alanis Morissette. I love her. I like her emotion and her vocals,” Petra said.

Von Grey’s musical influences say a lot about them as musicians. Growing up, Annika recalls their parents playing artists such as Terence Trent D’Arby around the house. Now, their musical persuasions range from Talking Heads to Jethro Tull to Nickel Creek.

Annika is also listening to a lot of electronic music, such as The Knife (a Swedish duo) and Grimes, and would like to incorporate those elements into Von Grey’s full-length album, which they hope to write and record next year.

“We’re just striving to create art that is an emotional art form,” Annika said. “If you go to a live show or buy the record, however you’re introduced to us, we’re really trying to keep our music as authentic as possible, even if we’re introducing things that are a little more synthetic sonically.”

The girls are spending some time this month performing in Nashville, then will head west for a series of shows in November in California and the Pacific Northwest before heading back to Georgia (they play Savannah Dec. 8 and Eddie’s Attic Dec. 29).

Their goal is simple: Get more people to hear their music.

Von Grey has picked up airplay in Denver, Charleston, S.C., Mobile, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn., and plans to meet with programmers at SiriusXM satellite radio.

But they’re intent on building a grassroots following, even though it would possible be quicker to take the route favored my many musicians today – reality TV.

Annika noted that the group was once contacted by a popular  TV talent show and told they could bypass the initial audition portion of the show. But, she said, “We want to be seen as authentic and don’t want people to think we took the easy road.”

That might be the response expected from someone who is reading books about neo-paganism and Aztec religions in her spare time.

But the truth is, all of the Von Grey girls possess an innate desire to, if not conquer the music industry, at least have a comfortable place in it.

“Since we are young, it’s easy for people to say, ‘Oh, they’re not true artists,’” Fiona said. “But even though you’re young, you can be just as dedicated.”

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

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