Serlin Greaves Are Happy to Create Sad Songs

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Daniel Greaves (left) & Joey Serlin (right)
Full Interview

What do you do after dominating the charts in the mid 90s, getting JUNO nods and reaching Platinum status with your albums?

One thing for sure, it will be tied to music.

Joey Serlin and Daniel Greaves revisit The Watchmen when they occasionally tour, but their day to day is tied to different projects.

Joey owns Vapor Music, and Daniel owns Motel Bar in Toronto.  The motel might not have rooms, but plenty of musical guests have graced their stage, when they are not playing Winnipeg Jets games for patrons, and you can always buy vinyl when you visit.

“It feels like when people have a few too many drinks, they feel like buying music” says Daniel kiddingly.

We spoke with Daniel at the bar, the day after the Jets got knocked out of the play-offs by the Habs.

Ever the gentleman, he will cheer on any Canadian team that gets closer to the Cup.

While Daniel has a love for hockey, it’s his love for music that brings us together today.

Origin Story

This love of music started as a child, specifically with Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel.

“My mom had that vinyl, and I wore it out!  That style of music still resonates today.  There’s a lot of sadness on that record.”

With a small collection of A Capella songs in his back pocket, Daniel will choose the one that needs to be sung on any particular night seconds before he starts performing it.  For many, that is the highlight of the set.

For decades, Daniel has sung Richard Cory A Capella from that record, linking him to the pre-teen ears who heard that story.

The songs speaks about feeling different and Daniel can relate to that message, especially with a memory from his youth. 

Being Different

When second grade Daniel asked his mom what the “N” word meant, one day after school, “she lost it.”  

Unbeknownst to young Daniel, his parents put together a screening of the film The Ugly Duckling for the whole grade.  

“The message I got from it, as a grade two person:  Don’t worry if you are a dark duck, you will eventually grow up to be a white swan.”  

He admits it may have been the wrong message.  

While all the other kids went to recess, Daniel found his way to the film projector room armed with a pair of scissors, and he destroyed the film.

“I got caught and insanity ensued.”  

Now, 45 years older, that memory still resonates.  He doesn’t regret it, but there is a reason why it left an imprint.

“I was the only kid that had any color going to the school that I was going to.  In small town Winnipeg, in the 70s, the only person of colour I knew was my dad and his crazy family” admits Daniel with a smile.   

Just like Richard Cory, you can’t judge people by what you see on the exterior.

Similarly, Teenage Heart reminds us that we don’t always understand, nor do we accept who we are till later on in life.  

“It’s a life-long journey.  There are a lot of people that are my age that still don’t know who they are.”  

Reflecting back on being exposed to the “N” word for the first time and the ignorance of what it meant, was a “safety switch.  I shouldn’t have known what that word meant at that age.  I got the full picture later on, but I’m grateful I didn’t get the full picture when I was 8.”  

Yet, children and young adults these days don’t have that safety switch, which the song Teenage Heart reflects on.  

Daniel mentions the concept of “age compression”, a marketing term that targets young children.  

“A 10 year old now knows way more than a 10 year old in the 70s.  For some reason, people want to grow up faster.”  

As the song suggests, “Just take your tender damaged teenage heart and build your walls around it.”  

Or, like Daniel, take a pair of scissors and cut up the script that others are trying to write for you.

“It’s about guarding your kids, keeping them close.”

For that reason, the band chose to highlight Kids Help Phone at the end of the video.

“It felt right.  Mental health is a big deal these days.  Thankfully, we are able to talk about it more.  Generations now are talking about that stuff and it’s only of benefit.” 

Sad Songs

Happy songs make us happy, but sad songs don’t necessarily make us sad.

“I always loved sad tunes.  I’m a big REM fan.  I love the last songs on records, especially REM records.  They are always these plaintive sort of moments…this place to end up on…this righteous spot.”  

For the last song on their record, 2 Days, “when we knew that song was going to be on the record, we knew it would be last.  You want to put a nice piece of punctuation at the end to 12 songs that are meant to be a full record, a beginning, middle and end.”  

Even when a sad song makes us sad, there is a cathartic aspect to it.  “When I put on a sad tune…and I do that a lot…it’s just part of my musical therapy…it makes me contemplative or makes me look further.  It ends and you get to the other side of it.”  

The Making of The Record

“One of the things I like about this record and the process of it is that it felt very organic to me.”

Two friends, for over 4 decades, with a common love of music getting together to help each other out with some songs that had a wish to be created.

At the end of the process, “hey man…I think we got a record here.  It ended up being something really special.  It was a little accidental.”  

It brought them back to a time when they rehearsed in Joey’s basement, before the money, the fame and the record company demands.

“We were doing it for ourselves and I’m grateful that it’s not the primary way that I feed my family so there is so much less pressure.  You are doing it, as they say on The Bachelor:  For all the right reasons.”

The WatchFans

Fans of The Watchmen are pleased with this new release and for Daniel, many of these songs could have been a Watchmen release.  

“I feel Teenage Heart could have Watchmen written all over it.”  

The duo naturally felt a need to explore different players and inspirations.  

Some of these songs might just show up at the next Watchmen gigs, if all goes well.

The Horseshoe Hootenanny Livestream Concerts will feature Serlin Greaves on August 12, 2021.

Fame

Fame in the 90s and now are a different beast altogether.

Daniel occasionally gets recognized on the street today, and he is grateful for that.  

“I feel like an old man, in terms of how kids are doing what they are doing.  It was easier back then. Now, the rewards can be greater, quicker, but the downfalls can be greater, quicker.  I can go play a sold-out show at the Danforth Toronto and come back to the bar to plunge a toilet.  I wouldn’t take it any other way.”

Fantasy Rock Band

When asked to create the ultimate Fantasy Rock Band, Daniel chose the following.

Singer:  Eddie Vedder

Guitar:  Johnny Marr (The Smiths)

Bass:  Ken Tizzard (The Watchmen) or John Entwistle (The Who)

Drums:  Steve Gadd (Session player who also played with Simon & Garfunkle) whom Daniel describes as one with “the lightest hands and the lightest touch.”  

A link between many of these musicians is that they do write sad songs.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever written a happy song.  It can be celebratory and the beats per minute can be urgent, but there is always a darkness hanging around.  It’s easier to say thoughtful things when there is a bit of mournfulness surrounding the music and the lyrics.”  

“Mournful, thoughtful” are the two words Daniel uses to describe the album Sad Songs For Sale.

Seasick in the latest track. Give it a listen and see if you agree.


Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs with out of the box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives.

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