UC Berkeley student musician Grey Davies speaks on the soul of Bay Area music scene

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Name: Grey Madison Warwick-Clark (Stage name Grey Davies)

Age: 21

Hometown: Oyster Bay, New York — this is where she was professionally trained, starting out on the tuba and in a choir before becoming the lead singer of a rock band memorably called Spanish Refrigerator.

Current residence: Crashing in Oakland — although she is currently trying to find a place closer to campus.

What she’s listening to: “Hella goth stuff,” as she puts it. She is a big fan of music featuring big drums and synthesizers.

Who she is: UC Berkeley music major by day; singer-songwriter, producer, radio host and performing artist by night.

Her voice: Grey Warwick-Clark walks over to my table at the Free Speech Movement Cafe with a friendly smile alight on her face. The cafe is, as always, vibrating with the anxiety of studying students, even this early in the semester. And as Warwick-Clark takes her seat across from me, the noise around us is an almost frightful reminder of the fact that we’re both students — even if we want to focus on our artistic pursuits.

For me, it is writing; and for her, it is music.

Small talk ensues, and when she tells me that she’s just come from a radio station, I get the feeling that we are stopping the chitchat and getting to the interview — an interview I expect to be very interesting.

“I started out as the lead singer of a rock band,” says Warwick-Clark. “I started there, came to Cal, started getting into the electronic music scene … but I really wasn’t getting booked as a DJ.” She smiles. “Somebody recommended to me that I go to SAE … so now I sing, I produce, I work with a lot of other artists.”

She explains that SAE Expression College is a vocational school in Emeryville dedicated to digital media and creative arts; her entire face lights up when talking about this school. She tells me about the people that she was introduced to while interning at a studio, as well as about other musicians she has collaborated with and met through her school. There are several names, and most are unfamiliar to me save for Keak da Sneak (whose name drop earns a gasp on my part).

We move onto her childhood in New York and her history with music. Knowing that she, someone who is active in the underground world of Bay Area artists, must encounter many self-taught musicians, I ask if she thinks professional training is a must.

“(It’s) overrated,” she says immediately, clearly having pondered this before. “And … being able to figure out for yourself what it means to be a performer, that’s underrated. … You have to be very careful about how much you really want to listen to other people when you’re developing yourself as a musician.”

She talks about the Bay Area music scene in a visceral way that reveals her intimate respect and awareness of other musicians working in the same underground as her.

“It’s a different ethos (in the Bay Area),” says Warwick-Clark. “In New York, it’s a lot of skill and showmanship and professionalism. … Over here it’s culture, and it’s soul.” She continues, “In New York I would’ve been worried about, oh, how professional does this sound? In the Bay Area, what you can say with your music is more important.”

She also credits the Bay Area’s music scene with freeing her up to make art she wants to make. It makes sense that she has wholly subscribed to the eclectic whims of the Bay’s sounds.

Activism through music comes up, and Warwick-Clark sighs knowingly when I tell her about the allegations against Brockhampton’s Ameer Vann.

“The cracks in the system are showing through,” she says. “I think women are having their moment right now. Not that it should ever be a moment — it should be our entire lives.”

We talk about her musical influences (the standard pop idols, before Berkeley introduced her to club music) and her experience producing her debut album. She’s even dabbled as a rapper. This, admittedly, surprises me but not as much as the revelation that she moonlights as a host on Berkeley Liberation Radio — a pirate radio station based in Oakland.

Hence her arrival to campus from a radio station. Suddenly the beginning of our conversation makes sense, bringing the image of this artist full circle.

Our interview takes 32 minutes but feels like it goes by so much faster. I’m worried (even now) that I’ll never be able to portray Warwick-Clark as the multifaceted person she is — everything she tells me is another fascinating layer.

After we have parted ways, I think back to something Warwick-Clark told me toward the end of our exchange:

“The people who were doing shit that we thought was weird, they’re rolling in it,” she said. “We are at a very high level of artist freedom, and when you give artists freedom, you give them their capability to express, their capacity to make meaningful work. So the more that we let artists roam free, the better off we are.”

Contact Alex Jiménez at [email protected]. Tweet her at @alexluceli.