Greg Keys & Company’s Greg Keys views pop as a transformational entity dependent entirely on the audience | Ashley Rose Stanol

“For a lot of people, especially musicians and food-and-bev people, the new normal seems like double the amount of work that it used to be,” said local indie musician Greg Keys. “We had that whole year off. We were stressed out, wondering if we had to switch careers. We have to be on the scene, so this new normal is a little bit crazy.”

 Keys was playing gigs last year when people were still afraid to leave their houses. It’s not that he wasn’t worried, but he needed income. “I wanted to save for a home, save for a car,” he said. 

 Nowadays, for Charleston-based synth-pop rock group Greg Keys & Company, it’s gone from zero shows a week to 10 between private events and making up all the weddings that were cancelled last year. “This year you have to get two years of work done in one year. Yet you’ve had one less year to accomplish everything for your dreams. Your timeline has been pushed back and now you want to push it forward.”

Keys’ musical adventure began with practicing piano in college, which he bought using the $1,000 he won after placing first in a male pageant a sorority put on. He ended up working a 9-to-5 job, and he thought he would play shows to get his mind off of things, which resulted in the assembly of the Charleston-based alternative band City On Down and multiple tours. Then, he switched gears.

Keys & Company started taking shape three years ago when bassist Grayson Lentz reached out to Keys on Facebook and they began to steadily perform together, which led to the formation of the crew that includes drummer Wyatt Mazyck, guitarists Casey Schenkel and David George Sink, saxophonists Jamal Hall and Davis Lentz and vocalist Faith Schueler. 

With people unsure if it’s all closing down again, everyone is trying to get in as much life as possible these days.

“You have to make the most of everything quickly, seize a lot of opportunities quickly,” Keys said. “We normally take three months to promote a show, and we’re saying, ‘OK we have one month let’s see what happens.’”

Saturday, Sept. 11 is the band’s big pop show at Windjammer with eight musicians and two dancers on stage. Fifteen percent of the proceeds go to the New York Fire Department nonprofit FDNY Foundation. The production on the Windjammer outdoor stage will feature intricate arrangements of the group’s easy listening pop songs. “We’ve spent hours tracking out and recording in the studio. It’s not so much a jam session as a synchronized performance.”

Keys views pop as a transformational entity by nature. “Pop is simply what is being seen and heard and enjoyed by a lot of people. That’s why we are keeping it open and allowing songs to be pulled in different directions. We’re always going to have guitar and sax and some sort of catchy riff or melody that will put us in the pop genre. For now, we want to make songs people can dance to and identify with.”

Then, Grayson, Lentz, Mazyck and Keys are planning a tour as a four-piece in the East in the fall and out to California in the spring. Uncertainty remains not just because the last tour that took six months to plan was cancelled, but also because of varying COVID regulations at venues.

“Our political spectrum throughout the group is diverse. In our band we are individuals first, and we like being that way.” 

If the gig economy can withstand the present tentativeness of the local music industry, Keys believes that Charleston is an ideal place to be for an up-and-coming artist.

“Being from New York, I think this is an easier city to become an artist and be self-sustainable. You can play seven nights a week here. There’s of course spaces that are going to book bigger bands, but there are tons of places with a smaller budget who give the guys starting out a chance.” 

“Everyone kind of lost themselves during COVID,” Keys said.

Right now, live music feels like a waiting game, similar to the premise behind the band’s new single “Bonfire” about unknown outcomes. 

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