The need for a hit record is many artists’ loud battle cry. But brothers Kyle and Michael Trewartha, who go by Grey and rock locks of the same color, have already quietly struck gold multiple times on the Billboard charts. Since their project’s inception in 2015, they’ve scored a series of hits — most recently with the Maren Morris-sung “The Middle” — and been taken under the wing of dance-pop superstar Zedd.
Kyle and Michael started their journey like most scrappy producers, releasing bootlegs (unofficial remixes) on SoundCloud. “We’d go online and find these bootleg a cappellas — which are basically DIY a cappellas where people try to take out the vocals from a song, but it doesn’t sound very good because it’s kind of messed up and there’s issues,” says Michael.
While the process was far from glamorous, their rework of “Where Are Ü Now” by Jack Ü (Skrillex and Diplo‘s side project) fell into the hands of Skrillex, after a friend had given them an email to use for the dubstep superproducer. “We just kinda took a shot in the dark and sent it over, and we actually got a reply from him in like 10 minutes or something crazy,” says Michael.
Skrillex ended up being a fan, and asked the guys to send over more music. At the time, the other record they had on hand was a remix of “Beautiful Now” from Zedd’s True Colors album. “We sent that over and he forwarded it to Zedd and Dave Rene [Zedd’s manager],” Michael says. The next day, they were invited in for a meeting at Interscope.
“At that time, I think I was working at Olive Garden in Orange County,” Michael recalls. Kyle jumps in, saying, “I was near Santa Monica, just struggling. It was just really good timing for us, because that enabled Michael to move up to L.A., and then we could actually work legitimately, instead of having to drive an hour and a half every time we wanted to make a song.”
The brothers met Zedd for the first time in September 2015 at the Staples Center, where he was headlining. “We’d been listening to his music since 2009 or 2010,” Kyle explains, “and so we didn’t really know what to expect. He’s just a really genuine, really cool guy, and somehow he’s just created a whole team around him that’s just like that as well. It’s been really inspiring just watching him work and seeing that. If you keep a cool attitude, it just gives me hope that positivity leads to really big things if you just keep at it.”
Since meeting, they’ve become great friends, and have found chemistry in the studio on numerous occasions. They’ve released three original songs together, two of which have landed in the Hot 100; “Starving” with Hailee Steinfeld peaked at No. 12, and “The Middle” with Maren Morris continues to climb the chart, currently sitting at No. 6.
Zedd, born Anton Zaslavski, has not only been a collaborator for the brothers, but also a mentor. “We just throw down a bunch of paint on the canvas and he [Zedd] comes and makes it simple, and that’s something we’re trying to learn from him,” Kyle says. “It’s one thing to have a bunch of ideas and throw it all down and it’s messy, but I think that takes someone smarter than you and better than you, to decide what things are worth keeping and what things should be let go — essentially, simplifying songs. I think that’s something we didn’t really understand until we met Anton.”
In 2017, Grey dropped their first separate original — “I Miss You,” featuring Bahari, who had previously been featured on Zedd’s True Colors cut “Addicted To A Memory.” “I Miss You” peaked at No. 21 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and has accrued nearly 30 million Spotify streams to date. The record was later followed by a self-released, five-track EP titled Chameleon. The set’s name resonated with the duo, as they feel it symbolizes their project.
“The way I see it is we don’t really have any one sound, and I don’t ever really want to have a ‘sound,’ says Kyle. “I don’t want you to ever be able to say, ‘This is what Grey uses,’ for instance. We don’t ever want to be stuck to one thing. We want to shift and glide around.”
The EP showcases a variety of features, including a rare appearance from pop-punk rocker Avril Lavigne, who has been rather quiet on the music front since 2013. “We got hit up by Dave Rene, our manager [at the time], and he said, ‘Hey, Avril Lavigne reached out because she’s a fan of “Starving,”‘” Michael explains. “I showed her a song from the EP, which was ‘Wings Clipped,’ and she loved it. She said it was such a cool vibe, with the rock influences in it. We were down to have her cut a verse, and she said she was down, which was kind of crazy. We went over to her house and met her, she was really nice. She showed us some of her new album, and we cut the song. It was awesome.”
The EP, while not flashy in scale and numbers, contributes to the group’s 20-plus million monthly listeners on Spotify, a platform they greatly value.”I just think it’s cool how Spotify has created a platform where… even if you’re not signed, they’ll help you in so many ways that a label would help you,” says Michael. He references rapper/producer gnash and his hit song “i hate u, i love u” with Olivia O’Brien, which has well over 600 million streams on the platform. “I think that’s inspiring for new artists,” he shares.
Kyle says the modern streaming landscape is something they’ve been talking about a lot lately. “I know some people who could sell out huge shows all around the world, but their streaming game is just not there at all, and vice versa,” he says. “For us, we definitely do focus on streaming, because we want to be the kind of music that people listen to at home, not just when they’re out on a Saturday night or something like that.”
Despite their massive presence on the streaming front, it’s still relatively unknown as to whether that will translate to the live side. Most of their touring to date has been opening for Zedd, hopping from arena to arena. However, the guys plan on pursuing a solo headline tour, and revealed to Billboard that one is in the works. They added that it will be a live show, too, citing Porter Robinson and Madeon‘s Shelter tour as “super-inspiring” and “really fresh.”
How would the duo describe Grey in one sentence? “Pushing the boundaries of catchy,” Michael offers.