Lush and layered, churning and simmering, WRAY arrived with their self-titled debut album on July 15 of last year on the Communicating Vessels imprint. Turned a lot of heads with the opening single “Apacheria” (#20 track, end-of-year listener poll), teased before the album’s release. Next thing you know, impressive hits kept coming. “Bad Heart”, all driving propulsion with psych vibes. “Blood Moon”, a grimy but tuneful slab of of Swervedriver with a new millennium cool. “Relative”, intricately balanced and beautiful. Suddenly Wray have become a force to be reckoned with. Self-described as “power-gaze”, this Birmingham, Alabama trio brings it consistently, and doesn’t quit until you give in.
But that was LAST year. Wray is upping their game even now, in advance of their second album and national tour. “Hypatia” (live performance at Communicating Vessels,) keeps their trademark restrained tension, but adds complex guitar lines that would make Violens jealous. If this be any indication, the dreaded “difficult second album” will be that much better than the first. We harassed Blake and David B. from Wray, trying to figure out what made them tick. This is the result.
DKFM: Put together the words “Alabama” and “shoegaze”, all that comes to mind for years has been The Sunshine Factory. Now you arrive, fully realized, and practically own the tag. How did you get here? How did this project come about?
Blake: The Davids have known each other and had played in previous bands together. David Swatzell and I have been roommates for a few years now. Through that we shared musical tastes and played together in a very loose sense. The idea came up to start working on something new. Originally it was both Davids on guitar while we felt around for a bassist. Eventually David Brown moved to bass and it stuck. He’s very sticky.
David B: We are all a fan of that genre and the like. The first official band that David Swatzell and I collaborated on fit nicely into that realm back in 2003. I think the birth of Wray was a cultivation of chemistry and present time.
DKFM: BIG national tour last year. What was the experience like?
Blake: It was great. New city, new people, new venue, new experience…every night. It’s always interesting to see how crowds react, especially when they have no idea who you are.
David B: Rewarding.
DKFM: Influences? What goes into crafting this sound, even as it is evolving?
Blake: Influences are abundant. With three people, with varying tastes, there are a lot. Music, books, film, we all bring something with us, whether we know it or not. Lately, I’ve been on a bit of an electronica/dance (for lack of a better term) tear. Not to say we’re going to be blasting out 4 on the floor, disco-dance, romper stompers anytime soon, but I do think the thought process — the give and take of electronic music, the builds, the releases, is there in my mind. Having a repeating theme and then playing with the space around it. Plus, I love to dance.
David B: The writing process is organic and our influences are vast. I have a deep interest in new wave/post punk, avant garde, minimalism, pop, classical music and the visual elements related.
DKFM: On evidence of “Hypatia” alone, we’d expect your next album to become a MONSTER hit. What do we know about the next release, working title, theme, release date?
Blake: A monster hit, eh? Well thanks… I’m gonna hold you to that. We’re currently working on the next LP. I’m actually writing this from the studio (multi-tasking!). As far as progress goes, we’ve definitely passed the halfway mark. Getting to the stage of pinning everything down, putting things in their right place. We’re shooting for a late summer release, but time seems to be speeding up. We need a visit to that water planet in Interstellar; could use some time dilation.
David B: We do not have a release date yet, we are currently working on a title. I can say that, lyrically, the album explores concepts of metaphysics and futurism.
DKFM: Following up with tour and festival dates? And what can fans expect from a live Wray performance?
Blake: We’re about to head out West again with Native Lights for a few weeks…late February til late March. We’ll come back for a break and hopefully wrap up everything for the next release. Then we’ll head Northeast for a couple of weeks. I would hope that someone coming to one of our shows would, if anything, enjoy the music, the show in general. We try to create an environment through not only our music, but also visuals. We’re working on some new ideas, but for a while now we’ve been blanketing the stage with projections of really early computer animation. It’s abstract, but repetitive. There’s a lot of movement and fluidity in it as well, the idea being that it intertwine with our sound to create something larger and more engrossing. Zone in and get lost.
DKFM: Finally, anything you’d like to share with your new fans, about Wray, about the scene, or about independent music?
Blake: I’m grateful that we have fans at all. I love doing what we do, and the fact that people also find something in it, makes it all the more better. Let’s be friends… bring money.