LAST WEEK, I RECEIVED AN EMAIL from a young musician that I had never heard of. (No big deal there: my ignorance of musicians young or old of the past few decades might cause you to titter in wonder at the immensity of it.) His name was Lawrence Bray, which set off no alarms of memory in my aging brain.
I did remark to myself (although not aloud—I may be aging but I’m not that old yet) that Bray was not a common surname. In fact, the only Bray I know is a wee town in Berkshire County, England. And the only reason I know about that is that Hammer Film Productions shot a lot of their horror movies of the 1950s and early ‘60s there, and I was a big horror move fan as a kid. (I had a subscription to Famous Monsters Of Filmland.)
Bray is also, by chance, where fellow Irish-person and world-famous lapsed-Catholic Sinead O’Connor lives. So I read the email; here is Mr. Bray’s introductory message:
I do believe we are the first to go to their parents’ record collection and ask questions, discover new things—and when I say ‘we’ I mean my generation.
“I hope you don't mind me writing in and introducing myself and my music. I'm a singer/songwriter in the indie/rock 'n' roll genre based in London. BEST SERVED LOUD is my first solo EP under UReckon Records, since striking out on my own at the beginning of 2014, having been the front man and writer for indie/rock 'n' roll band ScenicLife.
I recorded this EP in London in July 2014 and worked with a fantastic new producer Tommy Gleeson, ex-front man of Slaves to Gravity. The EP was mastered by none other than Pete Maher, of Lana Del Ray/U2/The Killers/Oasis fame.
The sound I was aiming for, and believe Tommy and I did achieve, is a distinctive one. It reflects my style and I think will appeal to the many millions of people who’ve followed the British guitar band invasion ranging from bands like The Beatles, The Who, Oasis, Stereophonics, etc.
All of which are classic examples of my influences. I’m a great believer in songs that have a great melody—a strong melody will always win. Thanks for reading and hopefully hooking up to my sounds. I hope you enjoy it. Cheers.”
Now I am, of course, a big fan of the Beatles and the Who, and I certainly know who U2 (one of the better bands of the post-‘60s rock-pop world) and Oasis are, but the other names could have all been made up and I wouldn’t know!
So, having other (better?) things to do, I did not hook up to his sounds via the links that he had politely provided me. Nope. I moved the email over to the Delete file.
If you live and breathe the Sixties
A few days later, I received a “connection” request via LinkedIn from Mr. Bray. Persistent, cheeky little bugger I thought. But, well, I have yet to figure out the value of having any connections on LinkedIn but—Hell’s Belles!—why not? Since we were now connected, I went back to my deleted emails, retrieved Bray's, and sent him the following:
“Thanks for the connection via LinkedIn! Send me a link to your music and I will give a listen. (But keep in mind that I am an old phaurght and still live and breathe the Sixties.) I have a website/blog devoted to record collecting (more or less): ratherrarerecords.com. I just posted a piece on grading still sealed albums. Give it a read, please, and make a comment or ten!”
And he did, Grommett bless ‘im. He visited my site, read a piece or two, and left a couple of comments. And he responded a few hours later:
“Thanks for the message. If you live and breathe the Sixties, then I reckon my track Out Of Control by a band I'm in (side project as I'm really concentrating on my solo career) should be one that you like. My own influences stem from Jimi Hendrix (listening to him is what made me take up learning the guitar), The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who on up to Oasis/Stereophonics and the Britpop era. Hopefully, I can put a 2014+ stamp on it. Cheers!”
So now I owed him: so I clicked on the first link he provided and found this:
Wow! I was pleased. I was impressed. I posted the YouTube link to Out Of Control on my Facebook page with the following remarks:
“Hey! I just connected with this young musician on LinkedIn and I sent him a message asking for a link to some of his music. I alerted him to the fact that I was, in fact, an old phaurght living and loving the music of the Sixties.
He sent me this in return and I now have a new Faverave Record of the 21st Century!!! (Okay, nothing's going to knock Cheryl Crow's Out Of Our Heads outta my head, but Around Town's Out Of Control will be getting a lot of spins in this household.)
And Berni took one look at this video and said, ‘Omygod, he looks like he could be your son!’ ”
Around Town looks sounds and feels like they may be channeling the proverbial ‘spirit of the sixties’: the first thing that got my attention was the McCartney-ish bass-line followed by the Beatles-eque harmonies. (No, they’re not John Paul George but they make me think John Paul George and that’s just fine, thank you.)
What does Queen's Live At Wembley '68 album have to do with this story? Read on . . .
Lawrence Bray and magic swirling stripes
Mr. Bray’s vocals reflect whatever the hell it is about the ‘60s that Tom Petty’s vocals reflect, and being a big Tom Petty fan made this all the better! Listen here and hear the electric sitar that introduces a new theme towards the end, followed by the ‘psychedelic’ sounds/effects in the coda (and a trumpet obligato ala Penny Lane).
And the video itself is the most straight-out fun that I have had watching a pop-rock video since first seeing Pop’s Pop Goes My Heart seven years ago. (This is NOT said in jest . . .)
So, I emailed Lawrence and asked if he would be interested in an interview-like series of questions-and-answers and received an affirmative answer So, here we go (and keep in mind that this was pieced together from several emails between us).
This article was originally posted in November 2014—but I've spruced it up with all the technical tricks I have learned since then, so that it looks better and therefore reads better!
NU: Why did you contact me via LinkedIn?
LB: Well, it’s another opportunity to try to get my music in front of you—gotta use everything available!
NU: Good for you, and I am flattered that you even thought of me! How old are you?
NU: You're my daughter's age. Oh well. I considered doing an interview similar to those done in such teenybopper magazines of the '60s as 16 and Tiger Beat (“What color are your eyes?” “What do you look for in a girl”). This was the first of those questions. But I have to keep in mind that irony is often difficult to get across in face-to-face conversation—where it is best suited—and damn near impossible on the Internet.
LB: I agree.
NU: What was the first record you ever bought with your own money?
LB: My first record was the double-album QUEEN LIVE AT WEMBLEY '86. I got very into them and as a first record, I think that’s a pretty good one. I was only 12.
NU: I have had a looooooon love/hate relationship with Queen. Fortunately, in my old age, the love is winning out and I am seeing Freddie’s humor and wondering how I missed it all along.
LB: I have the same love/hate relationship now mainly because a drummer in my first band was obsessed with them to the point it’s almost put me off Queen.
NU: Over exposure can have that effect on almost anyone about almost anything. So, are you a record collector?
LB: I am to certain degree. I must admit I don’t actively look for the rarest of Beatles REVOLVER copies or anything, but I applaud those who do and am very interested when meeting people who do have this passion for collecting.
NU: Well, I am impressed that you even know about the collectable pressings of REVOLVER. The big one is a Parlophone mono with an alternative take (mix?) of Tomorrow Never Knows.
Terri Garr and teenyweeny waist in her skintight mini-skirt in The Cool Ones, a long forgotten movie from 1967 that starred Roddy McDowall and appearances by Mrs. Miller, the Leaves, the Bantams, and pre-stardom Glen Campbell.
So back to my response to the single and the video (this is where I get to do a stream-of-altered-conscious bit that I first picked up in Norman Spinrad's '60s novels):
Yeah yeah yeah it’s a pastiche with a Union Jack guitar and the oh-so-groovily gorgeous dancers in their psyche-paisley mini-skirts and white go-go boots channeling Terri Garr and Dawn Michaels against a black and white op art background and the backdrop may be even a nod in the direction of Pop Goes My Heart by Pop those forgotten superstars of the ‘80s and thank Grommett it’s static ‘cause I don’t need to be taken for a trip upon some magic swirling stripes ‘cause they would have been a distraction from the band and especially from the girls and the faux psychedelic visuals during the song’s bridge that would have been perfect on the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour and all the while the boys in the band are practicing their El Lay cool posturing that would have done the Byrds proud so please please me and watch this video several times like I did!
Hoping you all caught my enthusiasm for Around Town's music there. Back to Mr. Bray . . .
NU: Who wrote Out Of Control?
LB: A guy called Mike Godfrey, who also arranged and produced the song. He heard me singing and offered me the chance to record a track and video with him. It’s a great song and so I thought, ‘Why not?’
NU: Please pass along my compliments to Mr. Godfrey? You think he might want to answer a couple of questions here?
LB: I’m sure he’d be up for that if you want to email over the questions.
NU: Was it released as a vinyl single? If so, label and catalogue number?
LB: It was scheduled for release in October as a digital single but has been pulled until February of 2015, as he's running the promotion of the track alongside radio plugging/play.
NU: Get any attention on the radio or elsewhere?
LB: Well we’ve been played on the Gary Crowley show BBC Introducing—which is great—and lots of digital radio stations. The DJ known as Mr. Peeps seems to be a pretty big fan. The track has also been picked up for a new film House Of Manson.
NU: You must get a vinyl 45 with picture sleeve out. Maybe even a limited edition sleeve tied in with the Manson movie.
LB: I’ll mention it to Mike. I know my manager Michelle has already done that. The artwork for the single is nice though—I’m sending you over the image separately.
NU: Who conceived of the video? Director?
LB: I’m not too sure. I think it was a collaboration between Mike and the director. Was great fun though—and the girls were hot!
NU: All of the young ladies are gorgeous but the woman with the curly blonde hair is enough to make me wish that I was thirty years younger so that I could hop a plane and fly over and have you introduce me. If my wife would allow me to, of course . . .
LB: Now, I’d like to be a fly on the wall when you pose the question (ha ha) . . .
When I say ‘we’ I mean my generation
So that's a start. I asked Mr. Bray for a very brief statement on his experience as an indie artist in the 21st century to close this out:
“Well, the market for it is there. We just need the guys at the top to recognise it. I do believe we—and when I say ‘we’ I mean my generation—are the first to go to their parents’ record collection and ask questions, discover new things. Is this good or bad? I think it’s good, it’s keeping that style of music alive and there are plenty of bands doing that style of music. If we keep at it, we’ll get there!”
Mr Bray has a Facebook: www.facebook.com/LawrenceBrayMusic and a http://lawrencebray.com/
You can purchase Out Of Control as an MP3 Download on Amazon (of course), where you will find my comment lavishly praising the music and the group!
PS1: When Berni saw the first few seconds of the Out Of Control video, what she really said was, “He looks like your brother!” In fairness to Mr. Bray, I am waaaaay too old for him to be my brother, but I knew what she meant: if you took pictures of me and my brother Charles when we were 25 and pasted them alongside a photo of Lawrence at 25, we would look like siblings!
PS2: If Grommett was in a good mood the day that the Out Of Control video was made (and He is always in a good mood, unlike some deities I could mention . . .), He made certain that the gorgeous dancers went out with the boys in the band for a cup of tea after the shoot. Then they would be around town and out of control with Lawrence Bray and the boys in the band!
PS3: As mentioned above, Lawrence Bray has a solo EP, BEST SERVED LOUD, which is also good. But as I wanted to focus this piece on the single and the video for Out Of Control . . .