around town and out of control with lawrence bray

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by — Posted in The Sixties

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.

Photo of Lawrence Bray leaning against a graffitied wall.

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): rather​rar​ere​cords​.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.)

Lawrence Bray: cover of Queen's LIVE AT WEMBLEY '86 album.

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?

LB: 25.

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.

Lawrence Bray: photo of dancer Terri Garr from the 1967 movie THE COOL ONES.

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.

Psyche-paisley mini-skirts

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) . . .

Photo of Lawrence Bray sitting against a stone wall and wooden door.

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​.face​book​.com/​L​a​w​r​e​n​c​e​B​r​a​y​M​u​sic and a  http://​lawrence​bray​.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 . . .

Around Town's sin­gle Out Of Con­trol will be get­ting a lot of spins in this house! Click To Tweet


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