Wray kicked off their brief regional tour Tuesday night at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn and they brought their epic lights and massive wall of sound with them. The band, who are out in anticipation of their pending LP Hypatia, due out January 2016, drew an insider crowd of musicians and friends for this rainy Tuesday night. Wray has been compared with the shoegazey acts of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, but their brand is far more sophisticated and energetic than these associations. Lead guitarist and co-vocalist David Swatzell brings a heart pounding presence with a massive, overdriven, vintage tone, while bassist David Brown rounds out the noise with his rhythmic bass lines and smooth vocal melodies. Commanding the atmospheric backing tracks and providing the tightly punctuated groove is Blake Wimberly on the drums.
Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, the members of Wray respectively have been fixtures on the local scene for over a decade and are part of a rich artistic community, which comes across in their style and aesthetic. The new LP Hypatia, released through Communicating Vessels is their sophomore release and has been in the works since their debut self titled EP was released for excellent reviews over a year ago. Before the show, the Beasts got to hang out with the guys and ask them a few questions.
Coming from different bands, can you tell a little about how you initially came together and how it affected Wray’s sound?
David S – David and I were in a band called Comrade together, it was very different. It was more of like an instrumental math-rock kind of thing. This was probably ten years ago. Blake and I were roommates. He was in a band with our sound guy. So that was the start, we just talked about it one night and it kind of came together.
Blake – It was kind of like two bands coming together but what we were doing was very different from each other.
So how’d you guys get involved with Communicating Vessels?
David S – I was in a band called the Grenadines for a while that was on that label. We’ve got a record on there but kind of imploded. But I was looking to do something new anyway. Actually, Wray was already on there. I’ve known Becka, the label manager, from way back, just from coming to shows in Birmingham and stuff and from all my old bands. Jeff the owner was in this band called Rumi Zero back in th 90’s and I’d known of them for a long time. When they were starting a label I was basically like ‘Hey, I’m making records, let’s do this.’ When the band I was previously in imploded I said well, I’ve got this new thing, you gotta come see us play live. They did and it all just kind of worked out from there.
Whats the writing and recording process like?
David B – Well, we usually start at the warehouse we practice at, which is where Blake works.
Blake – Free *laughs
David B – Usually it starts out with some bass and drums, then David will start adding melodies on top of it, then it’s kind of dissecting things, so we write write everything all together very organically.
David S – It’s very much pulling it out of thin air. Just coming together and kind of working it out. Then we’ll record it on an iphone and David will take it home and put it in to garageband and put some vocal melodies on top of it. And that’s generally the writing part of it. And then when we’re in the studio is when we’ll really dissect things and go ‘oh let’s take this section out or shorten this part’ or whatever it takes to kind of flush it out.
Cool, and do you record analog or in the box?
David S – Well for the last record we recorded analog to tape and then mixed in pro tools.
Blake – With the Neave! The label we’re on, Communicating Vessels, has a studio in house and it’s really nice stuff. So this new album coming out in January we got to do over there.
What’s the best and what’s the hardest thing about being a working musician?
David B – Touring can be hard. I’d say that’s the main challenge for us. We have a lot of support from the label and locally, so we get to do a lot of cool things. We’ll actually be playing with the Birmingham, Alabama symphony in January.
Blake – With a composer from Brooklyn actually, William Britelle.
David S – We’re working with him and he’s basically re-composing our songs and we’re writing together a bit too.
David B – With a full orchestra, which is kind of crazy. So, we get to do a lot of cool stuff like that.
David S – The hardest thing is probably the touring and still trying to pay bills at home and live your life.
Blake – But we get a ton of support from the locals. But even with all that it’s like next to impossible nowadays.
So what makes it worth it for you?
Blake – The opportunities to do things we otherwise would never do. To have something physical out there.
David S – It’s a really rewarding creative outlet, and I think that goes for any musician who writes music or performs.
Blake – It gives another outlet, and of course the traveling- city after city. You wouldn’t be doing that with most other jobs.
David B – The networking is also pretty rewarding. It’s exciting when we reach out to one of our favorite musicians and then he’s doing artwork for our next album.
I wanted to ask you that actually, who did the artwork for the first EP?
Davis B– The first EP? I did the physical artwork for it actually, but it was a local guy Roy Burns and Blake actually who was involved in the layout.
David S – The new record we worked with a girl from Brooklyn actually Tamaryn and a guy named Shaun Durkan who plays in a band who’s from here too.
So what does the future hold for you guys?
David S – Yeah well, new record January 15th, and getting ready for the symphony January 7th and we’ll take it from there. We’re ready to get this new album out, we worked on it for over a year so…
David S – It’s our sophomore release so the last year we’ve been either touring or recording, so we don’t take a lot of time off ever. Maybe a week here or there but for the most part we stay really busy
Make sure to pick up a copy of Hypatia, and look out for their upcoming tour dates, which you will be able to find here.