On The Rise: Baby Ray plays "a different flavor" of pop
The Boston Globe, February 1, 1998
On The Rise: David Wildman
Baby Ray does not make rock music the easy way. The sound falls somewhere between the jagged unpredictability of British pop pioneers XTC and the anabashed melodicism of indie-rockers Guided by Voices.
Initially formed as a recording project by guitarists Erich Groat and Ken Lafler, the complex sound of Baby Ray reflects the ethos of the studio. When first brought in, drummer Nathan logus (formerly of The Barnies, another local XTC-influenced group) loved the material, but was unsure the songs could ever be played live.
"Complexity is what tends to happen when you write things with a multitrack tape recorder," said Lafler, who trades off lead vocals and sings harmonies with Groat. "You build things and develop them and play with them. It's different than writing a song on an acoustic guitar in your bedroom and trying it out with the band."
After suffering a yearlong drought as a two-guitar recording project without a bass player, Lafler, Groat, and Logus finally snared Paul Simonoff, who had been playing more straightforward rock in local bands Chainsuck and Lumen. Simonoff got a tape, studied it carefully, and crafted his parts flawlessly for his audition.
"I knew I wasn't going to be able to wing this material," he said. "There were songs where I was wondering if these guys were trying to play every single note in a certain key."
Despite the challenging arrangements, Baby Ray is more about melody than overkill musicianship.
Since August, the group has performed regularly in clubs around town. Their harmonies ring with poise and confidence, even as their voices rip through the band's sometimes bizarre, off-kilter rhythms. A recent show at Kendall Cafe proved to be a little too powerful and challenging, thinning out a chunk of the assembled folk audience, but a number of faithful fans remained and whooped it up.
"I still think of what we are doing as being for everybody," said Groat, who writes most of the material. "But for some of the pieces that are pretty strange, we have to figure out how, where, and when it is best to play them, so that people can get the most out of them."
The group is negotiating a CD release with the New York City-based record label Thirsty Ear.
Despite its musical sophistication, Baby Ray eschews any idea of its music as "art," and is willing and eager to play with and pop and rock band out there.
"We are still a pop band," concluded Lafler. "We're just a different flavor."