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Artist Spotlight - Veda Rays

(Photo Credit: Andrew Ellzey)

We were contacted by a phenomenal band named Veda Rays regarding their music and we are so glad we were. If you are into classic alternative/indie music, featuring prominent guitars, synth, and vocal work, then Veda Rays is a band that you need to have on your radar. They have a sound that evokes comps to bands such as The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Veda Rays is a band that is poised for a breakout where they could potentially occupy a significant role pushing the envelope of the alt and indie genres both musically and intellectually.

1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?

James (vocals, guitar): "I took over my dad’s guitar when I was six years old. So, I’ve been at it my whole life basically. I started writing songs by my very early teens, started making multi-track recordings using two tape recorders, then finally got a four-track. I didn’t have a choice. There really wasn’t anything else I wanted to do."

2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?

James: "The process is essentially developing ideas. It is an intuitive process, following inspiration where it leads. Much of the time it is experimental, trying many things out, seeing what sticks. We don’t really have a template or single way of doing things. Lately, melodic passages or lyrical phrases captured as text or voice memos on the fly and forgotten have proven to be the most significant springboards."

Maria (synths): "I contribute lyrics here and there. The process involves James giving me a placeholder melody sung in gibberish. I’ll listen to it until words materialize out of it. I like writing in a constrained way and I hope to do it more with less concentration given to finding meaning or conceptualizing the lyrics from the start."

James: "But the interesting thing is that the eventual result yields meaning. We go through rounds and it takes shape. When I consider these songs after the fact, I can see that there were chains of association happening from pass to pass, between us both. It seemed like one voice was speaking, with each of us receiving little bits of it at a time. I should clarify that we are referring mostly to the album songs here, as well as the songs from our former Shadow Side EP. Lately, for me it has become a little bit less abstract. I have found myself more frequently starting with a specific idea or feeling that wants to be given expression."

3. What artists have inspired you in your career?

James: "Jean Cocteau, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Salvador Dali, David Bowie...all artists who have conveyed multiple layers of meaning and profundity through their outputs; and have done so stunningly. Stanley Kubrick is another. William S. Burroughs is a titan. In rock I have always been greatly inspired by artists who have created unique aesthetics...who considered the aura surrounding the band to be an essential component of the overall vibe and identity. And who were somewhat hands-on with that aspect of things. The Velvet Underground early on (w/ Andy Warhol, of course), Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, REM, Jane’s Addiction...just a few who come to mind for me. I appreciate attention to detail and I like to believe everything is loaded with meaning, or genuinely inspired. I find that entertaining. I don’t necessarily even have to believe that it is intentional or by design. It’s even more entertaining for me to believe that it isn’t. I like to see my rock stars as divine, mad prophets channeling some preternatural intelligence…

Also, big shout to the true outsiders. The ones who never really reacted to the trends of the day. The ones who found what they liked and stuck with that no matter what. To that point, we recently read Brett Anderson’s (of Suede) Coal Black Mornings, which was very heartening and inspiring. And to all the longsuffering poets, timelessly out of time...Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Tom Waits..."

Maria: "Musically, I think all three of us hold PJ Harvey in extremely high regard, even though it may not be initially obvious in our songs. Personally, Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade / Moonface / Sunset Rubdown is a big inspiration to me. I guess his keyboard sounds are fairly standard but I find him to be a really underrated lyricist and I love the manic hookiness of his synth lines. And I’m thrilled whenever someone compares us to either Magazine or Duran Duran."

4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?

James: "I’m not much of a gear slut anymore. I got nothing."

Maria: "I like my Korg Minilogue because it’s a real analog synth, it’s easy to operate and it only weighs five pounds."

5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?

James: "We try to create a real atmosphere when we can. We hold the space. We open up and bring something through. There is some initial agitation and/or disorientation that takes place. We created a voice-heavy sound collage which we sometimes have rise up out of the last DJ song before our set. The drones, layers of cut out phrases, and static all begin to pile up. Sometimes people wonder what the hell is going on. If we have a screen, our angular VR logo can be seen at this point flashing beneath ghostly sheets of snowy television fuzz. We have created our own projection reel with strobes of light & color, geometric pattern, photographic imagery, and other visuals which are all synced to our set. I like to think we summon an otherworldly kind of energy. I most enjoy when a venue is accommodating. It is great to have a sound person who is helpful and attentive. Even better when they dig what we are doing and wanna go the extra mile to help us make it amazing. It is also great when there is an available projector and screen. Smoke machines are pretty alright, too, I guess. Most of all, I favor venues that allow you to trade up on that drink ticket well liquor for a few extra bucks. I have expensive tastes."

6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?

James: "I hope they enjoy it, and that it is functional on some level. I hope they can dance to it; or drink a beer, or cook dinner, or listen in earbuds while riding to work on the train. But if they are only reading the surface, they are missing it. I want them to know that it was created to be used as a tool. A ritual. An initiation. This is zone out drug music (although you don’t actually need the drugs to get the effect). It can open doors. It can facilitate meditation, trance & inspiration. It is not social music. It can be experienced communally but it is not party music. It is funerary. It is psychic death. Death to your old self and old ways of being. To your set. To your conditioning. It can rewire your brain if you give yourself over to it. It is ensouled. It is hypnagogic."

Maria: "Invest in some very good headphones, soundproof your bedroom from outside noises, lay your head beside your laptop speakers -- whatever you do, just listen closely."

7. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like fans to know about?

James: "My current project is sharing the notes & commentary on our most recent song cycle which entailed this album and the previous Shadow Side EP. I have been publishing it in very short excerpts via Facebook notes on my personal page (and shared to Veda Rays’ public page.)

We will also be making some videos for some of the songs from this album. And maybe some additional meta content for the true believers."

FMI on Veda Rays visit their website.

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