Let’s face it, Fresno (where BBB is currently based until June when I migrate to LA) has a bit of a slim pickins music scene, however there are definitely a few bands that are absolutely killer based here currently, one I have featured, Motel Drive, and you are about to hear about number two, The Fay Wrays.
I heard about this band at two different times, months apart, from two other musicians. It took me the second time to get off my ass and check them out. I’m damn glad I did. When I heard the name I went and caught myself judging them based on it (which as a music fan, a self proclaimed ‘expert’ fan in fact, I should have known NOT to do), and for some reason I got it in my head they were going to be a more old-school, cover playing type band. Man, was my random assumption waaayyy off. They are post punk awesome madness!
The Fay Wrays is made up of a static dynamic duo, Eli Reyes and Ben McEntee, and depending on the show they tend to have friends jump in and play with them. I picked up their last album ‘Strange Confessor’ and was blown away. The tunes are rock out worthy, the level and variety of distortion techniques are tastefully done, and their songs range from the simple, to the symbolic. I am not a big fan of ‘screamer’ vocalists, but these guys put just enough in there to drive the emotion behind the lyrics and still keep interest. I have yet to see them live, and I am pretty ashamed of this fact, especially considering in all the youtube videos I have seen they just play with ferocious intensity, and put on a great show without all the bells and whistles that mean nothing to the overall musical experience. I like simple and I think a lot of fans out there can relate.
Eli and Ben were nice enough to take some time to answer some questions for BBB, so read on and get to know about their new concept album, what the challenges of being a ‘valley born’ band are, and which one of them is a funeral director!
When and why did each of you start playing?
E- I started playing when I was 3. That was when my mom bought me my first drum kit. I started playing basically because both my parents were musically inclined.
Ben: I was 15 when I got my first bass guitar I am now 32. My brother played guitar and music was a big part of my family so it just seemed right to want to play.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
E- I grew up in a really religious household so I grew up listening to gospel music, which actually really helped my drumming. It’s pretty much totally different from what I listen to know, that being indie rock, punk, metal, Americana, electronic, etc.
Ben: I am the youngest of three boys and my brothers are 5 and 10 years older than me so I grew up listening to a lot of late 70 progrock like Rush and Yes and then lots of 80s stuff too: Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and Tears for Fears. I also listened to the hair bands of the 80s too GNR, Scorpions, Motley Crue that kind of horrible stuff (but GNR still holds up). When I was in high school and I formed my own opinions it was all the popular 90s stuff like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and (lots of) Helmet, coupled with The Smiths, The Cure, Radiohead, loads of Fugazi, and more punk stuff. Now, I listen mostly to children’s music because of my 2 year old daughter, Lucy, but I do get to play her vinyl stuff that I have from time to time, mostly The Beatles, Small Faces, Radiohead, Velvet Underground, lots of Shellac (although my daughter doesn’t get to listen to the Shellac because Steve Albini swears a lot). I have been also fond of doom metal stuff too: Sleep and Electric Wizard.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
E- I really admire Dave Grohl, it kind of goes without saying that he is an amazing drummer and musician. Also guys like Ian Mackeye, Evan Dando, J Mascis, J Robbins, Lou Barlow and the like, they made the music I grew up with in the 90’s.
Ben: Guy Picciotto, guitarist/vocalist from Fugazi has always been someone I have looked up to musically and just his onstage presence, he puts on one hell of a show. The MC5 is a band that I admire for just basically playing a blistering style of rock n roll. Locally, when I was young there was this band called IG-88 who I really looked up to Ronald Dzerigian was a principle member of that band and he was one of the most interesting bass players. He has a band now in Los Angeles called OvideO and they are awesome. I looked up to him as a local musical hero of sorts.
Do you get nervous before a show?
E- Every now and again, if it’s a really big crowd.
Ben: I used to when I first started playing, but now there is not even a hint of that.
Any rituals before a show?
E- I try to exercise my fingers and forearms.
Ben: Enjoy a beer and talk the set through with the band. Pretty easy going stuff.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
E- Well, our live shows tend to be very energetic, we thrash around quite a bit. However, we do believe in our show being as minimalistic as possible, so no lazer light shows or fog machines, we’re a rock n roll band not a theatre production.
Ben: Visually, I try to maximize the space available to me in a live setting. When I play with just Eli I like to be very close to his drumset so that we can play off of one another. There is a kinetic energy that I think comes off which I like. Musically, we are fairly loud although I think our sound has diversified as we have gotten older. Different from our recorded material the live sets are always stripped down musically and finally, live I generally like a less talk more rock ideal: we go from song to song to song with as few breaks as possible.
How does your creative process typically work?
Ben: I write the basic layout of a song (typically in the shower or early in the morning, my best material comes right when I wake up) and then bring to practice and flesh it out with Eli if I have not done so already. The lyrics always come last.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
E- We’ve had great opportunities to play with awesome people and bands like Joe Lally, Pelican, Howlin Rain, and Touche Amore.
Ben: The internet is the biggest break and opportunity. We can get our music out to so many people in an easy and financially viable way (read: free).
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
E- We’re working on a new vinyl ep that will be out in June or July, and we are also starting to lay out ideas and themes for our next full length that will be out early next year most likely.
Ben: I am working on a Fay Wrays concept album that will be about a person who is going insane due to interactions with a mysterious malevolent entity called THE NOISE. The album artwork will contain lots of goodies. I am working on a typed journal, a cassette tape addendum to the record itself and all kinds of other things. It will be more than just an album; it will be a full art piece. The music will coincide with the journal and everything. I am really looking forward to working on it more and finishing it up.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
Ben: I don’t know why anyone does listen to my music in the first place. I feel fortunate that anyone does. Some people enjoy it and that makes me feel good. But why should they? I don’t know that answer to that question at all. My music is not very unique in my opinion. I just take old rock n’ roll stuff and use it over again (just like everyone who straps a guitar on themselves does) I am not doing anything special or unique except that my own personal experiences do come out through the music itself and the lyrics and I hope that can engage listeners to understand something about the human condition – you know, life, love, death, and all of that silliness. A slogan? “please like us, but only if you really like us” something like that. Something genuine.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
E- The change I would like to make is already being made. Sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud have made it possible for bands to release music without the assistance of labels. I would like to see thit new independence continue when it comes to releasing music and touring.
Ben: Destroy all vocoders and get rid of auto tuned vocals. I would want to destabilize corporate music houses (read: bankrupt them) so that musicians themselves can have control of the product, the content, and the financial benefits of their own music instead of feeding an industry that cares little for the notes and all about the image of the product and the dollar signs attributed to it.
You are from Fresno, what are the challenges of being a ‘Valley Born’ band?
E- For some reason this city tends to be the butt of everyone’s jokes and the people that live in it aren’t taken as seriously as they should be. People here make great music, art, food, poetry, films, etc. However, it feels that no matter how good it is it’s always just second best. Maybe we feed into that idea ourselves though. However, it’s starting to turn around.
Ben: I love being from Fresno and the challenge I think now is that there has never been a lack of good talent but there has been a lack of that talent being heard. The internet has helped with that issue. Also, the artistic community in Fresno is very transient so, you start with a good band and then members leave to other areas for a host of different reasons. It is not hard to start a band here but to keep one together? That is another thing entirely.
Do you have any other local bands that you enjoy playing shows with?
E- There are quite a few really good bands here, such as Achievement House, The Sunburns, Strange Vine, and Fierce Creatures.
Ben: Rademacher, Fierce Creatures, The Quiet Americans, Nilo Smeds, Brother Luke and the Comrades, Strange Vine, Gypsy Cab, Sparkle Jet, and lots that don’t exist anymore.
One song you never get tired of.
E- First Of The Gang To Die from Morrissey
Ben: Radiohead, Paranoid Android
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
E- I’d probably have to say Girls Against Boys when they came to Fresno.
Ben: High on the list: Sigur Ros, Warfield San Francisco, early 2000s
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
E- Cook, definitely make food.
Ben: Hang out with my wife and daughter, go for walks and such.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Ben: The Giving Tree.
E- My two dogs are my favorite things in the world! But I hate to refer to them as possessions.
Ben: Sunn Model T Amp Head
What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?
E- Your typical retail gigs, however I did sell perfume for quite a few years.
Ben: I currently am a Funeral Director that is my main job and I love helping people in need. My music is simply my artistic outlet which I love doing as well.