Blast from the past

Shakey Rays. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Shakey Rays is a distilled product from the defunct Easy Street that stomped Chennai rock around 2006. The recent album “Tunes from the Big Belly” is completely fresh with musical ideas, well crafted lyrics and a raw, addictive energy! The genre: a ball park comparison could be “The Beatles meets Green Day meets Panic at the Disco meets Ray Charles”! You will feel the R&B trends of the 1980s from icons like The Smiths to the 1960s like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding to Elvis Costello!

All this coming from guys born in the 1990s! It just doesn't make sense, but here is a band that was bent on pushing the edge to produce music that's not clichéd in any stretch. They do not sound mainstream; they have dived into history and culled out their own! Shakey Rays, you have our attention!

The name ‘Shakey Rays'?

Dhruva: No major funda behind it! Shake is like a really popular R&B/Soul song covered by so many artists and ‘Ray' is like Ray Charles to Satyajit Ray. We wanted a name that sounded R&B; someone said Shakey Rays and we said yes.

And the rest of the musicians?

Dhruva: We played some of the first songs to Niranjan who is a great drummer and he brought in the dynamics to the songs. Before all our songs were the same and could get monotonous. Now there is dynamics to the song structures.

Vikram: We didn't have a bass player, but went ahead and recorded all the songs first. Then we found Iuno Yooni.

How did you come up with this new sound?

Dhruva Gautham: Well Easy Street was more of a WHO cover band. We wanted this new sound so we dug into R&B music history and listened to Motown artists like James Brown, Chuck Berry and Marvin Gaye. We wanted to get away from the cliché of a rock band. We wanted our own sound, but not to break way from the R&B tradition.

Motown? I've never heard anyone even say that word in Chennai!

My dad used to listen to Elvis Costello which introduced us to making short pop songs; to take a song idea and make it concise. From there we started really studying the music of Bo Diddley, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The La's and lots more –with the internet its' all available.

So where do the lyrics come from?

Well I've been writing since I was like 16 I think, so there's this notebook full of ideas. We just take an idea and develop the theme. It's not random stuff; the themes are subjects that we would talk about. Stuff we think about as city boys; topics that we would actually talk about, put into song.

With lyrics like these, I wouldn't even blink an eye to buy their songs:

“I don't need no fortuneteller, I know what I hold in my palm. I don't need your sympathy, I don't buy your cool and calm… Everybody's talking about the big bad end, But step out and look at all there is to celebrate.” Song: This is where it all begins

Or romantic themes that never lose their lustre!

“The evening broke its promise when she changed her mind, Packed her bags and made the first flight out on time, I still love her but ain't that a blind man talking? Made a list of things to keep me occupied, Said I was alright but I think you know I lied.” Song: One look out of the window

Where do you get your musical ideas from?

Vikram Kannan: Late night tales starts with the chorus like the Beatles' She Loves You. We kept it that way and Down the Drain was based on a guitar riff.

Dhruva: This is where it all begin has this soul styled slow beginning, then it takes off. Yeah, we wanted those unique song structures.

Vikram: The guitar arrangements are so inspired by Johnny Marr of ‘The Smiths'. He is a big inspiration.

There's a lot of harmony in the vocals. Do you have an acapella or choir background?

Dhruva: No nothing. It's the R&B tradition and we insisted that we record the harmonies together to get that feel. It's a pain, but we didn't want to compromise on that.

There also so much of falsetto and yodeling in your singing – from The La's?

Dhruva: I don't think it's like intentional. We don't plan on singing like that, but when we deliver the song, that's how it comes out. We don't have any vocal training whatsoever so what you hear is all that we are.

So this album is up for free download?

Vikram: You can download the 10 songs and even check out the lyrics on http://theshakeyrays.bandcamp.com We want to make some changes to some of the mixes on this album and bring out a CD with booklet sometime in February, which should be on sale. We're got about 30 songs in various stages and so now working on the second album and maybe a third too.

Aren't your parents losing hair with your musical ambitions?

Dhruva: As of now they are okay, but we are trying out jingles and some paid gigs here and there to make some money. But as of now, we meet at least four to five times a week, take ideas and make them into songs.

Vikram: We set out to do this and we've been writing and recording for about two years. This is what we are focused on and we have offers for gigs in Mumbai, Hyderabad and other cities. It's great to bring out music — it's what we love doing.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 9:16:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/blast-from-the-past/article2792908.ece

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