Rayya. Photo by Melissa Gillum.

Did your band release an album within the last six months? How about your friend? Your girlfriend? Your mom? We’d love to hear them all. Email us at editors[at[thefineprintmag.org with a link to some of your tracks. Put “For the Record” in the subject line.

RAYYA: UNTITLED

Vocals Rayya

Released / 2018
Recorded in / Rayya’s home studio
Sounds like / Bruno Mars, Rihanna, SZA
Key tracks / Can You Feel the Love, Free Tonight, 412 
Where to get it / Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes
Upcoming shows / The Fine Print’s Party Like You’re a Plant

 

Clad in a cowboy hat and fur vest, Tamira Carter—also known by her stage name,  Rayya—snaps her fingers, her svelte body swaying to the music. As the tempo picks up, she begins to bounce on her feet and sing. Her movement swells with the sound of her rising vocals.

Next year, Rayya plans to release a full length album, which she began work on in fall 2016. So far, she’s released the single “Can You Feel the Love.” The post-disco dance song gives a slight nod to Jackson 5, while its punchy synths and nimble backbeats defy the expectation that black women only perform R&B.

Rayya has immersed herself in music since she was five years old. 

“I just enjoyed music, period,” she said. “Every music, any new music, any genre of music. I guess at the time I didn’t know they were called ‘genres’. But I just loved the melodies and the harmonies.”

Her favorite music was the vinyl records, stored in crates beneath the barred windows of her childhood home, a Brooklyn apartment in neighborhood of Brownsville. Her parents would play these records on their beloved record player. But they were afraid Rayya would break it, so on their nights out, they would hide it away from her wandering eyes, above her father’s makeshift sound system of wooden speakers and subwoofers.

“But when I could get to it when they weren’t home, I would grab Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band,” Rayya said.

At age seven, Rayya would force her sisters to dance to TLC almost everyday after school in exchange for Icees and fruit rollups. As her sisters grew older, it became harder to bribe them with candy.

“They wanted more and more! You know the bargaining of, ‘Two fruit roll ups! I’m giving you three,” she said. ”What? What are you talking about? Now you want Now and Laters too? So I ran out of power.”

By the time Rayya was 13, she learned that if she could move her body to the music, it would be good.

These influences are apparent in her work. The crisp beats, booming bass and Rayya’s soothing voice in “In the Name” makes you want to body roll onto the dance floor and let the music just wash over you.

“I just enjoyed music, period,” she said. “Every music, any new music, any genre of music. I guess at the time I didn’t know they were called ‘genres’. But I just loved the melodies and the harmonies.”

Rayya’s lyrics conjure up visions of getting ready for a night out on the town. On her track “Free Tonight,” she opens by singing, “Put on the red dress, put on my heels, put on my makeup for more appeal.”

But then she takes an abrupt left turn, singing, “Look in the mirror to her I say, ‘You let me down. You let down. You let me down again.’” The lyrics are emphasized by driving drums. Combined with her breathy voice—like the critical one inside your head—the song recreates that all too familiar feeling of insecurity that comes when hours of primping and pampering culminate in disappointment.

“It’s telling people who are listening to be free of those things, to get free of those things, walk away from those things and let them go,” she said. 

From spending hours listening to albums, Rayya learned to break down the chemical structures of what she loved the most, from saccharine pop music to smooth R&B. She tries to combine these influences to actively resist being pigeonholed by genres and stereotypes. 

“When you’re trying to distribute or when you’re trying to put it on a playlist, they’re always asking you what boxes do you fit,” she said. “And I always say my music is love music.” •

By Othelia Jumapao.


WHALE FERAL: RED VELVET FRIED CHICKEN

Lead Guitar Matt Urban, Rhythm Guitar Ricky Cagno, Bass Will Bethea, Drums David Havens

Released / Early 2018
Recorded in / Black Bear Studio
Sounds like / Alabama Shakes, Crosby, Stills
Key tracks / The 13th, Out Here in the Cold 
Where to get it / Soundcloud
Upcoming shows / Nov. 18 at High DIve

 

Sunday at First Magnitude Brewery, rock band Whale Feral plays live music. Their raspy vocals and wavy electric guitar make for easy listening.

But if you catch them at the High Dive, you might question if they’re even the same band. Teetering from crisp and calculated to a roar of distortion and rock n roll, Whale Feral’s eccentricity invites you in and takes grip.

Whale Feral’s kaleidoscopic blend of genres reflects the variety of influences the band stems from and just how smoothly they can flip the script.

Ricky Cagno and Matt Urban, the band’s respective acoustic and electric guitarists, will bounce impromptu melodies off each other creating a haze of psychedelic soul, and immediately afterwards the bassist, Bethea will begin rapping “Clint Eastwood” to a backdrop of drums.

“So many jam bands are from an era that emulates a lot of music from [the’60s and ‘70s],” Havens said. “But today’s music is changing. Why not jam with that mentality when all of it rocks? [We’re] adding it to the melting pot that is our sound.”

Though Whale Feral prefers to play live, the band is currently working on a studio album due out in early 2018. The name—Red Velvet Fried Chicken—reflects their delicious blend of quirk and compatibility.

A neo-folk collective one night and progressive rock group the next, Whale Feral plays to the atmosphere of the audience.

“We just want you to feel like you’re sitting on a beach drinking a beer,” Bethea said. •

By Alcino Donadel.


THE FORUM: RAIN / SHADE

Singer Michael Higgins, Guitar Nick Wheeler, Bass Jacob Farrell, Drums Alex Klausner

Released / 2016
Recorded in / Goldentone Studio
Sounds like / The Strokes
Key tracks / Summer, The Strangers 
Where to get it / Spotify
Upcoming shows / Jan. 17 at the Atlantic

 

Craigslist might be a bad place to do business, but for The Forum, a local alternative band, there was no missed connection.

In 2015, guitarist Nick Wheeler posted an ad on Craigslist looking for “like minded musicians to start a band.” Bassist Jacob Farrell also posted an ad independently of Wheeler—by luck, they found each other. After playing together, they realized they fit.

“That’s how we got our name,” Higgins said. A forum, like Craigslist, is a place where people can meet and collaborate.

This collaborative ethos guides the “brooding” band, from their creative process to their name. Singer Michael Higgins writes the lyrics, while the other members put his words to music.

“I try to play as close to like an idea or a feeling that I have,” Wheeler said. “… From the beginning it has to be something genuine or else I can’t pursue it.”

This can be heard in “Summer,” where Higgins sings that the season used to be a “carefree, free time,” but now it’s just a period to work and be uncomfortable. His voice, monotone, is accompanied by the strum of a melancholic guitar.

The band is releasing a new EP in the upcoming year, but the future is uncertain.

“A year from now we don’t know what it’s going to be like, we don’t know how we’re going to feel about it,” Wheeler said. “As long as we’re as honest to ourselves at that point as we are right now, we’ll be exactly who we are as a band.” •

By Maegan Duran.