FACE TiME POLiCE
BRAY TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST CD @MPHiBiAN
BEiNG iSOLATED iN THE MOJAVE DESERT
AND WORKiNG WiTH PRODUCER GARY ST. CLAiR
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Some people are born to be rock stars. Before he could strum actual strings on an actual guitar (a telecaster by the looks of his CD's inner sleeve photography), San Francisco-based rocker BRAY (BRAYDEN GURNARI) started out by picking up a ďguitarĒ cut from a cardboard box and would lip synch to some of his favorite songs of the time in front of neighbors. Aware of the performer that was inside of him, the young BRAYDEN learned a thing or two about a real six string, shortened his name to BRAY and got a job. After releasing two albums (excluding a live set recorded in Germany) BRAY took off to the Mojave Desert for some solitude and to work with producer GARY ST. CLAIR for his latest album. The ecstasy and the isolation of those sessions resulted in something powerful within the young singer-songwriter and those results are captured on BRAYís latest CD @MPHIBIAN. ďI wanted to explore subjects that I wouldnít have explored before because I do want to make sure that I do have a positive message in the work that I do but I did want to embrace some of the darker sides of life on this record so that we could view the positive side in stark contrast.Ē says BRAY ďYou canít see the light without comparing it to the dark Ė jealousy, insecurity, loss and things like that.Ē
ROCKWIRED spoke with BRAY over the phone. Here is how it went.
Youíve got a great CD kid!
Aw thank you!
How do you feel about the finished work?
I just listened to it for the first time - since I finished it - the other day and I like it a lot. I was reminded of a lot of the painful times in making it and in writing some of the songs and that was unexpected, but I also remembered some of the fun times in the studio and that brought a smile to my face. All in all, Iím happy with it and grateful to the people who helped.
Talk about the fun times. Who did you work with?
This is the band. On lead guitar there is BOBBY SIMCOX and he is a phenomenal guy. On bass is THERESA SAWI and on drums is STEVEN HORGAN. They play a role in the recording although on some the tracks I used the previous drummer and on some Iím playing almost everything. They bring all the material to a grand level in live situations. I definitely couldnít do it by myself. I think even with future recordings we will be using them even more.
What do you think each of the players brings to the table personality-wise that makes it all click?
That is just as important as what their fingers do. BOBBY is kind of like the angel of the group. He is like the overseeing, fatherly, spiritual guy and he is also a saint. He is kind of a like a really fun cartoon to watch that also has a message underneath. THERESA is a complex character that really helps one to see the dark and light and she is and extremely talented and beautiful person. STEVEN is like sunshine kid. I call him ďHalf MoonsĒ because when he grins his eyes look like little half moons. He has an innocence about himself that is really refreshing and I think that we all have such different points on the star of this band that we kind of compliment each other.
You were talking about the hard times that you went through in making this CD - talk about that.
What was hard about it was that I chose to go away and record. I went own to the Mojave Desert and recorded it in a studio with a guy named GARY ST. CLAIR. That in itself has great things about it and hard things about it. The things that made it kind of hard were the isolation that I chose to get lost in order to make the CD but after a while it got to the point where I forgot how to talk to people. Another major reason for why there was a lot of pain associated with it was the subject matter for the CD. I wanted to explore subjects that I wouldnít have explored before because I do want to make sure that I do have a positive message in the work that I do, but I did want to embrace some of the darker sides of life on this record so that we could view the positive side in stark contrast. You canít see the light without comparing it to the dark Ė jealousy, insecurity, loss and things like that.
So the isolation was necessary for this albumís creation?
Do you think it worked?
Oh yeah. I do. I think you can especially hear it on the ballads like LONG GONE. Thereís an interesting story with that one. I just got threw scrapping another ballad that we were going to use two nights before we were supposed to be finishing up and the last night that I was there, we were looking through a couple of other demos that I brought in and GARY goes ĎWhy donít we do this one, man?í We had talked early on about doing a piano version because the demo that I brought had all sorts of strings and other instrumentation. So to capture the mood and to not feel rushed, I smoked four cigarettes and drank a bunch of JACK Ė and I donít smoke normally so that was kind of a strange heady experience-
You were isolated and you lost your head.
Exactly. I blame GARY. But I think when you hear that track of the CD, you can hear the isolation and the purity that came from that. In terms of laughs from the experience, I was around GARY and hearing him tell a lot of great stories. He produced a couple of big records for DAVID HASSELHOFF so I got a huge kick out of that and hearing stories about DAVID HASSELHOFF going into the studio to do background vocals with a bunch of people of various exotic heritages and teaching them how to go ĎOogachaaga! Oogachaaga! Ooga! Ooga! Oogachaaga!í. GARYís got a lot of great stories.
Talk about the albumís title. Certainly there are not a lot amphibians in the Mojave Desert.
Yeah, there arenít. There donít seem to be a lot in the world as far as I can see. For me, the title is about transformation and it conjures up a feeling of a natural vibe for me and getting in touch with things that are on the ground or even under water. I am an air sign and before this album, I had always kind of had my head in the clouds. With this album I was able to dig my hands in the dirt.
Where are you geographically?
Talk about how music for you?
When I was about seven or eight, my friends and I used to put on concerts where we would pantomime to a bout three or four of our favorite songs. We made guitars out cardboard boxes and perform for the parents on the block. At one point one of the parents said, why donít you sing it for real. So I started singing one of the songs instead of lip synching and only two of the four parents ran out holding their ears and I thought that was a pretty good ratio so I figured I would keep going. Iíve always liked performing and had that role in my family as being kind of clown. I love making people laugh and Iíve always loved music. Iíve always idolized the type of musicians who I think approached songwriting in an unusual way.
Like MICHAEL JACKSON and DAVID BOWIE. I think those people approached songwriting in a left-field kind of way.
In a Ďperformanceí kind of way Ė I think.
Yes - very theatrical. There is a lot of complexity under it and there is a lot of emotion. That is why people respond to it. Itís not just make up.
Explain - if itís explainable - how songwriting works for you. How does that happen?
Itís hard to explain because it is completely different every time. I like to use the computer a lot for songwriting. Itís a great tool for me and the way that I demo songs. A lot of times, I write songs forma rhythmic standpoint and that is one thing that helps me to not fall into the habit of making music that sounds like whatever is around me. I think I can be successful when I write form a melody. There are rare occasions when I wake up with a melody in my head or Ill be driving or Iíll be in the shower and Iíll just run to the computer and get it down and maybe do that with a metronome and start scoring that melody. Thatís one of the ways that it happens.
And from @MPHIBIAN, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
I could talk about moments in every song. I would say that some of the keyboard work in the solo for the song CLONE ME stands out for me because it was played by DR> FINK who was the keyboard player for PRINCE for many, many years and he was always a hero of mine. I would also say that the outro to SUBLIMINAL CRIMINALS has a sort of otherworldly sound in my mind that always kind of gets me lost. Something that I really like is the song I WAS WRONG. There is a moment two and half minutes or so in where the song kind of goes t the next level where the vocals and the organ kind of creeps in. There is something ethereal about that and it is one of those instances where the feeling that I was going for was captured.
When you mention songwriters like MICHAEL JACKSON and DAVID BOWIE and how they are both performance-driven songwriters, I think it is interesting that in rock music these days, the only real performance songwriter seems to be BONO. The well doesnít seem to be that deep. What do you think?
I think that is pretty keen. Iím an easily influenced person and then someone will bring up ten other people that I wasnít thinking of at the moment. I think in a different way, BECK is also a performance songwriter and I definitely see a BOWIE influence there. The fact that you bring up BONO is a keen insight because he definitely has that larger than life thin g happening. I think a lot of the absence of that type of performer has a lot to do with kind of a surge or where the pendulum is right now in terms music trends. I think now is an introspective time. Thatís why you have shoegazer stuff which is great. You have things like RADIOHEAD and people like that who are really important. They are also pretty theatrical but itís not as much about the individual.
How do you feel @MPHIBIAN is different from previous releases?
Well, again itís more grounded in subject matter and I introduce another voice more noticeably than I have in the past and that is THERESA. She plays bass I the band but her vocal tone has a lot to do with how the sound is evolving. A lot of the bands that she has introduced me to really inspired to explore more of that like THE PIXIES and X. Iím really enjoying the color that both of our voices make when they are together especially on songs like HAIR. I also think that some of the presentation is a lot more aggressive on some of the previous works and this one is more textural. That is something that Iíve been enjoying.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
I want peopleís hearts to be bursting and I want them to feel happier and hornier.
Thatís the best answer tot hat question that Iíve heard all week.