(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the artists playing KC PsychFest from Thursday through Saturday nights at recordBar.
Recently changing their name from The Ray-Tones and forming a new lineup, El Rey-Tones has a surfy garage rock influence, dipped in a warm psychedelic groove. We talk with songwriter Bryan Koehler about the band and what we can look forward to from them.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
Koehler: Imagine it like riding a wave through a tunnel of reverb, while all your best friends create a whirlpool of a constant rotation of joints circling past you in a conga line, while at the same time you're making out with your number one crush on the beach watching the blood orange sun sink into the ocean. #runonsentences
The Deli: Give us some background on El Rey-Tones. What’s the lineup? You also recently changed your name. What’s up with that?
Koehler: El Rey-Tones started as a few dudes trying to make some surfy garage jams in my converted dining room jam space in the spring of 2013. I think there were four of us in the beginning and we called ourselves The Buh-Ohls (phonetic spelling of the British pronunciation of "buttholes.") After about a month of realizing that just Johnny Mitchell (ex-Not A Planet/Soft Reeds) and I were the only ones getting together consistently, we quit extending the invitation and focused on writing between the two of us. We jammed and wrote together for the next 9 months in my make shift music space, calling ourselves The Ray-Tones (we both grew up in Raytown). We made a bunch of rough recordings, kept it under wraps for the most part, and then, with a little help from a friend, recorded 6 songs in Nashville with Konrad Snyder (The Brown Owl Studio) during the first week of March of this year. We brought the tracks back to KC. Austin Turney hit us up wanting to play some shows (he jammed with us a few times before). Not having a band yet, we declined, but we shared the tracks with Austin, who showed a bunch of other people, and then a few days later we had him on bass, Drew Little on drums, Jake Masters on guitar, Johnny on guitar/vox, and me on vox/percussion. Fast forward a few months and Johnny moved to Brooklyn with his wife (something he'd been planning on since we met and started this thing), David Bennett (Akkilles) stepped in to fill Johnny's spot, and we added Cortland Gibson (Organized Crimes) on keys/percussion/whatever. We got a cease and desist from a bunch of cartoon rhino fucks, and then changed the name to El Rey-Tones.
The Deli: What inspires your music?
Koehler: ‘50s and ‘60s rhythm and blues, psychedelic R&B, surf, garage, northern soul, etc. From day one we set out to write music that makes us feel good, music that we want to listen to, nostalgic sounds that remind of us of what it would be like to live near a beach, or some place far from the 21st century Midwest. I like songs that groove, syncopated circular rhythms, pretty melodies...
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
Koehler: I'd say getting to play with Allah-Las in June and having them put us on Reverberation Radio mix tape #115. Not only was that one of Johnny and my favorite bands/biggest modern influences, getting on that playlist has gotten us fans from all over the world (and probably what led to the cease and desist.) It was truly a dream come true to share the stage with a band we looked up to so quickly in our life as a band. If you haven't checked out Reverberation Radio yet, you should probably do that like yesterday.
The Deli: Do you currently have any albums out? You’re working on an EP now. What can we expect?
Koehler: We don't… we have a tape we made for our in-store at Mills Record Co. The A-side is our studio roughs plus 2 live tracks from practice and the B-side is a collection of our favorite voice memos and GarageBand demos. As far as getting our studio stuff out, we'll be trying to get a six-song EP out as soon as possible. You can expect to hear really awesome recordings of the songs you hear us play live.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Koehler: To me, it’s like when someone asks me if I like U2…not really? But I respect what they're doing, it’s just not what my ears want to hear most of the time…I kinda see local music like that. There's bands out there that I wouldn't necessarily choose to listen to, bands that I may not get into, but it’s important to support them, go to a show, talk to each other, share each other's work. I ask myself, would I want them to buy my record? Yes. I find it pretty amazing to go to a show, whether it’s a local music show, or just a local opener, and look in the crowd and see members from a bunch of other local bands in attendance. It means that people in this city care, and we got each other's backs. I think in past times KC has been sort of cutthroat or has had a me vs. the world attitude, but I feel like recently there are a lot of cats trying to make some pretty cool stuff and share it with each other. KC doesn't see many bands find large commercial success, but you don't see that curbing anyone's enthusiasm. People are making music because they love making music. That's the kind of scene I want to be in.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Koehler: TheConquerors have been a huge fave since I saw them on the back patio of Riot Room at the first Middle of the Map. Rory [Cameron] is a fucking rad songwriter and a rad dude (see local music comment above). Organized Crimes blows my mind; I think I'm their biggest fanboy. The dudes from The Slowdown/Wonderfuzz/Ready Astronaut are insanely talented and every time I see one of their bands I'm reminded as to how far I have to go as a musician to become a professional.
The Deli: Who are your favorite non-local musicians right now?
Koehler: Allah-Las, Nick Waterhouse, Holy Wave, La Luz, Mac DeMarco, Temples, Cosmonauts…you get the idea…that and whatever vinyl I'm listening to.
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at PsychFest?
Koehler: I've honestly never seen White Mystery, so that'll be dope. Thee Water Moccasins never plays so that'll be a treat. Also, never seen David's band Akkilles play, so that'll be cool too.
The Deli: Besides PsychFest, what other shows do you have coming up?
Koehler: We're playing with this rad Brazilian psychedelic space rock band Wannabe Jalva at Riot Room Nov. 3 and opening for The Wytches from the UK at Riot Nov. 15. Both shows should absolutely shred.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Koehler: We've been fortunate enough to play with mostly bands we're really into so far…but it would be way rad to play at Austin Psych Fest one day, or like Desert Daze or really any of those cool psych fests… actually since you said fantasy, it would be extra wild to share the stage with The Ray-Tones (those cartoon rhino dick heads) and have a Death To Smootchie-esque freak out Battle Royale where we, El Rey-Tones would ultimately reign supreme (I'm clearly a little bitter still…).
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Koehler: In no particular order, or no particular place to go: Chuck Berry, Brian Wilson, Donovan, Link Wray?
Berry: completed that pun for me there, father of rock ‘n roll, and the motherfucker is still performing!!
Donovan: The most non-groovy looking groovy dude ever.
Link Wray: I mean, yeah… those tones though.
The Deli: What other goals do El Rey-Tones have for 2014, and beyond?
Koehler: We'd like to make it through the end of the year with a clear vision of what the lineup and writing process will be. We'd like to get the EP out digitally and on wax, but a vinyl will probably be the new year. If we can get some help from licensing or something, I'd love to do some regional tours and obviously write hella music and release hella music. We'll see. It’s still pretty early…but definitely definitely get these 6 songs out to you people!
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Koehler: Thanks for reading and checking us out. Please stay tuned for upcoming releases. You can follow us at http://www.facebook.com/theraydashtones, soundcloud.com/theraydashtones, and instagram @koehlab. We love staying positive, playing groovy jams, and having a good time. We really like what we're doing and we hope you do too. We're also really friendly, so please, come see us and say hello. We love to make new friends. Thanks for reading. Weed is tight.
You can catch El Rey-Tones in just a couple hours! They’re opening up KC Psych Fest at recordBar this evening at 6:00 p.m.
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.