The Vanrays have just released their latest long-player “Put It Out” with an accompanying video for the album’s focus track “Hard Times.” The band carries on with their tradition of belting out undeniably catchy Motown and Soul tunes with big hooks, big melodies and an even bigger brass section. Taking notes from classics and contemporaries like Spencer Davis group, Detroit Cobras, Curtis Harding and the Daptone Records roster, The Vanrays have delivered an album of soulful classic R&B and garage music.
Their bio reads like a manifesto for their brand of music: It’s a Motown beat down in a sharkskin suit. It’s wailing like it’s gospel while they’re laying in the boots. It’s a curb stomping rhythm on the corner of control. It’s a nod in the direction, when all shoes had leather souls. And to when those shoes were twisting, to Otis and to James. And so now do, The Vanrays too, we are here to do the same.
The video for “Hard Times” was directed by Carleen Kyle and shot at the Wise Hall during the pandemic and in the middle of the heat dome. Piano and organ player Gordon Rempel describes the scenario, “We were happy for the space and air conditioning! The objective was to bring a more intimate “performance” video than a regular live video. Thus, setting the performance on the floor rather than the stage.”
Overall the album touches on themes of love and heartache which seems to tie the songs together. Bassist Phil Adington laments, “We never intended for this to be a concept album, but for me all of the songs involve love and relationships and the order they appear on the record does seem to map out a passionate, tempestuous affair that ultimately ends in heartbreak.” The recording sessions for Put it Out began just before the onset of the pandemic, when the world went into lockdown. Rempel reflected on the time by saying, “It’s been a journey. We were forced to adapt. With only bed tracks recorded before the lockdown, we were forced to improvise. We remotely finished a couple songs as demos compete with Zoom-like videos that we released as “The Social Distanced Demos” on Bandcamp. Slowly, we completed recording the album, instrument by instrument together and apart. I recorded many of my organ and piano parts in my garage studio. Others ventured into Brian’s studio to record their parts with masks and social distancing. Scott Fletcher, producer of the Put It Out shared his take on the experience, “My shared vision as producer of this record was to tip our collective hat to the classic 60s and 70s Soul and R&B from stax records, without being a museum piece. Music is an organic, living, growing thing and I truly believe we took this genre to a new place. Recording a 9 piece band is no easy task at the best of times, but we tried to preserve the “live off the floor” feel while staying socially distanced in the studio. The Vanrays, needless to say, became my bubble. If I were to put it in a nutshell, I would say recording Put It Out got us through the tense times of the pandemic.”
Photo credit: Carleen Kyle
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