Well, with a brand new album on the horizon we wanted to get the lowdown on whats going on with Tommy Ray and where he’s at musically. Having been a long time admirer of The Cry! and his punk rock record The Decayed Tommy branched out as a solo artist with an impressive debut solo album so, it was time to find out what makes the guy tick and where he’s at with the new record so here’s what we got once we tracked him down…

Solo record number two already you seem to have hit a rich vein of songwriting.  Are you writing all the time?

Literally, “all” the time. It’s how I see life; big hooks and jagged verses. My mind is always busy making verse or thinking through a production.  Right now, not including “Handful of Hits” LP and the dozen tracks I am holding back for a third “The  CRY!” record (hopefully),  I have over 50 titles in some active stage of production.   I will never have time to finish them all.

As far a the quality of songs, I guess that’s up to the listeners.

I think most people saw The CRY! as your vehicle and you are their focal point for sure.  Where are you at with The CRY!?  Could you not just have released the solo album under The CRY! banner?  starting over even in the internet age seems like a bold move.

Naw. The CRY! is a band and that owes its sound from the members creating collaboratively. TOMMY RAY! Is me doing me.  They are similar sounds for sure but my solo stuff has a much harder edge and the lyrical content is more real-life and not as clean cut.

Right now, The CRY! is dormant. Brian Crace (singer/guitarist/co-founder) and I have some pretty bad blood going that needs to get taken care of before we can work together. In time I think we will work it out. Brian is my favorite guitar player and life is short.  I do have an LP worth of material and have five or so tracks nearly completed but there doesn’t seem to be the same energy to complete the project with Brian and I not working together.  Also, our bass player (Michael Cortichiato) recently left Portland to play with Dr. Boogey in LA (I love those guys and wish them all much luck).

Photo by Michael McDaniel Photography.

Going back to the debut solo record, I think it was a familiar sound obviously with your voice on it but there’s more of an edge to the sound, is that fair?  In your opinion was it the best record you’ve made to date? Even songs like ‘Coming Back’ whilst having the keys is a rougher edge.

All fair!  But the records are all different.  But, here goes:  It is really close but I like the first CRY! record better than the ‘Dangerous Game’ LP.  I recently listen to both and was really proud to be part of that.  They are both really great records but I like the rock & roll feel of the first record just a bit more than the glammy feel of the second record. Brian wrote more of the 2nd record (‘Seventeen’, ‘Hanging Me Up’, ‘Toys In The Attic’. He also co-wrote a few tracks) and that is reflected in the overall sound of the record.

Also, Evan “Maus” Mersky and Dave Berkam also were HUGE contributors to both studio LPs by The CRY!. Maus recorded, engineered, and played amazing drums while Dave is simply a brilliant all-around musician.  His current band “The Reverberations” are pretty cool.

I like the song-writing and production on the TOMMY RAY! Records because (as you accurately stated) the songs are honest, gritty, and produced only as much as needed to get the point across.  My mind is a pretty chaotic place these days and I think that that gets across.

Bottom line: I like the new “Handful of Hits” collection…(until the next record) Buy it!

The Decayed is real buzz saw punk rock DIY record?  What’s the story behind that record?

That’s my shit!  The Portland street-punk scene is where I grew up. I am proud to say that these songs were NOT all written by me. There are songs written by my early bandmates that we played at hard-core house shows and notorious drunken events.  We had no way of recording tracks at the time, I didn’t want the songs to be lost, and I still feel the youthful angst so I figured it was time roast those old chestnuts one more time.   My old bandmates are super psyched to see me bring back those piss & puke proven classics!   My next record project will likely be a 2nd Decayed record.

Coming up to date tell us about the new record?  Whos playing on it?  Where was it recorded?  What’s it sound like?

Truthfully, I played guitar of only a handful of The CRY! recordings.  We had better players in Maus, Dave and Brian so I was happy to just write songs and sing my parts.   We always said that the best player should record the parts, and they did!   Of course, I played the parts live.

Now, I have learned how to play all the instruments so when I made “solo” music, I did it solo.  I mean, I recorded all the parts tracks myself here in Portland.    I think Brian may play a guitar part (like on Suzanne from the last LP) and Corsh was involved with recording a couple of tracks but the most part it’s all me.

It sounds like me.  Not sure who to compare it too… it’s honest…

What’s the lockdown been like for Tommy Ray?

Fucked.

I don’t like it.

I just don’t like it.

What influences have been coming out in your new record? I remember hearing a banana stand performance where you did modern kicks and thinking it was the perfect cover for you and you totally owned it?  What other covers you been jamming on?

I seem to recall you asking this question a few years back and my answer is the same as always. Ramones. Exploding Hearts.  Ramones. Paul Collins. Ramones. Beach Boys!

I really like a 3 min pop song that moves.  You know, “Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.”

I’ve been playing tons of music and busking in downtown Portland during the recent protests.  Where there are people, I will play music.   I play mostly standards from the past 50 years.  Never gets old.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  My dad plays a little guitar and slams through the old hits like a savage for hours.  I learned from him…

Pandemic easing what are the chances of you coming to Europe and the UK for some shows?

Hell yeah, invite me and I’ll bring the boys and kick it.  I’ve never been to the UK.  I would like to tour Scandinavia too.  My “never suck” policy means the shows would always be epic!

What other bands and performers out there currently delivering the good in your opinion? Who would you think were the right bands for you to go out on tour with?

I’d love to tour with Green Day.  They bring the goods and I could learn a ton from Billy Joe. Mad respect there. Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts are crushing it these days. Love his shit.   Shit, there are so many great talents out there    I will tour with anyone that is not boring.   Too many live acts are fucking boring.  Great skills, okay songs, but boring and lacking any “rock & roll”.

So there you have it. the new solo album is out in October and its a belter if you’re already a fan then you’ll love it and if you’re not – why not?  Its only Rock n Roll kids and Tommy Ray does it really well.

 

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US guitar romantics The Cry! have been pretty quiet the last few years. In fact, it’s been 6 long years since their fantastic sophomore album ‘Dangerous Game’ hit our turntables. Rumour has it, the band has studio time booked in the spring to polish off the follow-up. In the meantime, their illustrious frontman and main songwriter Tommy Ray (Nelsen) is flying the flag releasing tasty rock ‘n’ roll records. Tommy follows up last year’s ‘The Decayed: PDX PUNX’ album with a new long-player entitled ‘First Hits Free’ and what a banger it is.

 

‘First Hits Free’ is a collection of Tommy Ray songs that The Cry! passed on for one reason or another. That’s not to say these songs are substandard, oh no, far from it. These songs follow the same retro, low-slung power pop route of his day job for sure. If you dig the raw and emotional pop punk delivered by the likes of The Speedways and Cyanide Pills on this side of the pond, then watch out boys, as this Portland, Oregon based songwriter has the minerals to mix up the sounds of The Heartbreakers (Thunders, not Petty), The Attractions and The Buzzcocks like the last 40 years never even happened!

Tommy Ray delivers raw and unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll straight from the heart. Opener ‘Ain’t No Use’ fills the speakers with raw guitars, pumping bass and urgent beats, topped off by a tinkling of the ivories, a nonchalant vocal delivery, and a melody to die for. Single ‘Life Goes On’ follows, with its cool Yaffa-like bass rumble, handclaps and irresistible gang vocal you’ll be hooked after the first listen.

Do you miss The Biters already, or are you still shedding a tear over The Exploding Hearts? Well, dry those khol stained eyes, as Tommy Ray has a handful of songs that are just what the doctor ordered. Yes, the production is raw, but it matters not one iota when the songwriting is top-notch and the delivery is sincere and from the heart. You could say songs of broken love and reflection have never sounded so upbeat, but Tommy has that knack, that certain something that makes his songs stand out from the crowd.

‘Hey Suzanne’ is a glorious combination of Costello and Strummer goodness, punk with pop sensibilities, something that not a lot of young songwriters get right. The glam slam 70’s stomp of ‘Voices’ hits in the feels for sure. Gloriously upbeat and as ramshackle as you like, it’s a riot from start to finish, as the singer snarls his way over cool guitar riffs and big beats like Hanoi Rocks in their prime. You will swear you have heard the likes of ‘’Good Love Gone South’ and ‘Trouble’ before, such is the instant feel of the catchy melodies.

 

As a whole the songs on this album make the majority of Tommy Ray’s contemporaries sound dull as dishwater. Who wants to hear a half-arsed, bedraggled Indie boy staring at his shoes recounting how unfair his life is, when Tommy Ray is living his best life like the bastard son of Johnny Thunders and Joe Strummer.

If these are the songs that didn’t make the highly anticipated 3rd album from The Cry! then they should have one hell of a record under their studded leather belts. We await that album with baited breath, but until then bask in the glory that is ‘First Hits Free’, the first great new album you will hear in 2020.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

Here we go, kids, its the first Rainy Days & Mondays feature of 2020 and we begin with a brand new video from Anti Flag just before they release their new album ’20/20 Vision’ later this week.

 

If you’ve followed the path of Rock n Rolla Tommy Ray closely over the last few years you would know that the man from The Cry has done good and made a solo record full of Rock and Roll. Check out the first video ‘Good Luv Gone South’

Finally to ease the new year in we have the power pop goodness from Mansion Harlots

Finally to wrap it up try this banger from the Speedways.