As a Grand Rapids musical connector, Jason Roy seamlessly wires together hopeful vignettes for the unknown days ahead.
The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist solders brief mesmerizing, impactful tales of renewal and release on the collective’s latest electrifying indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, via GTG Records.
“I think the overall feel of these songs has an upbeat rhythm of life to it. At the root of it, there’s an emotion of love, and music is meant to uplift,” said Roy, who co-produced the project and named it after a lyric in The Soods’ single, “Symbiotic Mono Band.”
“Even with the saddest stuff there should be some connective tissue of ‘Hey, it’s not always gonna be this bad, or shit’s gonna get better.’”
Along with a talented cast of Soods collaborators, Roy elaborately threads seven thoughtful tracks into an emotive, cohesive 15-minute listen. A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 serves as the quintessential companion for a short summer sonic getaway during a hectic, stressful day.
“I approach it like an art project in a sense. Let me start it, and I’m gonna use my palette to paint as good of a picture as I can to set you up to put on the finishing touches,” Roy said.
“Sometimes, I’ll get a vocal back, or I’ll be recording one with Steven (Meltzer), and be like, ‘Oh OK, we need to change direction.’ Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s more of a ‘Ooh, I never thought to approach it that way.’”
Soldering A Ray Rewired Vol. 1
Roy (guitars, bass, piano, synth, keys, shakers, tambourine) paints an initial striking Ray Rewired picture with Meltzer (vocals, lyrics), Chris Coble (backing and harmony vocals), Jordan Stricklen (synth strings, horns) and Haleigh Potter (drums) on the poignant lo-fi opener, “Shallowing.”
The Soods’ pounding drums, fervent horns, contemplative acoustic strums, delicate bass, shiny piano, peaceful strings, whimsical acoustic strums and mellow electric guitars emerge from the track’s vibrant palette.
Meltzer reflects, “If we got you back, we really need you back/I miss the smile, I miss the laugh/Forge me a formula, far from a fever just feeling fond/That kind of stuff you snuff cause it’s never here that long.”
“‘Shallowing’ wrapped up what the country’s been going through, and it felt kind of melancholy, but there was also a weird hope to it. To me, ‘Shallowing’ is a good pop-rock tune, but Steven is a really good lyric writer, and he’s got a way with words,” said Roy, who co-wrote the track with Meltzer.
“It was written two years ago and pre-dated the latest surge, but you’d never know it. That’s the mark of a good pop song – there’s a timeless element.”
The Soods also preserve that timeless sonic element in the catchy, cyclical one-minute ditty, “Bicycle in Pursuit,” which pedals along with thumping drums, rotational acoustic strums, whistling keys and driving bass.
Roy (guitars, keys, drum programming) teams up with Ryne Clarke (lead, harmony and backing vocals) and Matt Ten Clay (bass, harmony and backing vocals) to create the breezy, carefree joyride.
Clarke shares, “Church bells ringing, neighbors singing, sun shining like it’s new/Bike chain spinning, ace card ticking, bicycle in pursuit.”
“That ended up being a fun one in a serendipitous way. The hook at the end where Ryne keeps repeating, ‘Bicycle in, bicycle in, bicycle in pursuit,’ was what I had in my head for the outro without giving him any direction,” Roy said.
“The romantic side of me loves the freedom of what a bike represented. Not only the lyrics and the feel of that track, but everything lends itself to the wind blowing through your hair as you’re riding a bike down a neighborhood to a buddy’s house.”
Roy (guitars, piano) recreates that happy-go-lucky feel on the campy, crooner-esque closer, “Hobo Pie,” which serves up heaping downhome acoustic strums, playful strings, spirited piano and jolly bass.
It’s another smoldering Soods collaboration with Meltzer (lead, harmony and backing vocals), Stricklen (synth strings) and Paul Geoghan (upright bass) for the final connection on A Ray Rewired Vol. 1.
Meltzer sings akin to a folksy Frank Sinatra, “Then a good reason comes along/I get lost in the feeling, fog/Rolls in and I’m off, lost, in nothing once again.”
“‘Hobo Pie’ is Frank Sinatra meeting Guided By Voices at a campground. They get shitfaced and write a song together. Steven’s a big Frank Sinatra guy, and the croony stuff just clicked one day. I thought that was the direction we should take it in, and it was just a little acoustic, poppy little song,” Roy said.
“It’s a feel-good song for people who enjoy camping. They’ll know what a ‘Hobo Pie’ is. They’ll get the whole ‘peach or potato’ reference at the beginning. There are little nuggets you can hold on to throughout the song, and it just felt like a short, simple closer.”
The Long and Short of The Soods
While A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 provides a brief, exhilarating listen on the surface, it delves into expansive layers of songs, sounds and sessions. Roy carefully whittled down an initial batch of over 40 written tracks to identify the lucky seven that would become the latest Soods EP.
“There’s a reason why it’s a volume one versus a standalone or part of an album. In March and April of last year, Steven and I remotely wrote an album’s worth of stuff, and at that point, I thought it would be fun to do a lo-fi bedroom pop quarantine album. Then, the first one dropped by somebody, and I thought that idea wasn’t cool anymore,” Roy said.
“I kept recording ideas and ended up with 12 to 14 songs Steven and I started, plus another 30 on top of that. I started to pick through them with no kind of direction, but wanted finished tracks to get something done.”
Those finished A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 tracks also capture the prolific, concise spirit of Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, who’s famously known for cranking out hundreds of short powerhouse tracks.
“When I started recording Soods stuff, it was to entertain myself, and then I got crazy into Guided By Voices. I just wanted to make short, abstract songs, and every time I got into a jam, I thought, ‘What would Uncle Bob do?’ It’s nice to have a little tune to whistle to,” said Roy, who formed The Soods in 2017.
Roy also seeks A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 inspiration from Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn, who brilliantly fuses disparate, multi-genre sounds into a holistic body of work while collaborating with rotating collective of artists, musicians and songwriters.
Throughout his latest project, Roy melds a spectrum of magnetic indie rock sounds with Meltzer, Coble, Stricklen, Potter, Shane Tripp (lead and backing vocals, guitar), Clay, John Harrell (keys), Clarke, Geoghan and Timmy Rodriguez (lead, harmony and backing vocals).
“I bring a main idea, and the people help me flesh it out. I don’t think I’d want to go back at this point to sitting in my room toiling over an acoustic guitar trying to write the music, the lyrics and the melody. That doesn’t seem quite as fun as treating it like a group project,” said Roy, who compiled and recorded the tracks remotely with his collaborators.
With an abundance of new music, Roy plans to release additional Ray Rewired “group projects” in the near future, including two more volumes.
“I wouldn’t mind getting out Volume 2 in August or September and then maybe Volume 3 as a free Christmas download. That way, I can clear the slate of the Ray Rewired stuff and put out one album toward the end of next year,” he said.
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