Jason Roy instantly breathes a sigh of relief.
The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist quickly sheds a weathered emotional exoskeleton for a recharged future mindset on the collective’s latest contemplative indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 2, via GTG Records.
“These songs feel like you’re shedding some skin, and you’re hatching out of an egg in a way. The world is a lot different now than it was two years ago, and it will be in a year, five years or 10 years from now,” said Roy, who’s based in Grand Rapids. “If you’re not shedding your skin every once in a while, then you probably need to do some self-reflection.”
As a cerebral outgrowth of A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, the second volume deeply explores sensitive internal terrain throughout pier houses, Haight-Ashbury and nearby neighborhoods and action-packed reveries. It also features an impressive roster of returning Soods collaborators, including Chris Coble, Matt Ten Clay, Steven Meltzer and others.
“There were a few things that kind of changed course a little bit along the way, and that was something a younger me wouldn’t have always been as open to,” Roy said. “The longer I get to make music, the more rewarding it is to come up with a really good idea and then have someone strengthen that with an equal or better idea.”
The Fusion of A Ray Rewired Vol. 2
Throughout A Ray Rewired Vol. 2, Roy seamlessly fuses an expansive network of Soods ideas across a kaleidoscopic 22-minute regeneration.
The EP’s insightful, seven-track metamorphosis begins with the pensive opener, “Bluebird at the Pier House,” which features Roy (guitars, bass, piano, synths, keys, shakers, tambourine, floor tom), Coble (lead, backing vocals), Clay (backing, harmony vocals) and Haleigh Potter (drums, laughs).
Fluttering electric guitars, mellow drums, shimmering cymbal taps, booming bass, peppy piano, majestic synths and energetic percussion encourage listeners to reveal their authentic selves.
In response, Coble sings, “Got someone who’s phoning the secret police/To come and confiscate your soul, oh/To come and confiscate your soul, oh/You have to be crucified in what you have on/You have to be crucified just where you belong.”
“Chris Coble is a very authentic guy, and he’s a very kind and thoughtful individual. I find that his music often reflects that, and he’s got a real playful side, too,” said Roy, who co-wrote the track with Coble.
“The title, ‘Bluebird,’ is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the ‘Bluebird of Happiness,’ and it makes me think of the Mojave 3. If there’s anything in common, it would be that same kind of pervasive melancholy with a little glimpse of hope in the eye.”
The Soods eventually leave the pier house nest for the psychedelic streets of San Francisco on “Lady Ashbury,” which pays a hypnotic tribute to the legendary Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
The trippy, ‘60s-inspired track fuses the indelible sounds of Timothy Rodriguez (lead, harmony and backing vocals) Roy (guitar, shakers, tambourine, percussion), Jordan Stricklen (bass), Enrique Olmos (organ, electric piano) and Potter (drums).
Rodriguez sings, “Every time I see you/The world just flows around me/I cannot seem to move my own two feet/I stand still/So I won’t miss a beat.”
“There was no doubt in my mind that ‘Lady Ashbury’ should start with a fade-in, like side two of a record. That one’s heavily influenced by The Allah-Las, a West Coast throwback hippie rock band who might have shared a bill with Jefferson Airplane in another world,” said Roy, who penned the track with Rodriguez.
“I remember borrowing Matt’s 12-string electric guitar and playing that riff, and I just thought, ‘I’m going to write something that’s so mid-‘60s.’ Enrique Olmos does all the keys on that song, and the sounds he got on there were worth it.”
The Soods also examine a spectrum of cinematic sounds on the Bond-esque closer, “Maison D’Android,” which includes Meltzer (lead, harmony and backing vocals), Clay (backing and harmony vocals), Paul Geoghan (bass) and Roy (guitar, synths, drum programming, percussion and found sounds).
Propulsive, spooky synths, bouncy bass, shadowy electric guitars and somber drums provide the ideal soundtrack for a sci-fi robotic, espionage thriller.
Meltzer sings, “Oh God, I think before the ending my thoughts sputter out/I think I’m raining/I think I’m pouring/I think I’m dripping my lost drops into a page/Then sign my name.”
“In my head, I was writing for a weird indie motion picture, and that’s what I tried to visualize. It’s like a fear of the theory of singularity of man and machines becoming one, and people becoming more and more robotic over time,” Roy said.
“If I were to write a theme song for the opening or end credits, what would that be? How would it have an eerie element to it, but also have some musicality and paint a picture? Steven’s a very foundational member to what we do, and that song acts as a bridge to more electronic elements to come.”
A Ray Rewired and More
The current volume of A Ray Rewired is part of a prolific writing and recording streak for Roy and The Soods. In 2020, they released the folky, psych-rock gem, Ornaments of Affection, which unearths 13 introspective, relatable sonic vignettes.
By June, The Soods shared A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 and its seven impactful tales of renewal for a welcoming 15-minute escape. For each release, Roy continually pulls and reworks tracks from growing archive of sounds, samples and sessions.
“I have 65 to 70 songs, and the majority of them are nearly finished with vocals and are being mixed by Matt. They just need to be mastered. I thought, ‘Before the second EP comes out, I have to prioritize these.’ In the last few weeks, I’ve finished a dozen songs with people,” Roy said.
On A Ray Rewired Vol. 2, Roy also captures notable collaborations with Shane Tripp (lead, harmony and backing vocals), Old Man of the Woods’ Miranda Elliot (lead, harmony and backing vocals) and Moon (barks). As a next step, he’s considering sequencing both volumes into a limited run of CDs via GTG Records.
“I’m always a sucker for having unique stuff like that, and I love to be on compilations. I want to have Tommy (Plural) interpret that batch of songs because it was challenging for me to order them on these two EPs,” said Roy, who co-produced both EPs with Clay and Meltzer. “It’s also easily within reach to do a volume three, and that would tap out some of the ones that are complete or closest to completion.”
Before A Ray Rewired Vol. 3 potentially hits streaming platforms, Roy plans to release another Soods full-length album early next year.
“I just get itchy and want to get it done and out there. I have eight or nine songs that I’m super excited about, and it’s about four Cobles and four Meltzers,” he said. “That feels like a good bulk of the beginning of that album. Now, it’s time to get Matt and Shane in that mix, and there’s another Ryne Clarke (song).