Oakland, California’s Rays are a fairly typical indie band. They look the part, play the part, run around with other bands who do the same, and get loads of redundant comparisons to the Flying Nun and C-86 jangle pop that undoubtedly clogs their record collections. But it’s the way the quartet—Eva Hannan on bass, Troy Hewitt on guitar, Stanley Martinez on guitar, and Alexa Pantalone on drums—synthesizes such elements that sets it apart and that hooks you into the slacker daze of its self-titled debut, released on Chicago label Trouble in Mind and mastered by prolific Aussie Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, UV Race, Total Control). The record has all the emblems of a band not trying too hard and creating a spontaneous and ephemeral burst of joy in each moment. The breezy “Dead Man’s Curve” and bouncy “Model or You,” as well as the stoner nonchalance of “Lost in a Cage,” coalesce into an album that has an aesthetic definitely unique to the band, while reminding one of all the great unknowns that have come before them.
While the members of Rays are very active in the Bay Area scene, playing in degenerate hardcore groups like Violent Change and Life Stinks, Rays appears to be their main preoccupation and the focus of most of their energies. I recently caught up with bassist and vocalist Eva Hannan via email to discuss Oakland’s very fertile scene and the Rays’ place within it.
You’re all from Oakland. Is there a particular neighborhood in the city you represent?
Eva Hannan: None of us are from here, actually. Troy grew up in Santa Rosa; I’m from Athens, Georgia; and Stanley and Alexa are from Southern California. I am loathe to say we represent anywhere.
What other bands have you been in?
EH: Currently, Life Stinks, Oilies, The World, Beatniks, and Violent Change. In the past, Turner, Dadfag, Bad Boys, Pang, Penny Machine, and probably tons more that I can’t quite remember.
What is the Rays’ origin story?
EH: Stanley and Alexa approached me about playing music together, originally to join Turner, but then we started a new project together. Then Troy joined and we named it Rays. The elements involved in our origin include The Hemlock Tavern, eyeliner, champagne, The Makeout Room, basement shows at Vacation, New Year’s Eve, smoking weed, BB guns, and VHS tapes.
What’s the scene like in Oakland? Do you get along or are you guys unique compared to other bands in town?
EH: We are definitely not typical, but the Bay Area scene is too small and close for much beef or divisiveness. Everyone here is supportive of each other, not just in music, but in other visual and performative arts as well. Night-time events in Oakland can be eclectic, with multiple types of performances sharing the same bill. It’s not unusual to see an electronic band, video art, performance art, poetry, and a rock band performing together in an interesting space. San Francisco is more straightforward and mostly has rock shows at bars. We play more shows in San Francisco now since a lot of spaces in Oakland are dealing with eviction notices and generally feeling the squeeze of money and business opportunity leveraging for space in the Bay Area.
What are some other bands in Oakland under the radar?
EH: Leisure Tone, 404 Not Found, Daisy World, Cube, Wall, Ron Spoones, and Violent Change.
What’s the quintessential Oakland food item?
EH: There is a ton of good pho here, and the pupusas at the Laney Flea Market are the bomb.
Who’s the most famous Oaklander?
EH: The Black Panther Party! All power to the people now!
Why and how did you get Mikey Young to master the record?
EH: He’s the best. He offered to do it for us, and we wanted him specifically because the Kelley Stoltz/Mikey Young combo was so good on the Life Stinks record. We knew they would make it sound “right.”
What’s the goal for this year?
EH: We have a couple tours booked for spring and summer. If we finalize some more of the songs we have in the works, we might be able to get back in the studio and record another album. We are talking about adding some more instrumentation to our live sound and maybe an additional member.
If there was a battle royale in the van, which record would win?
EH: I’m calling Brian Eno’s Before and After Science.
Fill in the blanks:
In 10th grade, I was _____ in the _____ with _____ doing _____ and listening to _____.
EH: In 10th grade, I was getting fucked up in the afternoons between school and work with people I didn’t really like, doing all the drugs I could get a hold of and listening to Sublime.