Josh Bray – Interview

Josh Bray
makes an intriguing juxtaposition of Folk, Blues and Rock music and is about to release his debut record.
We gave him a call to chat about that record and, amongst other things, yeast infections!

Hi, Josh. For those that don’t know an awful lot about you, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Okay, well I was West-Country born, brought up in Devon and Dorset but I’ve been here in London for about 7 years now – so I’m getting on a bit. For a long time I was doing other stuff, my interest was always human rights and development work and I was going to go and work in that field initially. I was doing gigs in the meantime – just in my spare time – and then someone came along and said ‘I really like what you’re doing here, how about we try and put something together?’ and that was the start of everything. It’s all been a kind of strange transition from one life to another. So this is good now, it’s definitely the right career path – at least until everyone gets bored of me!

I understand you played a gig last night at The Borderline. How did that go?

Really well, I think. Really well. We rocked it up a bit, played the songs in a bit more of a Blues-Rock kind of way – which seems to be the way we’re headed at the moment. We’ve come sort of full circle back the heavier elements and we’re trying to blend that together with the more Folky, traditional melodies and its going really well. We’re really happy with that at the moment.

Okay that makes sense because you were into really heavy music as a kid, weren’t you?
Yeah definitely. Alice In Chains were one of my favourite bands and I even liked things as heavy as Pantera and Sepultura – the scary stuff!
Rage Against The Machine I still love too, they can open your eyes to things like human rights. It’s the political side of music but they manage to do it in a such a way that they don’t come across like Bono or Chris Martin!

So was there any artist or band in particular that turned your head from the heavier music to the more acoustic and folk stuff that you do now?

Well I think originally it started with Led Zeplin, actually. Obviously they’re usually classed as a hard rock band but they have such a range of songs that they’re much more than that. So I think them initially and they kind of prepared me for the moment when I heard ‘Riverman’ by Nick Drake on the TV. That might sound a little clichéd but I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I had never heard anything like it and it kind opened me up to everything else above and beyond him too.

Your album came out on the 14th March, how excited are you about that?
I’m very excited. It seems like its been with us for ages and, as I said, we’ve started changing the songs a little bit when we play them live but we still love the record. We’re so happy with how it turned out because we recorded it in two different places and that could have been difficult but actually I think it turned out really well.

You recorded half of it at Truck Studios, run by the Bennet Bothers (of Danny And The Champions fame). How was it working with them?
Well they were the first people I had ever done anything like that with and it was great because there is a really creative scene down there with themselves and a whole load of other bands and they’re all really close and friendly. So although I was recording with the Bennet Brothers I got the benefit of all their friends who are great musicians too and we could just call someone up and they would come straight down and play some amazing drums, for example. It was really great.
And also they were so nice, I mean I ended up staying at their parents house and was having breakfast and lunch with them for a couple of months. It was really lovely.
The second part was recorded in London’s Apollo Control Studios with Howard Gray and that was a very different approach. I had my band, as it is now, with me and I kind of knew what I was doing a little more and took a bit more control.

Explain the album’s title ‘Whisky and Wool
Well Truck Studios is on a farm – in a barn actually – and we were there in the winter and it could get really cold at times. I was in my element because I come from a farming background and I have lots big, warm cardigans and other woollen items. Another way to stay warm is to neck loads of whisky, which we did, hence the name ‘Whisky and Wool’

So what do you have lined up next? Can we expect to see you on tour?
Well we’d love to because I feel like we’re a live band, really. We do that thing that not many people do – most people just play the songs as they are on the album but we like to mess around with them a little and change them up. We’ve been doing a lot of that which is great but it’s all been a bit London-centric because it’s difficult to get gigs elsewhere. The trouble is when you try to book a gig somewhere you haven’t played before, the venue is reluctant as they feel they can’t justify it unless they’re sure you can bring a big crowd.
So we’re thinking of maybe improvising and taking up fans on their offers to put us up for a night and play their local pubs or record stores instead of the usual venues – whatever it takes really – because we just love doing it.

On the subject of gigs, do you have any crazy ‘gig stories’ that have happened to you over the years?
Laughs. Well no – not personally. I wish I did but I’m always designated driver and far to sober. I mean, after a gig you really want to have a drink or nine but I always have to drive.
We have had a few groupie related yeast infection incidents with other members of the band but I’m not going to name names!
But as soon as we get to hit the road and I don’t have to drive – that’s when it’s going to really hit the roof.

Which bands – however unrealistic – would you most like to go on tour with?
I think Little Feet just because I love them and, if we’re talking a complete dream scenario, Guns ‘n’ Roses because I think that would be pretty mental and you would get to play huge stadiums, too.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years time?
I hope that we can just keep doing this really. None of us are bothered about having private jets or any of that. I’m from the country so I’d be happy with a little house with a stove and a dog and a space where we can practise, work together and just keep coming up with good stuff.
A loyal fan base would be good so we can always play gigs and I would love to get over to America and play there too.

Finally, then, is there anything else that you would like to say?
Yeah just that we had a single out on 6th March called ‘Rise’ (video below) and the b-side is one of the other songs from the album that we’ve rearranged especially for this.
And also, just that if anyone would like us to play in their town then get in touch and give us a hand in coming  to your local pub, club, record store, or whatever else – we would love to come and play.

And what would be the best way to get in touch with you if someone wanted to do that?
Via my website, or if you’d prefer you can look me up on Facebook and message me on there.

David Tinkler

Whisky and Wool is out now and is utterly brilliant. You can buy it here.
Written for The Ark Magazine (London)

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