Ray Wild immerses itself in ’70s vibes in first EP
The college band draws from rock influences to offer groovy sound.
When I sat down with the retro band Ray Wild in the green room of the newly-christened Rose Music Hall (the venue formerly known as Mojo’s), the air sparked with a nervous energy. It was about two and half hours until show time. It was the band’s release party for its debut EP, “Good Fortune.”
Sitting on the couch were four distinct personalities. On the far right was lead guitarist Tyler Stock, most comfortable with a smile on his face. Next sat singer and rhythm guitarist Jack Pritchett with a clear dream in his eyes. Radiating a quiet intensity was bassist Ari Shellist as he sat next to Pritchett. Finally, drummer Tom Hipchen sat on the far left, thoughtful but lighthearted.
The members of the eccentric quartet, all current MU sophomores, share a love for music, stemming from their childhoods. Pritchett was raised on The Beatles and did not venture into heavier rock until high school and college, and Stock, Shellist and Hipchen all credit their fathers with their foray into rock music.
Due to the band’s rich musical influences, all four members have been involved with music since a young age. Hipchen began with piano and transitioned into drumming by elementary school and then participated in his high school’s marching and jazz bands. Meanwhile, Pritchett, Stock and Shellist started to form other bands until the three convened in high school to create a prototype of Ray Wild.
A, uh, reggae rock prototype. Those were certainly different times for all four members. Stock actually learned how to play chords rather than simply shred, and Pritchett broadened his vocal range and began to sing a lot higher.
“We just started realizing that it’s a lot more fun to go nuts than to play reggae rock,” Shellist says. “We went into Ray Wild having no idea of what we wanted to sound like.”
What they did know is they wanted a Chad Smith or a Dave Grohl-esque drummer, someone who is hard and fast. When Hipchen came along at Mizzou, the band fell into place.
“What makes me laugh is that I wasn’t like that before I met them,” Hipchen says. “Once I started playing with them I figured out how I wanted to play, and everything worked out.”
As for the name Ray Wild, well, it just happened.
“We wanted it to be original, have a ‘70s vibe, and it had to overall match with other bands that we look up to,” Pritchett says.
It was indeed important to the band to have a name that harkens back to old-school classic rock legends. But it also couldn’t be too dated –– it needed to sound fresh.
“We wanted it to sound good on a bill,” Stock says. “Led Zeppelin, (Red Hot) Chili Peppers, Ray Wild. It kind of works there.”
Though they found a name that fits on a concert bill with classic rock legends, Ray Wild believes that its groovy vibe, complete with throbbing bass, thrashing drums and shredding guitar, still gives listeners a fresh soundscape.
“I think it’s a benefit to us because a lot of music now is literally made with three writers in a room for an artist,” Hipchen says. “The ’70s and ’80s and ’90s bands, the good ones, definitely didn’t do that — they did it for themselves.”
While the band certainly evokes a retro rock vibe, they also weave contemporary elements into their songs, crafting their own, new sound.
“People still come to our set open-minded — they just know that it’s going to be something that they haven’t heard before,” Pritchett says. “It’s going to be loud, and it’s probably not going to be stuff that they heard on the radio.”
Listeners can expect this unbridled and high-energy sense in the band’s debut EP, released Feb. 11.
A months-long effort, Ray Wild began recording “Good Fortune” during the first week of October. Though they previously practiced and recorded in a garage, the band recorded the EP in KCOU’s studios and Shellist personally mixed and produced the five songs.
“For the actual songs, one person will bring an idea or just a riff and bring it to practice and jam on it until something cool comes out or until we like what we hear,” Shellist says.
Jam sessions often produce full-fledged songs –– “Good Fortune,” the EP’s title track “ was just a two-second riff that turned into a whole new song, a six-minute song,” Pritchett says.
The band members emphasize the importance of collaboration during the songwriting process and determining the song structure.
“You have to paint the picture of what the song is going to be,” Pritchett says. “Otherwise, it’s just one idea.”
Though the band m finds it challenging to balance their schoolwork with the band, Stock still thinks the band is “a damn good time.”
“The band is one big project,” Shellist says. “We’re working on it all the time. It’s a life dedication. Music and the band is all we talk about. The small payoffs (are) what makes it worth it.”
Releasing “Good Fortune” proved to be their proudest effort and an enormous weight off of their shoulders.
“You’re always worried if it’s going to sound good or if it’s going to turn out the way it sounds in your head,” Shellist says. “So for it to be done, it’s nice.”
The EP is available digitally on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud and can be found at Vinyl Renaissance downtown.
As their fan base grows, the band is grateful for all of the support they receive from both their friends and Greenlight Management.
“Listening to music is my favorite thing to do, so somebody listening to my music and enjoying it is a really great feeling,” Hipchen says.
“Good Fortune” serves as a way to gain credibility and is just the first step in sharing the band’s vivid sound.
“We’re definitely dreamers, and we’ll take this to the end,” Pritchett says.