Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


RedRay Frazier: 'Blood in the Water'

RedRay Frazier's debut video off his sophomore release, Blood in the Water directed by Jov Luke.

We are told:

Over a solid groove and razor-sharp DJ cuts, Redray Frazier lays it all out on the title track of his new album, Blood In The Water. The artistic process can be a difficult struggle, Frazier tells us over the thick slow-boil, but the results are worth the battle.

"I've been making music for a long time, but maybe I was worried about what people may think," he says of the song's origins. "And so 'Blood In The Water' is about feeling that vulnerability, but also getting it together and doing what you have to do. Sink or swim."

Frazier was born in Harlem and raised in Queens and Jersey in an exceedingly musical family. His father is a Baptist minister, his mom a classically trained vocalist, one of his uncles a saxophone player, and everyone else was always at the ready with a tune. "At family gatherings, it was really something else," he says. "If any one person sung any one line at any time, there would be a three-part harmony joining in." Music wasn't Frazier's original career plan, but a knee injury disrupted his athletic ambitions. "I knew that I wanted to do something that gave me that same rush of running down a football field, or getting a basket," he says. "Music was right under my nose the entire time. And I finally realized, okay, this is something that I can do." He formed a band with his brother and cousin, and played every party he could.

Frazier worked with a few different groups, and in 2007, he released his solo debut Follow Me, a half acoustic, half electronic-music experiment. "It was so Frankenstein-like. I was just getting some demo songs together to play clubs," he says. "I never meant to release it as a record." But he liked the way it came out, and decided to put it out officially. Another person who liked the way it came it out was David Byrne. After hearing the album, he invited Frazier to sing and play guitar on his Everything That Happens Will Happen Today tour. "The chance to learn from David," he says, "that's something you can't pass up."

After the tour wound down, Frazier returned to his home in Portland, and started playing out with some friends. Before long, he assembled the illustrious group of musicians that he's been touring with for the past few years and with whom he recorded Blood In The Water: Jeff Baxter (Curtis Salgado, Dr Theopolis, The My Oh Mys, Jive Talkin Robots, Five Fingers of Funk) on keyboards, Matt Brown (She & Him, Storm Large, The Motels) on lead guitar, Ezra Holbrook (The Decemberists, The Minus 5, The My Oh Mys, Dr. Theopolis, KMRIA, Casey Neill & the Norway Rats, Little Sue, Jeremy Wilson, The American Girls) on drums, Tom Nunes (Jive Talkin Robots, The My Oh Mys, Little Sue) on bass and DJ Radical Klavical (Salem's Lot, Sick Mediks, Abangatang, Mic Crenshaw) on turntables. Over time, they've become a locked-in unit, as comfortable with smooth, in-the-pocket slow-burners as they are with firey rock 'n' soul bashers.

"When you get together with these guys to play, you don't want to make them do something that's unnatural," he says. "My voice is a soulful voice. But my lead guitarist, he's a rocking dude. So if you have this thoroughbred, why are you going to keep him in the stable?

"I grew up listening to soul music, rap music, rock 'n' roll. And to have a DJ in the band who has all those sensibilities, let him do what he does. Our drummer is an amazing vocalist, and a multi-instrumentalist," he says. "He wants to hear drums played if he's playing bass, or if he's playing guitar. And that's the common thread with all these guys. Everyone has respect for the land that everyone else is thriving in. But there's still room for them to do what they do naturally."

Frazier knew he had something special with his crew, but he was in no hurry to hit the studio, and was instead content to focus on writing songs and touring. Early in his career he'd been signed to a few different major labels, and the experience left him with an aversion to the business part of the music business. ("When you sign to a major label, you have to do whatever they say," he says. "But sometimes everything they say is not in your best interest.") But eventually, he realized what he had was too good not to share.

"I knew that I was always going to play music, but I didn't think I was actually going to record music anymore," he says. "And I think through these songs, through these guys, it feels new again. I mean, I have no faith in the record business anymore. And for a long time, I didn't want to be part of it. So this record saved me."

He's releasing Blood In The Water independently, which he admits is not an easy thing. "But every step of it, I know that I'm doing it because I love this." That defiant spirit and ability to shake off past struggles and push on for the love of music fuels the album, which crackles with analog warmth, but also feels distinctly modern, especially on "Ain't No Way," the emotional centerpiece of Blood In The Water. "The lyric is, 'Ain't no way I'm going to be that man/I'm going to get up again and again,'" Frazier says. "It's about fighting. If you lay down, you'll never get off the mat. So it's definitely about being a survivor."

That indefatigable spirit is on every song on the new album. Some things are worth fighting for; the songs on Blood In The Water inspired Frazier to keep pushing onward, and the finished album is both his ultimate reward, and only the beginning.

"This record is coming about because I dig the guys that I've been playing with, I dig the songs that we've been writing, and I really think that we're not alone in this," he says. " I feel like this music is going to touch a lot of people. So it's time to share it."

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