D-Rays illustration by Jim Warner
D-Rays illustration by Jim Warner

Just for the Record: Athens Surf-Rockers Release Full-Length Debut

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2013 is turning out to be a banner year for Athens music, with great new releases from Hex Net, Leah Nairn and Supernobody. Now you can add local surf-rockers The D-Rays to that list.

The band, which includes guitarist Erick Coleman, bassist Missy Pence and drummer Maceo Gabbard, is at the forefront of the local scene, not only playing regularly in Southeast Ohio, but acting as musical ambassadors by taking their reverb-soaked sound to states throughout the Midwest.

Now, on the heels of a fantastic set at the 2013 Nelsonville Music Festival, The D-Rays are set to release their debut full-length LP (yes, vinyl LP) this Friday at The Union during a show with the experimental Philadelphia group Man Man.

WOUB’s Bryan Gibson talked with Pence about the new album, why they chose to release it on vinyl and what’s next for the band.

WOUB: Let’s start at the beginning. How did The D-Rays get together and what were you all doing before the band formed?

Missy Pence: At a company holiday party a few years back, the plan hatched on the patio of Jackie O’s. I was in a band called Kill Surf City, as well as the predecessor to the D-Rays, a band called Saturn Missile Batteries. Maceo has been a part of the local scene for many years and has played with a number of bands, including The Heartlanders, Geraldine and The Makebelieves, to name a few. Erick has also played in a bunch of bands–locally with the Speed Knobs and Saturn Missile Batteries–but also with a couple of other notable bands, including The Queers.

WOUB: Were you all fans of the surf-rock genre or were you just looking to do something different than the other local bands?

MP: In a sense, the band started out as an extension of the defunct Saturn Missile Batteries, playing a mixture of vocal-driven and instrumental tunes. Erick has been playing surf music since the first time he climbed up on a stage with his guitar in the early ’80s, so he’s been into the style deep since he was a kid. The real kicker for us, though, was the awesome local instrumental band Bonzai–they inspired us to pursue the all-instrumental approach. Within six months of forming, we dropped all of the vocal-driven tunes and have never looked back.

WOUB: Who recorded the new album and how long did you work on it?

MP: For the new record we used the same crew as we did on our debut 7″. It was engineered and mixed by our longtime collaborator Jason Davis at Off The Cuff Sound in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and mastered by Collin Jordan at the Boiler Room in Chicago. We feel we have a good thing going with these guys and are already making plans for another recording with them in the fall of this year. From start to finish, it took eight months to wrap up.

WOUB: Was a vinyl LP planned from the get-go? If so, why?

MP: It’s simply our preferred platform. We all own a number of old records and really like the idea that 50 years from now, somebody might come across one of ours in a record store or garage sale, potentially giving it another 50 years on a turntable somewhere!

WOUB: Apart from the album release show, how can people buy the record or download?

MP: Our vinyl records can be purchased direct from our website and locally at Haffa’s. It can be downloaded from all the usual sources, including CD Baby and iTunes. Both of our records will soon be available worldwide through Traffic Entertainment Group. A compact disc version is also in the works.

WOUB: What are you doing to get the word out about the LP?

MP: The big push really won’t happen until Traffic Entertainment Group picks up the distribution end. They are well-connected and will help get our music out to places we’ll likely never be able to reach on our own. In the meantime, we’re just playing out and using the regular social media sites to promote the album.

WOUB: In the past, you’ve played some far-flung places, such as Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Are you planning to hit the road again?

MP: Now that the record is out, we’re booking a number of shows to promote it, mostly in this region. We all work full-time jobs so it’s a little tricky to pull off any kind of lengthy tour. But this year we do plan on getting as far west as Kansas City and as far east as Boston. In August, we will once again be going into the studio with Jason Davis to record an eight-song EP for King Yum Inc. out of Boston. This one will be another 12″ 45 rpm and will be out in late November.

WOUB: Not only are you having a record release party this Friday, you’re opening for Man Man. That sounds like quite an evening.

MP: Yes, Man Man is headlining Friday’s show. They’re well-known for their super high-energy live performances. For us, just playing with them is excitement enough. That it also happens to be our record release show is the icing on the cake. Not to mention, our good pals Weird Science are kicking the night off. Might be the show of the summer!

Doors open at 9 p.m. this Friday. Tickets are available at Haffa’s Records at 15 West Union Street in Athens. For more information on The D-Rays, visit their website or find them on Facebook.