By Jacqueleen Eng ’19
I read many interviews of Sam Ray before writing this. Some by FADER, Impose, etc., and they all seemto describe him as some sort of mysterious, caffeine-fueled, disheveled, (“a cry for help?”) borderline-almost genius. Too far? Maybe. I cannot tell you all about his album and styles and compilations and singles and projects because there are so many, and that’s why I’ve come to look up to him and his collaborators.
I first saw Sam Ray perform as Ricky Eat Acid on January 23, 2015 at Palisades in Brooklyn. A single-release show, the bill also featured Warren Hildenbrand of Orchid Tapes playing as Foxes in Fiction as well as Skylar Spence. My friends were more into the lo-fi, ambient music than I was at the time, and I was just along for the ride. We inefficiently walked very far from the L train so my legs hurt, I slipped on ice so my arms hurt, and I lost my touch-screen compatible gloves so my fingers were numb and my social media presence was lacking. Once there, I was unsure of what to do with my hands as we rocked back and forth to the captivating noise that is Ricky Eat Acid, but it was soothing, and I liked it.
In addition to Ricky Eat Acid, Ray has numerous other projects, the most well-known being Teen Suicide, which I would describe as sad-trash-teens-doing-drugs-in-the-woods. The band amassed a posthumous cult following their breakup in early 2013, though they have recently gotten back together. Their first release was in 2011, but they were making music years before that. As he describes in many interviews, the band was just Ray and friends making music they liked—popularity wasn’t a priority. I saw Teen Suicide a few months later after Ricky Eat Acid at the same venue. Lots of sweaty, thrashing bodies were involved. Previous releases like “rarities, unreleased stuff, and cool things” definitely have a harder feeling that partially justifies the amount of moshing that occurred at this show, but for me it was more of an indication how of dedicated these fans were. Teen Suicide’s newest album, “It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot”, released earlier this week on March 29, definitely has a different sound than their previous releases. Composed of 26 short tracks, it features less of that lo-fi sound and sounds more influenced by the experimental Ricky Eat Acid, but maintains similar themes that will make those sad kids happy (like me). Some of Ray’s other projects include the more refined sounding work of Julia Brown, the folksier Starry Cat, and many more as I learned from the Fader article such as Heroin Party, cumwolf, Cute Boy Kissing Booth, Mad Dads, and Dead Virgin that only feature a few songs on their respective Bandcamp pages. What I find so impressive about his work is that it’s evident that he has a distinct image of what he wants his projects to look like. Some might argue that creating so many alternative projects is detrimental, but I think it’s refreshing and allows him to experiment with different sounds without committing to just one.
I made my way down to Baby’s All Right on a hot summer night in the rain to see him again. His single “Context” came out earlier that year in January of 2015, and I loved it. It’s different, and sounds more like a track from a producer like Ryan Hemsworth than the lo-fi ambient Ricky Eat Acid I was used to. It features a sample from Milo’s “Argyle Sox (Hellfyre 5ever)” and is proof of Ray’s production ability. The single “Dear Lord” that came out last November is in the same respect a track that emphasizes his ability to produce a track that’s less ambient noise (as much as I have come to enjoy ambient noise) and more of a track well-known producers like Diplo (in fact, according to the Fader article, Ray’s work has been passed on to Diplo and Dillon Francis) would do. It’s interesting to note this link being created between genres. It’s exciting to me that more “indie” artists like Sam Ray are producing music that is rap-inspired. Way back in the first semester I wrote an article about Toro y Moi’s most recent release, where the same sort of trap, rap, and electronic influence is prevalent. Whether or not its my naivety or just because rap has clearly gotten universally more popular, the overlap of genres is just as exciting as it is promising for the future of popular music. What Ray has been able to do with his sound and his numerous projects is impressive because he does it well. It takes a certain level of talent to be able to do what he does, so would I call him a genius? Maybe.
*the title of the post is a reference to Ricky Eat Acid’s 2014 release “Three Love Songs”. You should listen to it*
You can see Teen Suicide perform at the Horn Gallery next Friday, April 15th.