The Bay Rays' Embittered Youth
Sitting on the grimy back-steps of Camden’s Dingwalls venue, three-piece indie-punk outfit The Bay Rays dissect the all-consuming social destruction of social media ahead of their support slot with fellow Flying Vinyl alumni Hidden Charms.
Their young audience are part of their own disaffected generation; the same generation we discuss before the show, that have “stopped learning things” in favour of quick-fix social media posting. “As a concept it’s very weird,” considers Anthus, whose louche style is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, “It’s very vain: I’m going to post this and you’re going to like it.”
“We tried to hold off on social media for a long time, but it was inevitable,” says Max, “everyone’s guilty of the fix.” The sad inevitability of Instagram and Snapchat lacks in the charm of a nineties youth. “Kids now are going to grow up and look forward to seeing pictures of their childhood and they’re going to get a picture of them with a Snapchat halo on their head” Anthus predicts exasperatedly, “where are the days when you wore an awful bobbly hat that made your head itch? Now you’ve got a fucking halo on your head.”
Harry, the frontman of the Kent-born band, is laconic compared to his bandmates, which is odd, considering it is he who writes the lyrics which make The Bay Rays that perfect representation of a disillusioned youth. The things he does contribute are as carefully-chosen and poignant as lyrics such as “I hate this feeling”, which drill through the heart of yet-to-be-released breakneck single Integration.
As a united whole, The Bay Rays are similarly to-the-point. Their Hidden Charms support slot is a heart-stopping race of heavy, infectious rhythms honeyed by Harry’s falsetto-yet-punk vocals. “Hidden Charms are charms…it’s really easy to get along with them,” Anthus continues, “they’re so nice, and they’re a great live band.” When I ask what they’ve learned from them Anthus immediately replies: “Their freedom. They’re very relaxed and enjoy it… they put on quite a show.”
Hidden Charms’ headlining performance is an uninhibited dream filled with bluesy riffs that swell and fade in a way that puts one irresistibly in mind of open-top cars gliding through American desert. Keys man Ranald even emerges mid-crowd to solo on his mouth organ. The Bay Rays’ assertion that the difference in their performances is an “interesting contrast” is an accurate observation, though Max is also right when he suggests that “if you bought a ticket for the night you’re going to get a good show.”
The up-and-comers played the headline slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury last year, catapulting Satisfaction, Integration and Flying Vinyl A and B sides New Home and Four Walls into the warm Somerset evening. Their songs later caught the ears of Liam Gallagher. It’s a far cry from the drudgery of the 9-5 they used to work. Or the cover band they started up as, for that matter. “When you see people jumping around but it’s not actually your songs…your soul disappears!”
Playing Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bruno Mars has taught the trio plenty about crowd reaction, though: “the way they’re written reacts with people and we thought ‘fuck it: we’ll do our own stuff!’” And that is, of course, what they did.
The result is a short but powerful roll-call of hits that embrace both frenetic basslines and thrilling, politically-relevant vocals which reflect a youth-led backlash against the ugly rise of Fascism. A fury at the state of things gives “a common direction of everyone pulling together,” Anthus says when I ask how art will react to the Brexit / Trump-shaped void we’re currently staring into. “It’s a creative moment, and I think if you don’t utilise what’s going on socially and get inspired by it, then surely you’re playing an instrument just to make sound.”