Written by Nick Tario
With one full length album, a couple singles, and an EP under their belt, it seems as though Sydney-based band Day Ravies has joined a long line of artists, from Joy Orbison to Com Truise to Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, who have named themselves after a celebrity with zero connection to the music they make. In the case of Day Ravies, this is Ray Davies, the singer, guitarist, and all-around mastermind behind The Kinks. But where The Kinks made their name by writing intricate British Invasion pop-rock about the complexities of British life in the 1960s, Day Ravies is more interested in the indecipherable vocals and fuzzed-out guitar sounds of modern shoegaze music.
On their most recent release, the Under the Lamp EP, Day Ravies explore a series of shoegaze tropes as old as the genre itself. While the opening song to the four track EP, “Sleepwalk,” has both male and female vocals (singing the verses and choruses respectively), the rest of the songs feature female vocals on lead exclusively. The band’s sickly sweet vocal stylings will familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the genre: the male vocals here sound fey, the female vocals bittersweet and bordering on malaise. Like much of shoegaze, what the vocals are actually saying is beside the point. Listening to shoegaze for the lyrics is like listening to progressive rock for conciseness or punk rock for technical virtuosity. There are occasional snippets of lyrics throughout the EP that are mostly decipherable (the vocals found here, while obscured, are much clearer than a vast majority of shoegaze), but for the most part the lyrics on Under the Lamp seem just a bit beyond the realm of lucidity (during the song “Perennial,” I’m able to catch the phrase “I left you wondering,” which more or less sums up my feelings towards most of the other lyrics on the EP).
But there’s much more to Day Ravies other than a series of hastily cobbled together genre tropes. While there’s nothing startlingly new about Day Ravies, they do manage to hit a certain sweet spot between pop sensibility and noise that’s innately enjoyable (if you’re looking for a game of X band plus Y band equals Z band, imagine a cross between the pop of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with some of the mess of Yo La Tengo. If you’re not interested in that game, imagine catchy, immediate melodies with lots of distortion, guitars that wind their way through the songs like snakes through grass, and the occasional post-punk bassline). And of course, what Day Ravies may lack in novelty they more than make up for in enthusiasm; never does it feel like the band is just going through the motions, and from the first couple seconds of Under the Lamp, when all the instruments strike at once, until the very end of the EP eleven minutes later, the band brings a sort of youthful energy to their performances that gives all four songs here an element of halcyon bliss. Even when the vocals are singing “I left you wondering, I caused you suffering” it’s impossible not to smile.
Listen to more Day Ravies on their Bandcamp.