by Kate Weeler

For those of you who don't know, The BellRays are the real deal. Sexy and intelligent, passionate and powerful all at once, listening to the BellRays is like getting kicked in the balls by James Brown. The BellRays call their music "Maximum Rock & Soul," taking a nod from groups as diverse as the MC5, Parliament, the aforementioned  Brown, Miles Davis, the Stooges, 60's R&B, and the Who. Imagine a bus full of Motown recording artists being steamrolled by Black Flag, and you have a pretty good idea of what the BellRays sound like.

Formed  in the Riverside California area, the band started out much closer to their R&B roots, with Lisa Kekaula's rich pipes and Bob Vennum's stinging guitar tones rooting the group in blues and soul. However, with the recent addition of Tony Fate on guitar and with Vennum moving over to the bass, the BellRays have found the perfect formula for rocking out. 

The BellRays recently signed with music impresario/svengali Alan McGee's Poptones label for European distribution.  Poptones released "Meet The BellRays", a compilation of songs from their USA releases "Let It Blast" and Grand Fury."

So lets meet The BellRays… or more specifically their genial drummer Eric. He’s calling for a chat from London, where The ‘Rays are over from the US doing the promotional rounds for their latest rabble rousing long player The Red, White and Black.

According to Eric, who makes up 1 quarter of the 3 guys/1 girl line up, the band are having a fine old time in the UK, often finding a warmer reception here than in their native Los Angeles. Rather flatteringly Eric believes that ‘people in England appreciate music more. You actively seek it out’.

So what in particular should we be seeking out in The BellRays current sound? Most prominently there’s no hiding from the voice. Singer Lisa Kekaula could sing a supermarket shopping list to the tune of the Birdie Song and make it sound like a powerful, impassioned message from the heart. Musically Eric sees The BellRays as ‘a rock band with Jazz sensibilities. We’re not a one dimensional band. Some songs are heavy metal, some are punk, some are soul.’ In five words they are ‘aggressive, ballsy, emotional, funky and crunchy.’ Yum!

Although many a band with such self proclaimed musical diversity have slipped in to the realms of self indulgent naval gazing, The BellRays aim to keep any similar accusations firmly off the agenda. For Eric, being in The BellRays is all about ‘connecting with people’, a fact which anyone who has witnessed the communality their live shows would surely verify. Open your heart to the crunchy metalpunksoul of The BellRays and see if they connect with you.


Words : Kate Wheeler

BELLRAYS WEBSITE : http://www.thebellrays.com/

POPTONES WEBSITE : http://www.poptones.co.uk/