Rai Kah Mercury fell in love with a feeling, and I fell in love with their song. Does that mean I fell in love with a feeling? Yes, I guess...I think. Anyway, it wasn't after the chorus or the first couple of verses, but immediately when Tomas Crean started singing. A voice far mature than his years (he's only 18) and reminiscent of Alex Turner or old-school Jon Fratelli. However, it's not just his voice that will make you do a double-take, it's the band's skilful handling of their instruments.
I'm getting ahead of myself; let me first introduce you to this talented rock and roll band from Staffordshire. Led by Tomas Crean on guitar and vocals, Reece Shaefer (bass), Joshua Anthony Lowe (drums) and Nathan De Giorgi (keys) started navigating the world of blues-rock in 2016. In the past three years, Rai Kah Mercury released a single called 'Terror Incognita', received airplay from BBC Introducing West Midlands and Switch Radio, and have been added to Spotify's 'Discover Weekly'. Fans constantly praise RKM for their live performances, which explains their packed gigs.
As you can sense, I'm quite a fan of 'I Fell In Love With A Feeling' from the beginning to end; however, it's the final minutes that truly astound me. A seven-minute-long song, it's surprising I made it to the end given my short attention span. The thing is, you need to keep listening to enjoy the pure joy that is Tom Crean's guitar. I mean him playing the guitar, of course, although I'm sure the guitar itself is lovely. He's no Santana or Eric Clapton, but the expertise with which he plays that instrument is mesmerising. It's hard to believe Crean and his clan are so young based on the maturity of their sound. If this song is anything to go by, in a few years they'll be a true force of nature.
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Chatting With Rai Kah Mercury
Hello gentlemen, I hope everyone's enjoying their week. Thanks for chatting with me. I appreciate the time out. So, shall we begin?
Yes, thanks so much for inviting us.
Firstly, how did you choose the band name, Rai Kah Mercury? It's quite an unusual one.
Nothing magical. We didn't go through any meaningful process or any divine inspiration, just threw a few things out and this one stuck. I guess we were looking for something that didn't define us by the name. Some band names immediately clue you into what genre of music you are likely to get, and as our music is going to be fairly broad in appeal we didn't want a name that defined us from day one.
How did RKM come together?
We are now a four-piece having recently introduced keys, which has really helped in the studio and live. Tomas (guitar/vocal), Reece (bass) and Nathan (keys) went to school together since the age of four up to sixteen. That means we are like brothers, you know, loving each other but irritating the hell out of each other too!
We had a primary school band called Toxic Crocodiles and played a couple of gigs at school, at a local festival and at parties. ToxCrocs fizzled out when we went on to high school, but we'd put down a marker and knew we wanted to continue somehow. We would jam together in the high school studio, cranked up so loud that our ears are still paying the price today. Many of the songs now in our set were born there.
Tomas had a job after school, and that's where he met Josh (drums). The guys booked some studio time together, and Rai Kah Mercury was born. We played a number of open mic evenings before our very first booked gig supporting Rascalton in Coventry in November 2017.
You're a young band, not only in the time you've been together but also young in age. Do you think that your youth is a benefit or disadvantage when it comes to making music?
That's a really tough question! We don't dwell too much on it, but we take a mature approach to our music and audience. We find ourselves at home with the indie crowd as much as with mature rock audiences.
It is a disadvantage to the extent that three of us are university students and one works all over the place, so it's harder to get together, but we tend to turn that to our advantage by being more focused and selective about when we rehearse and increasingly with the gigs we play.
When we were starting out we would surprise people who were expecting something different from a young band, but that advantage doesn't last long. We look back at bands we like, and some of them were as young as us when they were making successful albums. You think of Free, for instance, who had 'All Right Now' off their third album and were the same ages as we are now. We want no excuses made for our age.
Have any of you performed in bands previously or have a musical background?
As mentioned, three of us had a primary school band that morphed into RKM. Tomas also recorded some solo stuff from before his voice broke which was a great experience of working in a studio. Josh had played percussion for his church ensemble and also had some experience of live production work with them.
Nathan is the A* virtuoso, or primo uomo of the band; he has performed in musical theatre and can play a variety of instruments to grade 8 standard. Oh, and he’s a music student at the University of Oxford, so it's great to have that different angle in the creative process.
The single 'Terror Incognita' was released last year. Did you have any challenges when it came to writing and recording the track?
We were recommended to work with Ryan Pinson of RML Studios in Wolverhampton, and working with him on 'Terror Incognita' was a breath of fresh air. He 'gets' us and is very hands-on while also being receptive and creative. We wouldn't change a thing with that track.
Initially intended as an acoustic track, Tomas had written the riff a number of years prior to bringing it to the band; however, in one session roughly a year ago, the song entirely transformed into the energy that is recognisable in how it sounds today.
When we hit the studio, it was all about getting the sound right, creating the ambience we wanted, and our luck was in with Ryan. It makes us realise how important the producer is to the process.
Now let's talk about your single, 'I Fell In Love With A Feeling'. What can you tell me about the song; what's the meaning behind it and how did it come about?
This is a fresher tune conceived more recently and very different to 'Terror Incognita'. It is more upbeat, funky and melodic; the instruments are more separated than on Terror. A feature of our live performances is that many of our songs develop from verses and choruses into explosive jams, and this song perfectly showcases that.
Lyrically it has a dreamlike, stream of consciousness quality, nothing too deep; but it’s about taking a step back and generally appreciating the things that the pace of life has made so easy to overlook.
Do you feel it was easier to record the new single after gaining experience from 'Terror Incognita'?
To an extent. Working with Ryan on Terror gave us confidence that it would be a good outcome, but the studio process was perhaps more challenging than the experience with Terror. We arrived at the studio only a matter of days after first practising the track, so the studio process was really about us starting from scratch and shaping how we wanted the track to sound, as opposed to the preconceived ideas present with 'Terror Incognita'.
I've listened to the track, and the first thing I notice is it's almost seven minutes long. Do you think it wise to release something that length considering people are all about immediate gratification nowadays?
The track length doesn't concern us at all. Many of our influences put out tracks much longer, and their fans relish that. When we play it live it seems to go by in a flash. The length of the track wasn’t discussed beforehand, and it only found itself to be 6:40 after a spontaneous one-take guitar solo that we loved and didn’t have the heart to cut. It’s all about the integrity of the music and doing justice to any given song. We have been asked for a radio edit for the new song, and we've had to do that as it's too important at this stage not to say no and not have the track aired, so we have had to compromise and fade out the closing jam which hurts, but a necessary evil at the moment.
The guitar solo in 'I Fell In Love With A Feeling' is truly mesmerising, something I'd expect from a far more experienced guitarist. Tomas, was it difficult to compose and record the solo? Also, how long have you been playing the guitar (so that I can be more flabbergasted)?
Thank you for that! I’d be lying if I said that the solo was composed, I don’t know if I could even play the same solo twice. We recorded a long outro rhythm section with the intention of the solo fading out much earlier, but one spontaneous solo take later, and the track was 6:40 minutes long.
We'll speak for Tomas in saying that playing the solo is probably the easiest thing he has to do; it just flows out of him. He first picked up a guitar when he was around six years old, and is self-taught, concentrating on feel as much as, if not more, than technique.
Who would you say are your greatest musical inspirations?
We have some common influences among the members. Those that resonate with us all are Free, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Radiohead, The Verve and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Truthfully speaking, our tastes are far more broad then those stated, but what navigates what we want to achieve is the spirit that these artists encapsulate. None of them are particularly ‘showy’, it's all about the music: timeless and meaningful.
If you were planning a headline tour, who would you like to have as your supporting acts?
That's a really tough one, especially when you're trying to move up from the bottom rung of the ladder We'd love to say bands like Shame or IDLES, but let's not get above ourselves! Looking at bands we've played with who are maybe one or two steps up, then we'd love to put any of Ivory Wave, Valeras, Rascalton and our mates at Violet on the bill.
I've read that RKM is quite a formidable live act, so what advice would you give to a band that is just beginning to do gigs?
Invest in suitable gear, that doesn't mean expensive, just suitable. You need to be self-reliant when the occasion demands, and make sure you've got spares (guitar, strings, sticks etc.).
Turn up on time for sound check and don't let the sound guy ruin your night. Know what you want and how to get it without pissing off the engineer; they can be your best friend or your worst nightmare.
Have everything sorted with the promoter well in advance as you want to spend the time after the show talking with fans not remonstrating with the promoter about any misunderstandings.
So, 'I Fell In Love With A Feeling' has been released, but what else does 2019 hold for Rai Kah Mercury?
We have another single mixed and ready to release. It’s something that many wouldn’t expect, but hopefully, it’s our first marker of intent that we’re a band wanting to venture into multiple avenues while retaining a distinctive sound throughout the music.
We have countless tunes ready to record when we are able to get back in the studio; it's just a question of prioritising them. So, hopefully, there'll be a few more singles this year. At the moment we are taking that route rather than an EP.
There will be gigs of course, and we are looking to break out of our home base of the Birmingham scene, starting with a gig in Manchester on 27 April.
That's it! Thanks so much for chatting me with guys, and I wish you all the best for the rest of the year.
Thank you too, your support means a lot to us, and it's great having you along for the ride, let's see where we can take it!
To enjoy more of Rai Kah Mercury's music, check out their Facebook or Reverbnation.
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Written by Nicole Mendes / Germany - Norden
My name is Nicole and I am a South African-born music writer currently based in Norden, Germany. For several years I have worked with award-winning indie music blogs conducting reviews, reported on breaking festival news, but my specialism is interviewing. I currently work as editor-in-chief for an indie music blog I founded where I specialise in interviews with independent artists.
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