“Well we’ve been embarking on our first tour,” Ray Wassef singer/guitarist of the Ray Mann Three tells me, a blissfully weary tone oozing forth from his golden vocal chords. “These have been our first gigs outside of Sydney. We basically jumped in a Tarago and have been visiting everywhere from Brisbane to Melbourne and a whole bunch of regional places along the way.”
A band born and bred in Sydney, having been weaned on the teat of Sydney soul outfit Kid Confucius, venturing out into the wild abyss proved to be quite a fascinating undertaking for the boys. “The effect of rocking up to a regional town and setting up to play a show dressed like we dress and playing the kind of music we play, it’s been very interesting to see the different reactions that we’ve gotten.”
“We haven’t been chased out by torch wielding villagers yet, but have been to a couple of places that weren’t too far from that, or at least the attitudes of some of those in the room seemed to be. But then there have been places that have been the polar opposite of that, places where they just made us feel so at home, like ‘who are you?’, ‘where have you been?’ and ‘are there more like you?’. But it’s weird because a lot of the places that have been like that weren’t the places that we thought they’d be, so it’s definitely been a learning experience.”
The Ray Mann Three are a band drenched in soul. Ray delivers panty-whetting vocals in his almost pre-pubescent falsetto, while bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Bart Denaro play their instruments with effortless perfection. Rife with long interludes of improvisation and sensual grooves, The Ray Mann Three live is something not to be missed and not to bring your girlfriend along to.
Usually sticking to red-lit bars like Tonic Lounge on the infamous Kellet Street Kings Cross or one off pop up bars like the now famous launch of Sydney’s new licensing laws, I asked Ray whether it was hard having to play show after show so far out of reach of the hand of civilisation.
“We were lucky that everybody who was involved with the crew had toured before with different bands, so we knew how to keep our heads and how to pace ourselves, to a certain extent at least, which means we made sure we didn’t all go out and have a big one every night and not be able to move the next day.”
“Doing that, going out every night and getting plastered, really creeps up on you, especially if you’ve got ten shows in as many days, and learning to pace yourself becomes a real skill. It’s not very glamorous or rock & roll of me to say, but a bad night’s sleep can make a big difference for the next five days, so you want to be smart about what you’re doing in your waking hours.”
But it would seem that even the drunken roadie or bass player is but a monor villain when faced with the threat of no air conditioning. “You’ve got to make sure the air con is gassed up before leaving, and that’s probably the most important lesson we learned this tour. You know if you’ve got a bunch of guys in a van driving across the country you want to make sure that you’re comfortable, and that the car doesn’t reek of man. You know you don’t want the combined B.O. in the car to actually become an occupant of the car itself.”
The band are currently winding up the Victorian leg of the tour, which is their inaugural visit to the southern lands, but despite this, they refuse to take a break having already booked in a very special residency at The Mac for four Wednesdays in November.
“We’re going to play four Wednesday’s at the Mac and record each show and actually keep the same set list for each night. So essentially it’s like we’re recording four takes of every song that we play and each night is like another three hour run of the same material. We’re really excited because it gives us the freedom to every night go somewhere completely different with the same song. It’s almost like there is no pressure that this one night every song has to be the definitive version – it’s more like we just let go and have a lot of fun, and it’s just really organic.”
“The idea then evolved from that, when we started thinking about how we were going to capture it. We got in touch with some people who had offered to come down and record us with vintage microphones directly on the reel to reel tape, as opposed to recording digitally with whatever sort of mikes are handy. So they’re going to bring the actual tape machine down to the Mac, and record us each week and we’ll come out of it with this proper sort of vintage sounding recording done in an authentic way.”
Never choosing the conventional or convenient route when it comes to their music, the band is intent on capturing the intimate atmosphere and delicate sound they’ve worked at and refined over the past months. “We just want to record it in a way that totally captures us playing live as we have learned to as of this tour and will do over the month we record the album. It’s going to be more of a document of the band we’ve become while recording the album. We play differently now and all the places we’ve been have effected or changed us in some way and we just really wanted to capture that in a genuine way.”
And that’s no easy task. If you’ve ever seen them live, you’ll know what I mean when I say their sets have a tendency to wander a wayward path through the band’s catalogue, while the album, their self-titled debut LP released earlier this year, is a restrained and minimal slice of what the band is capable of, like an entrée on Iron Chef, while the live album promises to be a hefty dish heaped with many a mouthful of musical morsels.
Be sure to catch them at their welcome back show on
07/11 @ Russ Dewbury’s Jazz Rooms, Melt, 12 Kellet St, Kings X or go along and watch them support Roy Ayers, Nostaligia 77 and The Bamboos at The Forum on 24/10
Check them out at