The BellRays

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The BellRays

It’s been a long time coming but an all mighty Rockpocalypse is imminent. Those soul-shaking rock ‘n’ roll rebels The BellRays will touch down in Oz this week to make good on a promise after they were forced to cancel a run of dates scheduled for May this year. “No matter what – these shows are going to be kick-ass!” says their formidable front woman Lisa Kekaula.
For almost 25 years The BellRays have been making and playing music on their own terms – and as a consequence they’ve managed to maintain their position at the head of the pack of ‘bands to watch’. They’re constantly evolving and are often referenced by their peers as one of the most influential and original bands of the last quarter of a century.
“We’ve always been proud of being independent,” Kekaula admits, “but it’s more than that – it’s also about not caring about the trends that are out there. It’s always been our choice to make music and play shows that way. We write songs from the heart and I think when you have that on your side it really doesn’t matter what’s going on around you. We just keep going forward, we’re not looking at anybody else!”
Fans of the band will have heard their unofficial mantra ‘Blues is the Preacher, Punk is the Preacher’. “I think that phrase means more to the band now than ever before,” and Kekaula isn’t shy in giving the credit for the saying to one of her favourite jazz and blues musicians James “Blood” Ulmer. “The phrase is kind of a nod to what was said about jazz and funk back in the day. One of Ulmer’s albums is called Blues Preacher and on it is the track ‘Jazz Is the Teacher (Funk is the Preacher)’. To me jazz is an early form of punk, early jazz musicians were rebelling against the mainstream and pushing to do something different.”
These Californian-rockers are impossible to pigeonhole. Their unique sound is a fusion of their individual tastes. Kekaula says she grew up listening to everyone from the Ramones, Billie Holiday and the Beatles – but there’s one musical memory that stands out above the rest.
“I remember as a kid when my mum first bought home Songs In the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. I remember her listening to it, and playing it over and over again, then I listened to it over and over again,” she smiles.
“I would get home from school and put headphones on and listen when I supposed to be doing my homework,” Kekaula laughs. “I always felt like that record made me the singer that I am today.”
Joining The BellRays on their quest to bring us a near religious experience through sound is another genre-bending band lead by an equally fierce front woman, Dallas Frasca.
“I can’t wait to play with them, I think we will feed off each other and that will make for an explosive live show. We plan on playing a lot of stuff from Hard Sweet and Sticky [2008] and Black Lightening [2010] but we’ve been working on some fresh stuff too.” You heard it here first!
When & Where: Barwon Club, Geelong – August 12, Karova Lounge, Ballarat – August 13 & Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne – August 15
Written by Natalie Rogers, Photo by Emme Ette