Meet the Band: Ray Flanagan (singer-guitar), Brian Poston (guitar, vocals), Garrett Tresch (bass), Joe Stefano (drums), Russell Flanagan (keyboards)
On the Fast Track: The group formed in late 2012 when Flanagan who lives in Medina. "We were in high school rock off bands and sometimes in separate bands," he says. "I went there with a make friends attitude rather than a competitive attitude. We became friends there and there was this band called the Chill Bros that we started. We were making fun of John Mayer and Jack Johnson but we couldn't get a consistent drummer."
Back into the Studio: Less than a year after their debut release, the band has returned with A Hard Shell to Break, an album they cut with local engineer and producer Jim Stewart (Welshly Arms, Nights, Ohio Sky, and Brent Kirby). They tracked the bulk of the record live in a large, open room overlooking the Chagrin River using minimal overdubs. "It's our friend's house. He built this house on the Chagrin River. It has huge ceilings. We wanted to track it live. I think the first album sounded good but we didn't capture the vibe of the band. We wanted to play live but we didn't want to go to a studio. It's like Cleveland's Big Pink. What you hear is what we played. We wanted to make simple and straight-forward."
Why You Should Hear Them: Flanagan admits he's been inspired by roots rockers such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Young. but he also cites Metallica and Pantera as influences. "Our music is a little more aggressive," he says. "The thing for me is that my stuff tends to be more riff based than chord progression based."
The band sounds particularly assured on its new album. With its gritty guitars, album opener "Decider" channels ZZ Top while "I'm Just Trying to Live" has a bluesy swagger to it as it builds slow and then escalates into a rigorous anthem that sounds a cross between the Black Crowes and Jeff Buckley. The Foo Fighters-like "Get Off My Back" is a working class anthem that features a stellar vocal performance that finds Flanagan really belting out the song's refrain. "I wrote that in a warehouse. I was mad that day." As its title implies, the album has a bit of a theme to it. " 'A Hard Shell to Break' is about figuring out your own thoughts and ideas," explains Flanagan. "I have a good life. There aren't a lot of bad things that happened but there's frustrations that come from being middle class. Unless you meet somebody else, you don't feel like you have a lot of options. I know that I want to make music but I have friends who have picked a major because of how much money they'll make. It's about following your gut. I like to leave the title vague but it relates to having ideas or confidence in yourself."
Where You Can Hear Him: rayflanagan.net.
Where You Can See Him: Ray Flanagan & the Authorities perform with Brent Kirby & His Luck at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, at the Beachland Tavern.
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