Band of the Week: Ray Flanagan & the Mean Machines

Band plays a Monthly Singles Party at the Winchester on December 10

click to enlarge Ray Flanagan. - Russell Flanagan
Russell Flanagan
Ray Flanagan.
MEET THE BAND: Ray Flanagan (vocals, guitar), Anthony Papaleo (guitar, vocals),
David Alan Shaw (guitar, engineering), Joe Botta (bass), Russell Flanagan (drums)

IN SEARCH OF GOOD SONGS: Inspired by his dad’s classic rock collection, local singer-guitarist Ray Flanagan grew up listening to acts such as ZZ Top, Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd. Those acts then led him to search out songwriters in a range of musical genres. “I’ve always loved good songs,” says Flanagan. “Even when I was a metal kid, I stuck to the classic metal bands. I didn’t get too out there. I knew Metallica and Megadeth and Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. I think I always wanted to find hooks and songs. Growing up and listening to Springsteen opened the door to Bob Dylan and Sam Cooke, and I just followed that stuff backwards. I’m still kind of doing that and digging around in the musical dirt of the past.”

LIFE DURING COVID: Flanagan began recording and releasing singles from home during the height of the pandemic in late 2020 and has consistently released two songs on the first Friday of every month since then. “[Releasing two new songs every Friday] definitely started as a COVID thing,” he says. “I had this song called ‘The Arsenal’ that was left over from a solo record I did a few years ago called Passerby. I had recorded 15 or so songs on that album and certain things got left off. That one got left off because it didn’t fit. [After recording the first monthly single], I thought I would do it every month. I didn’t think about it too hard. That’s why I could do it that way.” Flanagan admits the songs are “all over the place” because he went with his gut for each track. “It kept me inspired,” he says. “I could do whatever I wanted. It happened pretty naturally. It was definitely a learning experience.” Next month will mark the end of Flanagan’s single campaign. He’ll release his final monthly single, “Come on Sugar” and its B-side “My Whole Life Changed” and then shift his focus to recording his next album.

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: Flanagan recorded “Come on Sugar” and “My Whole Life Changed” at Suma Recording Studio in Painesville by David Alan Shaw and the songs feature Flanagan and his backing band, the Mean Machines. The band cut the songs live with no overdubs. The single “Come on Sugar” has a Squeeze-like vibe and shows off Flanagan’s pop sensibilities. “I actually wrote that when I was on the toilet at the Winchester,” he laughs when asked about the track. “I was playing brunch there and started hearing it and kind of wrote it. I don’t know where it came from. It’s probably inspired by soul music, but when it gets filtered through a white rock band, it ends up somewhere else.” The melancholy “My Whole Life Changed” has a bluesy vibe and sounds like a cross between the Black Keys and Elvis Costello. It starts slow before the gritty guitars kick in. “It just kind of came to me,” Flangan says of the tune. “There was no big vision for it. I tracked that live with the band. That’s the take we did, and it’s pretty fun to record that way.”

WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HIM: rayflanagan.bandcamp.com.

WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: Ray Flanagan & the Mean Machines perform with  Esther Fitz and Chips, Cobra & Norby at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Winchester Music Tavern in Lakewood.

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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