Though we’re deep into an era of by-the-song consideration of music, streamed and downloaded in fragments more than in whole packages, there’s still something to be said for the fully realized album. The contiguous awareness that comes with sequencing songs into a greater sum is something ManRayGun’s Everett LaRoi still considers—though that’s more for him, on the creation side of things. He isn’t nearly as partial about how people take in that album after it’s complete.
“We’re not precious about it: it’s not like you must listen to the album in the order prescribed,” he says, sitting beside fellow band member Dennis Lenarduzzi in a downtown coffee shop. “But it’s a way to focus our creativity so it holds together.”
Outside Thoughts, ManRayGun’s fourth album, reveals the fruits of such a labour. Impressionistic in its poise, it winds strands of country, Spanish guitars, rock rhythms and pop hooks together, among myriad other ideas. Riffs and sounds emerge, rise above the others and then sink into the background, lurking, waiting to return to the forefront. There are themes at play, and even a narrative of sorts, though it’s not as simple as a story that connects the dots as it goes.
“It’s not like Tommy, in the sense that we had a story,” LaRoi says. “It’s more like there are connections between songs, and characters that exist between songs, and then we had to find a way to make the songs flow that makes sense for those things to coexist. ”
“And [it’s] a reflection back,” Lenarduzzi adds. “When you’ve created this body of work, you look back and go, ‘What’s there?’ That was a subconscious process to put those [ideas] there, in many cases, and it was up to us to see what those threads were.”
The album’s structure—arranged into three acts—came out of unintentional overlap: LaRoi wrote the music to some lyrics Lenarduzzi had sent him, unaware that Lenarduzzi had already finished his own demo of the track.
“Then he sent me his demo for [his version], so we had two demos of a song with the same lyrics,” LaRoi says. Then the idea of using both clicked. “Maybe these could co-exist in some way, help glue it together. It evolved from that, really.”
Outside Thoughts follows a period of band reconfiguration: after drummer Silas Grenis moved away, ManRayGun found itself drifting through varied ideas of where to go.
“We were actually at a bit of a loss for a while,” LaRoi recalls. “We did a gig without a drummer, [and] we were writing songs—that ended up being on this album—but I think we lost our focus there.”
It was bassist Tom Murray who suggested bringing Scott Lingley into the fold, whose muscular sense of rhythm adds another facet to the band. (Plus, aligning him with Murray reunites the rhythm section of local rock stalwarts of yore, Old Reliable).
And for all of those percolating sonic ideas, Lenarduzzi notes the importance of putting too fine a point on it all, as a band.
“Nothing’s ever fully clear and deliberate,” he says. “There’s always that fuzzy edge, and I think that’s a great way to let people in, and create some of the threads. If we create all of the threads, what fun is it for you as a listener?”
Sat, Feb 15 (8 pm)
Blue Chair Cafe, $15