MEET THE BAND: Billy Somerville (vocals, guitar), Mike Layton (guitar, backup vocals), Rich Kauffman (bass, backup vocals), Ryan Gerhart (drums)
A GROUP OF HOOLIGANS: The group's roots go back to the punk rock scene of the '90s. Somerville used to sing in the Hooligans, a popular local punk band that broke up in 2000. At a reunion show in 2015, Somerville decided to start a new band. "At that show, the response was so positive, I decided to get back into music full-time again," he says. "I reached out to like-minded people." The name has a deeper meaning. It's the pseudonym of a counter-cultural icon who would take magazines like Life and Time and alter the advertisements for companies profiting from the Vietnam War. He'd insert them back into circulation and, as Somerville puts it, "freak people out on a massive scale." "We live up to our name in every sense of the word," says Somerville, who has a master's degree in political science from Case Western Reserve University. "Our main focus is not to tell people what to think or how to vote. We want to get people to think for themselves and become more aware of what's going on in the world."
NOT TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY: The band recorded its new self-titled EP in Lorain in November and December of last year with producer Rob Cooperider. It also recorded some of the music in Layton's Fairview Park basement. Somerville refers to the recording of the album as "a learning experience." "We had recorded the Hooligans album No Time for Talent on tape, and when we recorded this EP with Rob [Cooperider], I would get a take wrong, and he would tell me he could make changes and alterations," says Somerville. "I tried not to rely too much on modern technology."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Songs such as "Alternative Facts" address the current political climate but without naming names. "I'm not the kind of guy who will write songs that are dated," says Somerville. "We want to pare down the psychological myths that tear down this country. The idea of a culture war in our country is very much distorted and, in many cases, untrue. We want to bring people together. Our political fight is a fight against cynicism." "Punk Rock Fight Song (For Telly)" is about a friend who tried to take his own life, and "You Made Me Believe" functions as a searing breakup tune thanks to its parched vocals and heavily distorted guitars. "The songs all come from a personal place," says Somerville. At the upcoming release show at the Happy Dog, the band will hold a benefit raffle for the Northeast Ohio Crohn's and Colitis Foundation and will raffle off a turquoise Victrola record player and matching record suitcase.
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: facebook.com/violetraymusic
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Violet Ray performs with the Brave Girls at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 29, at the Happy Dog.