Best known for his work in My Sad Captains, Ed Wallis has recently introduced his new musical venture, the ambient Green Rays. A project rooted in the strong sense of melodic melancholy that shaped My Sad Captains, sonically, Green Rays could be likened to Eno collaborating with Harmonia and Cluster in the forest of Forst, then stopped over in Dunedin to jam with the Clean, or hung out in Hoboken with the Feelies.
It's a unique sound and feel, and one we couldn't wait to explore through his new single 'Beginner's Mind’. To help guide our way through, Ed was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions.
Thanks so much for being here, Ed. Let's start right at the beginning, how did you first get into music?
"I’ve been making music for a long time. So at this point it feels like being in bands, writing and recording music is something that I’ve always done. My previous band - My Sad Captains - made four records, our first one was out in 2009. But the band was becoming a bit of a Sugababes situation, where I was the only original member left. So I decided it was time for something new."
Your new project is something wonderfully unique. How would you describe your sound?
"Drifting ambience, gentle jangle and motorik pulses."
Are there any new influences you've carried into your work with Green Rays?
"The idea I had in my head for Green Rays was Brian Eno collaborating with the Feelies or the Clean."
Let's talk a little about the new single, the reason we're here.
"It’s a song of two halves. The first section has an open tuning, finger picked guitar line that repeats over again, and slowly the song builds up with new parts coming in and out, with a hypnotic motorik vibe that kind of cruises along. Then the song suddenly drops and changes mood - half time, with big open chords. I like doing that with a song - settling into a groove that could go on and on, and then suddenly taking it somewhere else."
Did you have a set process writing the track, how did it come together?
"I think I’ve got two main approaches. The first is your classic sitting around with an acoustic guitar. The songs on this new record were mostly written after the birth of my first son, so there was quite a lot of playing guitar while keeping a baby bouncer going with my foot. The second approach is more computer and synth based - digging in late at night when things are quiet, looping things and layering sounds. I think you can hear those two modes combine on the record, often in the same song: solid foundations in melodic songwriting, with more expansive sounds going on around."
What’s the most important thing for you when you’re writing a song?
"I think some kind of melodic element that keeps you coming back. I write a lot but don’t finish much. It takes a fair amount of time for me to get a song to a point where it’s complete, so it’s the ultimate test of whether it’s good or not, if I find myself staying with it and putting in the effort to move a song beyond a sketch."
What has been your best moment as a musician so far?
"This is the first single from Green Rays’ debut album. So I think it would have to be finishing the record, in what were very difficult circumstances. I’d just finished tracking the album when I experienced the loss of our second son. For a while after that I didn’t want anything to do with the songs. Slowly though, my brother started sharing some mixes with me and I gradually reconnected with the music and found hope again."
One last question before you go - what would your dream collaboration be?
"I have to say the people who made the record with me and make up the Green Rays band are pretty much up there. I can’t think of a better drummer than my brother Jim, who was the original drummer in My Sad Captains, and is currently in Modern Nature. One of the best things about Green Rays is the opportunity to collaborate again - and Jim not only drums but engineered lots of the album and mixed it. Leon Dufficy who plays guitar is an incredible sonic architect bringing so much texture and intricacy to the music. Steve Blackwell (bass) and Henry Thomas (keys) are both brilliant musicians, who along with Leon were in the final iteration of My Sad Captains, and so I feel very lucky to be playing with such skilled and trusted collaborators."
Debut single ‘Beginner's Mind’ is an apt introduction into this new soundworld. On this new music, Ed was rejoined by former Captains colleagues from different eras of the band’s four album career: his brother Jim Wallis on drums, who also mixed the album; chief sonic architect Leon Dufficy on guitar; Steve Blackwell on bass and Henry Thomas on keys. They make up a storied crew who have played with the likes of Still Corners, Modern Nature, Psychic Markers, Banjo or Freakout and Hush Arbours.
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