On any given night, the Twin Cities music scene is firing on a variety of levels. Music venues across the city open their doors and clear their stages, vying for ears and eyes. The hierarchy of bands is formed from hard work, proof you can can draw an audience, and oftentimes authentic interactions and networking with other professionals. Needless to say, there’s limitless talent at all levels in the cities, just waiting to be discovered.
One such band that recently perked my ears is Pearl Rays, a “rock yet funk but more like fusion/pop” four piece that doesn’t seem to have many limits on their styles and influences they meld into their music. All four members contribute vocals through tight harmonies and layered chants. Delon Smith handles the main lead vocals, guitar, and fiddle. Derek Ness adds his electric guitar and keyboards. Gus Lecher on bass and drummer John Stojevich cement the group together with a strong rhythmic foundation and groove.
Their sound is hard to identify, but so familiar to hear as I learned that they are influenced by Grand Funk Railroad, Gene Simmons, Chic, Marty Friedman (Megadeth), Richie Kotsen (Poison), Lauryn Hill, and Anderson Paak. This broad range of influences pull elements from old school Motown, adding a modern sheen and production style. It’s this mixture that makes every show fresh with complexities that you feel deeper than you can hear on first listen. The Pearl Rays constantly change songs, mashing them up with other originals or covers for a live show.
Catching this band at Part Wolf, I was immediately drawn to how Derek and Delon unify on guitar parts. That tight combination drives the sound and gives each moment an itch to want to move. John then adds in a more sophisticated drumming style by playing with tempo and keenly watching the band on slight variations of parts. Gus on bass is a spark-plug of energy as well, careening back and forth on stage. It’s easy to get lost in the vibe and ooze into the music.
“NALA (Ain’t No Fool)” and “New Funk” are prime examples of Delon’s silky voice, with heavy wah guitars and funk bass. “Sundays” leans more into a classic rock slow burn with a Stevie Wonder soul attached. Their newest music video “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” is steeped in Motown, but with sharper teeth.
Each song uncovered a new angle of their sound, shifting from 60’s doo wop to 90’s rock, then turning into a reggae beat, the Pearl Rays are a unique band that has roared out of the pandemic, ready to be discovered. Their first show was in February of 2020 at Acadia Cafe opening for Two Headed Girl. The shutdown didn’t stop them as they continued to write and rehearse new music.
“We take our craft seriously though we keep it loose-we rock it-we drop it-pop it-lock it-deep in the pocket. The juice is loose. From George Strait to Childish Gambino, there is something for everyone. You can expect a great/tight band, but there are always surprises,” shares John Stojevich.
The Pearl Rays are currently finishing up their debut album entitled …some call it love, which will be released in January. Their next two shows include the Pourhouse Downtown on October 22nd and Terminal Bar on October 29th, both great opportunities to witness this brand of fusion/pop in its roaring form. The Pearl Rays are a rare extension in our sea of local music. Take some time to discover and experience this hardworking band in person. Bring your dancing shoes.