We all know the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry is fiery, but Sydney neo-soul band The Ray Mann Three got an ambivalent taste for it on their introduction to the Melbourne scene in November.
By Annika Priest
“There were a lot of musicians that we met basically saying to us ‘we’re having a problem with you. Because you’re from Sydney. And we like you’,” front man Ray Mann said.
“Soul or groove or funk musicians in Melbourne take real pride and real ownership with that kind of music. It’s well beyond the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry thing. They take this stuff seriously. To be fair a lot of musicians in the same sort of scene in Sydney don’t. It’s a real different standard.
“It’s a big point of contention in our band. It’s really different to do what we do in a town where a lot of other guys are chasing the money with music that sounds similar but is played with a lot less love and a lot less respect.”
The love is showing – having supported Jamie Lidell and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings already this year, the Ray Mann Three have become the talk of Sydney town and could soon well be in ours.
The 31-year-old singer/guitarist fell head-first into music at age 16 when he’d sneak into inner-city pubs and bars to see bands.
“Hell, it’s where I learnt to drink beer, it stopped me from getting that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look when I thought they were going to throw me out. It tasted disgusting but at least I got to listen to the band,” Mann said. Following a stint playing in his cousin’s band, hip-hop soul eight-piece Kid Confucius, Mann wanted to find something more intimate and less rehearsed, joining with Kid’s drummer Bart Denaro and “celebrity bassist” Byron Luiters who earns his bread and butter touring with the likes of Natalie Bathingthwaite and Delta Goodrem.
“Which means we get him as sloppy seconds to gigs that pay him enough to live, but ours is the passion project keeping him sane,” he said. Slick in vintage ties and grandpa vests, the trio developed their sound with a residency at a bar in an old two-storey terrace house in King Cross from 2005, channelling influences such as D’Angelo, The Roots, Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu.
“Tonic was so crucial in us forming. As a bar it had that feeling, it’s like a Melbourne bar,” Mann said. “We’d play sitting down so we’re on the same level as everyone else so it’s like we’re hanging out with you, we just happen to be dudes with instruments.” * The Ray Mann Three play free gigs at the The Retreat Hotel, Brunswick on February 14, 10pm and Veludo’s, St Kilda, on February 15 and 22, 7pm.
Original Article: Moreland Leader, Melbourne