An Interview with Oli Brown of RavenEye | By Charlie Steffens | Photo by Rob Blackham
“I never wanted to be a singer”, says RavenEye front man, Oli Brown. Prior to forming the rock trio in 2014 with bassist Aaron Spiers (and joined by new drummer Adam Breeze), Brown, an acclaimed guitarist, had toured around the world for ten years playing with guitar legends such as Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, and Joe Satriani. “I’ve always liked the blues guitarists. The way they play guitar and the way they hold their instruments—so different than other musicians. They express themselves so differently and that’s what I really fell in love with that music for. That became my obsession,” Brown, who, at 25-years old, might seem to some a bit young to be a bluesman. “I only sang because I had to. The singer I was with at the time was a nightmare, and it was like, ’Okay, I’m never working with a singer again. I’ll just learn how to sing.’”
Nova, RavenEye’s follow-up to their debut EP, Breaking Out, shows Brown’s range as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, bestowing elements of hard rock and blues with a very raw, live-sounding production. Nova’s first track “I Wanna Feel You,” is undeniably reminiscent of Soundgarden. “When we recorded this record we wanted to go by our influences,” says Brown. “I grew up obsessed with Soundgarden and Chris Cornell. Like (with) Soundgarden, everything you hear is so real. You can believe it. When you hear it you believe it that they’re playing it live. That’s what we wanted with this album.”
“I think being the perfectionists that we are, we wanted to go in and get this all right, all nailed. We wanted to come in with the best stuff we could. Essentially before we went in to the studio, we had about 30 songs written and ready. Granted, I’m not the best mixer, but I mixed the songs myself first to get a real clear vision of what the audio should be. All the demos were fully-recorded live. I programmed mini drums and made them sound as real as I could. We have really intense demos in my computer. Every song. We came in confidently, knowing what songs we wanted to do for the album. I think the first record—it changed how we chose the songs as well.
We wanted this album to be heavy and intense—kind of on the edge the whole time.”
Before the Nova recording sessions, RavenEye transitioned from their independent label to Frontiers Music Srl, who had been courting the band for a while. “We’ve always been independent. We’ve been very cautious of who we bring into the fold. We’ve all done our own thing in our own careers. I’ve been with a label before in my solo career. I don’t want RavenEye to be involved with anyone who we’re not 100-percent happy with. It’s not worth the time anymore. The luxuries and excitement of being signed, and all that, have definitely faded on me after previous experiences. They understood our vision and they understood the band. They were really good to us. They didn’t get involved with the songs. We signed with them before we went to do the record. They didn’t get involved with trying to A & R the songs, or which should be the ones we record. They let us do what we wanted to do.”
Brown is optimistic about his band getting its due recognition. “We’re so proud of the album and so excited for it to be out. It’s such a funny trip for us, because the EP, the original record, was to get local gigs back at home. We’ve already got a U.S. presence. I love it out there. LA’s beautiful because the weather so consistently amazing, unlike England. We’ve had some really fun shows in L.A.”
Since its inception, RavenEye has pushed the limits, never resting on their laurels. “There’s so much more to go in music”, Brown says. “Psychologically I never feel like I’m there. There’s a new boundary to push. What can we do to make it better? It’s not the case of: ‘This album’s done. Let’s bask in the glory of it.’ It’s like, ‘What do we do to up ourselves?’”