Mike & The Ravens: From Pillar to Post
by Daniel Coston
“Logistics, mostly,” replies noted writer, producer and musician Will Shade, when asked why Pillar To Post, the new album from Mike & The Ravens, will be their last, after 50 years together. “Getting all six of us in one place for an extended amount of time has become very difficult. Especially since we rehearse, arrange and record in the studio. The band does not rehearse ahead of time. [Guitarist] Steve [Blodgett] might bring in some demos that he’s written beforehand, but the band learns the songs and arranges them in the studio, and finally records them. This takes months, which entails both [vocalist] Mike [Brassard] and I leaving our respective homes for up to half a year!”
Formed in Pennsylvania in 1960, Mike & The Ravens put together a raucous sound that pre-dated garage rock and punk by half a decade. Their adherence to all-original material caught the ears of fans throughout the Northeast US area. After breaking up in 1962, the band did not reconvene until Shade put them back together some forty years later. “I found a live tape of them playing at Rollerland in 1962,” remembers Shade. “They sounded like an R&B Ramones. They played fast as hell. They didn’t so much perform songs, as get them over with. I told them that’s what I wanted.”
When asked how the band has been able to do this again with the original lineup, Shade responds, “Through sheer good luck! And since most of them abandoned music, they didn’t succumb to the clichés, like drug and drink. They formed when Eisenhower was still President!”
For their new album, “The band was far tighter then they’d been when they got back to record their first album, ‘Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions,’ in 2006,” adds Shade. “For that album, some of the members hadn’t touched their instruments in decades. Not only were they up to running speed on this album, they also knew what was expected of them.
When asked to describe the band, founding member Steve Blodgett responds, “Lots of pent-up energy and frustration. A total of 320-plus years. Everyone likes to joke around. The line between joking around, and rock and roll is pretty thin. We know each other very well.”
More records from the individual bandmembers are in the works, adds Shade. “It’s been a real sonic adventure and spiritual odyssey. I used to be frightened of aging. But I remember standing in the studio with Mike. We were listening to the Johnny Burnette Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio, and both of us were jumping up and down, playing air guitar. I wasn’t a guy in my 30s, and Mike wasn’t a guy in his 60s. We were both teens being transported by the spirit of music. I see guys out in the studio working harder and longer hours than any 20-year-olds I’ve seen. I’m absolutely in awe of their willingness to jump off a cliff, with no idea where they’re going to land.”