Rayner is exactly the kind of band you want to see succeed.
In an era when burgeoning bands from seemingly every corner of the country are constantly craving attention and end up creating a cacophony, endlessly shoving themselves into every social media feed possible, it’s refreshing to come across a local act like Rayner. You can tell these guys are making music for the love of making music, and they seem more concerned with that than attracting accolades. It’s kind of hard not to root for guys like that.
Speaking with guitarist Christopher Piro, you get the very real sense that for him and his bandmates, it really is just all about having a good time and writing good songs. “We’ll keep doing it until either one of those drys up,” Piro confirms with a laugh, noting how his Las Vegas outfit’s most memorable moments have come playing DIY shows at makeshift valley venues like the House of Wonk, where “it’s fun to play really loud and jump around with all your friends.” It’s just as fulfilling, he says, bringing that sort of vibe to places like the Bunkhouse, where Rayner’s most raucous gig came last summer in front of maybe a dozen people on Father’s Day.
“We all have full-time jobs and girlfriends and wives,” he says. “So those huge rock-star dreams aren’t really calling us or anything like that. I just think we all enjoy playing music and writing really good songs — or at least the best songs that we can at the time — and we just kind of keep pushing it forward, you know, trying to write something that hopefully has an impact on other people.”
That shouldn’t be too tall an order, as evidenced by “In Circles,” the act’s 10-song debut (streaming in its entirety on PunksInVegas.com this week, or available for $5 at rayner.bandcamp.com or in person Saturday at the Hard Rock Cafe). Recorded at Camel Hump by scene veteran John Brown of Battle Born and New Cold War, the album features a solid set of guitar-driven songs with an earnestness and edge that would fit neatly next to acts like the Wonder Years and the Menzingers.
Like the other members of Rayner — drummer and co-founder Sergio Cervantes, frontman Dany Henrriquez, guitarist Rory Child and bassist Manny Hollers — Piro’s been active in the local scene for the better part of a decade, playing in bands like GDB. Originally from the San Diego area, Piro moved with his parents to Las Vegas right around middle school.
When he was in high school a few years later, his parents bought him a guitar for Christmas, and that’s when he really started getting into music, punk and ska mostly, and started going to local shows, seeing bands like Attaboy Skip, a mid- to late-’90s local ska outfit that featured Brandon Campbell of Neon Trees and the Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci before either of those bands took off. Before long, Piro was playing in the scene himself, and that’s where he and his bandmates, some of whom played in acts like Hard Pipe Hitters, became friends.
Kindred spirits in the same scene, Piro and his bandmates were drawn together, he says, by their shared sensibilities and the desire to do something different from their past projects. So a little more than a year ago, Piro and company formed Rayner, whose name is inspired by a character in a Green Lantern comic, with a goal as straightforward as the sound: “A lot of us just kind of got together and wanted to write something a little more melodic, kind of with that straight-ahead sound, pop punk sorta,” he says.
The act’s first batch of tunes surfaced on a self-released EP titled “Where Do I Begin,” which featured songs that have since been reworked and now appear on “In Circles.” The new album was cut over the course of two weekends in October at Camel Hump with Brown, who Piro says did a good job of keeping the band on task. “It has a raw edge and a fresh vibe,” kind of like the band itself, Piro observes. “It’s not overworked.”
“We’re like punk rock that grew up,” Piro explains. “That’s kind of what we used to say back in the day. Not quieter, but just focusing on adult themes as much as we can but still trying to have some fun.
“We’re all kind of getting a little bit older,” he adds. “We’re not really spring chickens anymore. So a lot of it’s just about growing up, when you’re in your mid- to late-20s, going from there and the things you see, dealing with regrets and losses and everything like that that comes with that age.”
“In Circles” is thoughtful, but it also buzzes with enough ample energy to hold your attention, which will make it another great addition to an already thriving local scene — a scene that Piro and his bandmates appreciate being a part of, both as fans and even more being in a band.
“I’ve been going to shows since I was like 16, back in the Cafe Roma, Tremors, Huntridge days, so I’ve seen a lot of things happen, you know, venues come and go, shut down every other week, so that can get a little discouraging,” Piro says. “With this band, particularly, though, it’s been pretty good. We’ve been getting a lot of good responses from other bands, other musicians in town, and we try to support them when we can.
“I feel like the punk scene — or the rock scene, whatever you want to call it — is really coming together a lot lately and really trying to help each other out rather than trying to compete for anything. I see a lot with PunksInVegas.com: He puts out a local compilation every year, and nobody’s really fighting to be the top spot or anything like that. They’re all just kind of happy to be on it.”
Likewise, Piro and company (due Saturday at the Hard Rock Cafe with Eliza Battle and Guts!) are content “writing the kind of songs that we love, that we grew up listening to, while still trying to do something new and exciting,” he says. “Really just trying to write the best songs we can is sort of the end goal, and see what happens from there.”
— Read more from Dave Herrera at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow @rjmusicdh on Twitter.Like Neon Las Vegas on Facebook: