Tony Jay is the solo project of Michael Ramos, known as member of Flowertown, April Magazine and Al Harper.
He’s releasing music under this stage name for almost fifteen years now, but his latest efforts, 2020’s A Wave In The Dark and 2021’s Hey There Flower, both out for Paisley Shirt Records on cassette, are definitely his most accomplished sets of songs.
The latter, fourteen songs mostly recorded between Christmas 2020 and New Year’s during a window of isolation at home, “preserves Tony Jay’s prowess at making beautifully eerie lo-fi pop; like a hazy memory where your favorite Sixties girl-group melody is perpetually slowed down“. Without a band to practice with, Tony Jay recorded the music alone, but recruited a slew of friends to remotely record backing vocals: Karina Gill (Cindy), Griffin Jones (Galore), Kati Mashikian (Mister Baby), Alexis Harper (Al Harper), & Hannah Lew (Cold Beat).
The vinyl version of Hey There Flower is out now via Mt. St. Mtn..
What He Says: “Mt. St. Mtn. recently released the vinyl edition of Hey There Flower, (released on cassette last year by Paisley Shirt Records). These songs were half collected over the first 11 months of 2020 while the rest were pieced together in my room at the end of the year, back before home tests were common and when the protocol was to isolate for a good 10 days after exposure (or presumed exposure) to covid-19. Anyway, there was nothing for me to do except to try to put an album together and to hope I didn’t get sick. At some point i started emailing roughly mixed versions of these songs to friends to add vocals to give some semblance of something collaborative. With this collection, I tried to steer Tony Jay a little further away from the sound we had settled into and to deconstruct the pop a little (mostly to see if I could do it). The band started playing some of these songs in the past few months and we will be touring the west coast this summer with R.E. Seraphin”.
Mary Lattimore – Flowers in the Center Lane Sway
I didn’t actually listen to Mary’s music until recently – well after recording Hey There Flower. Her music is beautiful – ranging from simple harp arrangements to more nebulous soundscapes like this one. Glorious music.
Cindy Lee – Burning Candle
I’m still spellbound each time i hear this song. The delicate guitar strums coupled with ethereal vocals and beautiful lyrics. Obviously very influential in the sound of some of the songs on Hey There Flower.
Gouper – Cloud In Places
A friend introduced me to Grouper’s music a few months before covid shutdown. I kept their music was on rotation for much of the time that followed and I finally was able to attend a live performance. One thing i admire is their ability to seamlessly switch between moments of blissful, catchy melodies and more loosely held together “songs” that, while listening, feel like a dreamy journey of sorts.
Plastic Candles – Pacific Blue
David usually plays guitar in April Magazine, a band I used to play drums in. This song is from his recent solo album on Paisley Shirt. This composition meanders and swirls, slowly building while hinting at something mysterious that is never fully revealed. The entire album is amazing.
White Poppy – Green & Growing
While on tour almost five years ago, we stayed with our friend Ian in his trailer in Joshua Tree. He had a really cool cassette-centric sound system built into the walls. In his wall of tapes, the name, White Poppy, stood out. This song makes great use of feedbacky sounds as the main force of melody.
Cindy – Nothing To It
I’ve always been drawn to Karina’s music. This song is notable in my mind as it leans into the lack of tonal clarity. The guitars are almost blown out, the percussion is eerie and evokes images of chains in the distance. The song has created a little world of its own – a bubble slowly drifting toward the floor before it pops.