'I can't remember how it was before, oh I'm in overdrive, and I want more,' sings The Broken Ravens frontman Toby Michaels somewhat prophetically as the band rides triumphantly at the crest of a rock n’ roll tidal wave.
The lyrics to the band’s track ‘Burn’ perfectly sums up the weight of the accomplishment of a band who stand on the cusp of making the leap from the pubs and clubs of the sleep islands of Lewis and Harris and into the rock stratosphere.
This is the beginning of a new and thrilling road for the Hebridean rockers, a thunderously talented five-piece from the Scottish Western Isles, who have landed a prestigious support slot at the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, purely on the power and merits of their own music.
The Broken Ravens are a band flying solo, without the backing of a label or even a manager, yet the response to taster tracks from a recently recorded EP has earned them a mini-tour of Los Angeles where the boys have booked a trio of live dates this November, including one supporting Puddle of Mudd.
So far the band have done it all their own way and on their own terms, fielding, and humbly and politely rejecting offers to sign record deals. Even their trip across the pond is, like their EP, 100 per cent self financed.
“When you think of the people who have been on that stage in the same position as we are in ...” beams Kevin Clark from his kitchen at home.
“Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue – who had a flat above the venue that you wouldn't even keep a dog in. But its just fantastic and it still has that appeal it's had for 40-years.”
Clark, the energetic, drum stick wielding baron of rock n’ rolla, insists the time is right for the band to bring their locally crafted legacy of hell, fire, brimstone, and anthems onto the masses.
“It is just so exciting,” he continues, “to be playing a Friday night on the Strip and to what should be a good crowd with Puddle of Mudd too.”
Their as-yet unreleased EP has already had the rock horns seal of approval from rock superstar Roy Mayorga of metal giants Stone Sour, the Ravens most famous fan who rolled out the black carpet for Clark at his home where the pair went through the 10 tracks, which were recorded in Stornoway at WeeStudio by Keith Morrison.
“Roy loves the band, he loves the new direction with Derek and Toby as it has totally changed the sound.
“It is more energetic and faster than before and it seems to go down really well.”
The boys had planned to let Mayorga produce the EP, which was funded by the sale of band t-shirts, but changed their minds when they saw the wonders Morrison worked with their tracks
on home soil.
It was during a two-week long trip to Los Angeles that the wheels were set in motion for the band's opportunity to spread their wings and soar Stateside. It was far from a lazy holiday by the beach with the drummer pounding the streets and knocking on the doors to spread the word of the Ravens.
“I took ten flash drives with me, with our press cuttings, our biog, the video and a sampler of five tracks on it,” he said.“We put them all out in Los Angeles as well as ten CD’s I burned myself.
“They went out all over the place to organised meetings and chance encounters which went in our favour as well.
“One was in the Whisky where I kept in contact with the booker and when I asked if they had support booked for the Puddle of Mudd show he said 'it's all yours if you want it.'
“He even offered us the choice of three slots to play on the bill but the further up the bill you are the more tickets you have to sell. We don't think Puddle of Mudd will have any problems shifting their ticket allocation but of our three billing slots I chose the opening slot.
“It's nice and early and we can use it as a showcase. It's going to be a Friday night on Sunset Strip, where we will be the last to soundcheck and the first on. Everything will be set exactly for us, plug in and play. Half an hour to absolutely show what we can do.
“It is really exciting and we might just add a fourth date. We all see it the same way and none of us are going over there for a sun tan – we are going over there to work.”
When the quintet plug in their instruments and launch into the opening bars of ‘Black Knuckle Ride’ - a track they recently wrapped up a video for - they emerge like a snarling beast – but one which is knee deep in sweet melody and all the traditions of classic rock n’ roll.
It is difficult to pigeonhole the band to one single genre as they boast a sound like the love-child of Hanoi Rocks and Velvet Revolver which was raised on the road by Lemmy.
Metal enough for the metal heads but rocky enough for the foot-tapping classic rockers and melodic enough to infect the ear of the casual listener.
The Broken Ravens - singer Toby Michaels, guitarists Thrash Macaulay and Derek Healey, bassist Lotto Ferguson and Clark on drums, - are a band the rock world should be hearing a lot more of.
And it looks like they will be, as the fledgling five-piece plan to release their debut EP at the same time as they head to the US.
“What we would love to do is have the EP on both vinyl and CD available to sell while we are over in L.A,” says Clark.
“I have friends who could do that for us but its all about budget and having the money to do that. “Our priority is to get our travel sorted and our visas paid for an approved for playing the shows first and if any money is left over it'll be PR all the way.”
In addition to the Whisky show on November 18 the band are also scheduled to play a show for Music Press Junkie blog in Northern California as well as a show in Burbank – these two shows sandwiched either side of the Puddle of Mudd gig.
“The whole vibe of the band, and Toby’s look with his long ginger hair has been going over well and the video was really well received. It’s all so positive and we have to get our EP out,”
The Ravens’ boys are hellbent on blazing a trail across the music scene with a deafening noise and impact which will ensure they leave their bootprints on the musical souls, and ear drums, of fans for enduring generations.
The Hebrides may seem an unusual breeding ground for a rock n’ roll band but The Broken Ravens are no ordinary group.
Showing steely resolve and a stealthy glare at giving this their best shot, they remarkably resisted the undeniable lure of contract offers and interest from the likes of Beau Hill (Ratt, Warrant, Alice Cooper), Sterling Winfield (Pantera) and Paul Wilson from Snow Patrol for over two years.
“Charlie Benante from Anthrax, Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden have all said how much they enjoyed our songs.
“People I met before have I would have no way of reaching,” reflected Clark.
But interest in the band is far stronger than mere emails and verbal pats on the back with the band facing concrete offers in black and white which they are battling the urge to ink.
It helps the band refrain that Clark has been burned by the record industry before as part of Our Lunar Activities.
They were a band who landed a record deal in America and toured with Blink-182 with
Mark Hoppus actually producing their début album but the record has never seen the light of day and remains highly unlikely to ever do so.
It was a steep learning curve for the stickman who is now well aware of the perils of signing to a label to eagerly or quickly, so Clark and the rest of the Ravens are biding their time.
“We recorded with Blink-182 and as we had a manager we didn’t know what was
happening from day to day,”recalled Clark of his days on the road with his former band.
“There is money going here, there and everywhere and you wake up to a call saying you have to be at the airport to fly somewhere.
“We wanted to do it all our selves and we have been getting great advice from people.
“For the Ravens, the pull in the States in unbelievable as for every five people who respond to our demos, videos or emails,at least four of them are in America.
“In Britain there hasn’t been much, although a few bands have liked our page.
“Hill and Sterling Winfield both sent us contracts in the past but we are wary of losing too much control and getting too much debt. People may give us the money to record but then we would have to pay so much back and perhaps lose 50percent of our music and all our royalties. So we have had them all send us contracts and advise how much they are going to charge us, what they are willing to do and how we can make that work for us.
“Hill has even offered to travel to Stornoway to record us, which shows how much he sees in his.
“I’ve learned before you have to hold off. Of course it is very exciting and you want to sign but you need to take a step back and think about it.”
Determined to do things their own way, their decision somewhat fuelled by past experiences with the record industry, the band self financed and produced a single in late 2013 and embarked on a Scottish mini tour in support.
From there the band progressed to a live performance at The Black Star Riders after show in Inverness and an HMV-instore. Local and Highland shows continued but the Ravens needed to spread their wings as they flew south for a show at Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy, before a first ever road trip to London for a pair of shows - at Camden’s The Enterprise and the following day in The Water Rats at Kings X.
A hectic week of live shows and endless miles of tarmac concluded a day later when the band plugged in and played at the Brew At The Bog festival in Inverness.
It’s a typically ambitious and relentless touring schedule for a band who are fully prepared to put in the mileage and effort into giving this their best shot.
“I've tried everything I can think of to try and get noticed and even the tiniest of slots on any stage at the Download Festival,” admits the drummer honestly. “It's not even knock backs. I have sent Livenation our demos and EP's which they say they will pass on but we've never heard.
“Download has always been our goal but hopefully the gig in L.A will earn us more credibility back at home and eventually help us to play places like Download.”
Live shows from The Ravens are a spectacle in themselves.
Arriving on stage to a boneshaking, ear-splitting roar the boys mesh weighty guitars, frenetic drumming, choruses and hooks which burrow deep into your head and refuse to leave.
Igniting the crowd, sewing together classic tunes, show stopping theatrics like Toby Michaels tendency to fling himself into the crowd and serenade the gig-goers at times on his knees.
That confidence, vitality and clear camaraderie is rare to find in a band but then The Broken Ravens are a band who appeal across both genres and demographics.
All five have served their time in the trenches of the local pub and club scene and have earned themselves a shot at the big time.
“We seems to appeal to all kinds of people,” remarked Clark as he busily fidgeted on his stool.
“We are not metal but we have such diverse influences. Its when we get together all our sounds go into a blender and we get our sound – The Broken Ravens.”
Outstandingly prolific, artistically gifted, endlessly ambitious, ceaselessly motivated and musically magnetising, the Ravens have crafted their new songs and signature sounds in Clark’s garage which has been converted into a rehearsal space and which he laughs has been filled with the incessant choruses of swearing and shouting.
If any rock music lover made a list of their favourite things in rock it would read something like wailing guitars, choruses with so many hooks they burrow into your head and refuse to leave, an on stage swagger twinned with smiles and enough personality to connect with the crowd.
“I'm so, so proud of our achievement,” grins Clark, “unlike Our Lunar Activities which had management and labels and all the rest of it, we have nothing except the five of us in the band and we have managed to land a huge show on the strip.”
The band’s catchphrase is Let The Thunder Roar. And while it may be tentative early days for the five-piece, the roar coming from this Ravens nest is already deafening.