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Ray Bull does not, in fact, suck—no matter what their merch says. They sound a little like The Killers, a little like The Strokes, and a whole lot like my new favorite band. If you haven’t heard this breakout indie pop sensation, you’re missing out on some of the best music released during our lifetimes. Think I’m exaggerating? Go ahead and give The New Thing Dies a listen. Put on In The Wind and have a cathartic crying session. Dig through the deep cuts until you bump into Danny Devito. You’ll hear immediately that these guys are the real deal.

The duo is composed of Tucker Elkins and Aaron Graham, two Cooper Union art school kids who decided to use their many talents to start making music together. The name “Ray Bull” actually comes from a pseudonym that Aaron used as a digital artist.

“We were coming up with a lot of ideas that just felt arbitrary,” Tucker explains. “And then I remembered that Aaron had designed an album cover for something he was going to do on his own, called Ray Bull.”

“I had thought of Ray Bull,” Aaron adds, “But I didn’t want to impose my previous project onto this. So when I heard Tucker bring it up, I was like, “Oh, great!”

“It’s at least a reason that feels personal,” says Tucker. “Otherwise, why pick a name?”

As students, Aaron and Tucker weren’t much more than friendly acquaintances. It was only after they had both left school to pursue their respective creative careers—Tucker making films, and Aaron doing art shows—that the two crossed paths again and discovered that they were both dabbling in music.

“Then I think we started sending stuff to each other, right?” asks Aaron.

“Yeah,” Tucker agrees. “Basically just demos and covers. I remember the first thing you sent me was a Willie Nelson cover. And I did not know you had a voice like that. And then slowly, we started to think, “Let’s maybe try to work on something together.”

“I remember I came over to Tucker’s apartment,” Aaron says. “Where I now live, which is funny. We had an awkward evening trying to collaborate. It’s just so embarrassing to sit in front of anyone and be creative and vulnerable. It’s a long process of getting it comfortable.”

“Also, we hadn’t done it before,” says Tucker. “We were art people, it’s not like we had experience being in bands. We don’t know this process. We’re just two kids figuring out how to make a song together.”

“Which was honestly great, because maybe it was safer to do that with each other,” says Aaron. “So we started practicing together, and Tucker was really interested in the idea of playing live. And then COVID happened, and then during that time we realized, “Hey, maybe we should join forces. You have some cool songs. I have some cool songs. This would be a cool album.”

At this point, Ray Bull started the slow grind towards relevance and recognition. Aaron and Tucker posted their music on TikTok, YouTube, and even Reddit hoping to connect with an audience.

“At first, we released an album to basically nobody,” says Tucker.

“We were playing this game of trying to engage people,” says Aaron. “It’s impossible to predict virality, and chasing the algorithm is maddening.

“It’s been a grind,” Tucker says. “Until we released our last EP, Easy Way To Lose, and then The New Thing Dies single brought us up to this next level.”

“It wasn’t calculated,” Aaron says. “If we’d known how well that song was going to do, we would’ve put it out first.”

“But then we had a month, almost two months straight of just doing meetings. We got hit up by every major record label you can think of, and people wanting to be our manager,” Tucker explains. “In the span of two or three weeks, we locked down a booking agent, a manager, a lawyer, and a business manager.”

More than anything else, it was TikTok that made the difference. At the time of writing, a clip of Ray Bull singing their viral hit The New Thing Dies has 3.3 million views, and the band itself has over 600k followers.

Yours truly even discovered Ray Bull on TikTok, via the same insanely popular clip—and then immediately bought tickets to a local gig at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, where the indie rock band Frog opened the show, and Ray Bull brought down the house with the first performance of their single Better Than Nothing. At the time, the 700-person crowd was the biggest show they had ever played. A short three months later, Ray Bull is touring the nation and playing festivals.

It’s no surprise (to me) that fans can’t get enough of their sound, which the guys describe as “a slightly weird, eclectic indie rock or indie pop, but with a folky side, and an ambient experimental side, and a funky alternative country side” that they hope to express on future albums. But for Tucker and Aaron, the experience is still a little surreal.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” says Tucker. “It’s just very surreal that we have fans, that people want to take pictures of us. But we’re very thankful to everybody who comes up to us and says that they like us. It’s always a little bit mind-blowing, especially after a show.”

“But it’s also been really interesting to see,” Aaron says. “We’re finally getting to see who our fans are, and it’s interesting to see the demographic and types of people who show. It’s very multi-generational.”

“For the last three or four shows there’s been one couple, usually a middle-aged couple, who have told us that they flew in from somewhere like Berlin or Istanbul or Brussels,” says Tucker. “It’s crazy.”

And what’s next for Ray Bull?

“The main thing we want to do more is release more music, but we want to do it in a smart way,” says Tucker. “But we also still want to be artists and do whatever we want, you know?”

“We want to keep it fresh for as long as possible, and treat it like a continual art project,” says Aaron. “We’re figuring out how to do that, and how to use social media in a way that engages people, but also keeps it fun and interesting for us because it’s so easy to burn out.”

“I think we’re really ambitious and the sky’s the limit,” says Tucker. “We’re very open to whatever comes and we want to be as successful as possible. But I think the goal is just finding a place for us to continue to feel truly creative and inspired and make things, and feel like there’s an audience of people that are receptive.”

I for one, am definitely receptive to whatever Ray Bull does next—and I can’t wait to see where they go from here!

photos /  David Brandon Geeting story / Bryanna Doe Singer @datbryannadoe]





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