Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

On the Rise

01 December 2023, 11:00

After connecting across an ocean, the members of Raynes bring their own diverse influences together to create a mixtape that defies easy labels.

“It's more of a mixtape for sure than a really sonically cohesive project, but I like that,” smiles Mat Charley from a small kitchen somewhere in LA.

It’s early morning and he’s flanked by Mark Race and Joe Berger. Collectively known as Raynes, the British-American trio have been racking up streams and industry attention for their cross-genre, melodic and instrumentally diverse take on contemporary pop. “We love too much of it really to just hone in on one thing. So, we'll figure that out,” he laughs.

Charley and Berger were both born and raised in North Dakota, meeting in the hallway of their university in 2014. Berger grew up on a lot of hip-hop and country, although nowadays his tastes lean more towards “a good pop-banger.” Although his main focus was sports, landing an athletics scholarship, he took guitar lessons from a young age. “I see a really cool looking guy, great vibe. I walked up to him because I was a happy-go-lucky, very personable, kind of person,” he laughs of his first meeting with Charley. “I just introduced myself and I think I did it in a Matthew McConaughey accent. I don't know why, that's really stupid.”


“It was really stupid,” replies Charley with a smile. The two began to make music together, Berger’s country roots complimenting and broadening Charley’s rich musical background. One of twelve, he played in his family’s bluegrass band growing up, learning everything from mandolin to banjo and bass guitar. He joined choirs, orchestras and string ensembles. At school, he fronted multiple punk, emo and folk bands. “My biggest kind of obsession was just writing, producing, and making music. I wanted to somehow get my songs, in whatever form, so people could hear them,” he explains.

When Berger walked over and introduced himself, Charley was already courting industry interest. Together they began to work on music, quickly realising that the one thing they were missing was a singer. “Joe and I can both sing but not nearly as well as Mark, not in a lead singer way,” says Charley. “One day I was just scrolling through Instagram and I found a video of Mark playing and singing a cover of something and I showed it to Joe and we were both like, this guy is exactly what we're looking for. But we knew he was British. We’re like, ‘There's no way he's gonna come here and give up whatever he's doing and join this band that doesn't really exist.’”


From Durham, Race began playing piano when he was four. It was during a piano exam that he realised he could sing, leading him to take the lead role in his primary school play. “I got it and then I loved it, being on stage and singing,” he smiles. He applied to Durham School on a piano scholarship, performing a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Ben” at his audition. He was accepted on a vocal scholarship. “They put me straight in the school choir and then I did a lot of musical theatre growing up and choral stuff.”

In his early teens, he became obsessed with John Mayer, picked up the guitar and began playing in pubs and restaurants. “My first ever little gig was in the middle of Durham, somewhere in this tiny little bar,” he says. “Then I just fell in love with it and then I kept doing that for so long and then I started posting stuff on social media and then that's when the guys stumbled across me.”


Having found their needle in a haystack, Charley reached out to Race via Facebook Messenger, explaining the band’s set up, the team they had in place and the interest they’d brought from different publishers. “I was so ignorant when it came to the music industry,” laughs Race. “I always wanted to be in it but didn't have a clue how to really get into it nor a lot of the terms that we use in it. I was just playing music for fun and dotting around the country playing in bars and stuff and then Matt said in that message, ‘We have a pub deal on the table.’ My first understanding of what that meant was they have a pub residency. The funniest part is, I was like, ‘Perfect, I'm in!’”

Within ten days of connecting, Race was on a flight to LA and shortly after the newly completed band inked a deal with Sony Music Publishing. However, Race didn’t have a visa and was technically still a student at Durham University.

Eventually he dropped out, shifting his focus to Raynes, travelling back and forth across the Atlantic. Then 2020 happened. “Everybody had to make a decision about how they were going to deal with the pandemic,” says Charley. “For us, there wasn't ever a question where maybe we just don't do this anymore. I think we were kind of uniquely ready to handle that just because for the first two or three years that we were together we were very often not in the same place at the same time. We were very used to sending files and voice memos back and forth.”

Hunkering down in their respective homes, the trio set about writing their rousing debut EP Set Fire To The Foxes, which eventually got a release in 2021. “That was literally us three, all in completely separate locations and we did everything totally remotely,” says Race. “It was just let's keep doing what we know how to do, which is write music and put music out and then that's all we could do at that point.”

Once travel resumed and the band were reunited, they set about releasing a series of singles, culminating in their A Ghost In The Walls EP. Out today, it’s a project that’s spun the past year accompanied by interlinking videos and completed by a special orchestral version of “Lemon Drop,” the group’s debut 2019 track. “There's seven singles all together, but they're not really all fully cohesive. It's not all the same sound, it doesn't really work as an album, but our thought was that it works really well as a sample of what we can do and what we'd like to do,” Charley explains.

Raynes Press Photo 1

Across the collection, Race’s rich and direct vocals bring the tracks together as they circle the band’s myriad influences under a broad pop tapestry. “Miami Underwater” is a dizzying rush of golden electronica, while “White Dress” wears a straight cut of country-led storytelling. “Heaven Anymore” slows things down with a heavy drive of heartrending balladry, all epic drums and singing piano, while opener “Drive You Back Home” is an instant hit of pulsing contemporary songwriting.

Taken from a collection of over sixty songs that spanned the entire history of the group, in some cases even predating Race, not only is Ghost In The Walls a taste of what’s to come, but a way of releasing the past. “We kind of think of it or refer to it as a little bit of a mixtape,” says Charley. “We just wanted to put out all of our favourite stuff. I rewrote some lyrics and kind of made sure that all made sense together. In my opinion, I feel like it made sense to approach it from that direction.”

A Ghost in the Walls is out now

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