I internally scream about 20 times coming off the Q train, badgered left and right about handbags, handbags, handbags. Truthfully, last time I was in Chinatown I was below the legal drinking age. But Veda Rays vocalist James Stark made a very emphatic pitch for Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant. So I’m here. I don’t want any handbags, but I’ll deal to dine with Veda Rays, and I’m down for any sake brunch that’s steeped in a sense of Eastern Mysticism.
If I’m not mistaken (I’m not) I have met drummer Jason Gates at Aviv. We’ve had bonafide conversations, his visage lives on one of my records, and he has a fun, eccentric energy that could power the Christmas lights on my street. As for Veda Rays as a whole, well, they’re the real deal, with a cerulean-soaked sound that could’ve been adjacent to the Batcave but has also been long cultivated in the Brooklyn scene. And their live performances pair it with captivating visuals; flickering television snow or twitchy orange monkeys set an ominous mood throughout.
Yup, these are the professionals, guys.
Hm. I feel good. In the past I usually show up with some sort melodramatic ennui. But I had my cards read Tuesday and things might be turning around.
Or they won’t, but let’s just get through brunch first.
The Scene: So yeah, this place. Recommended by a friend of synth player Maria Joanna Bohemia, the band have become obsessed with its kosher Thai offerings. Like they did a whole incidental vegan food tour of LA and this place is still top tier. And since they were long overdue for a visit and have been talking it up to bass player Renzo Vous (who still hadn’t been), it felt like the right move. They also love the Chinatown location, the appeal of old school New York; in his email James mentioned that their friend Ben Hozie of Bodega Bay said Veda Rays seemed “hatched out of the aughts NYC scene” (James only superficially agrees).
Sold. Although guitarist Gonzalo Tomé isn’t here today, Renzo and I are going to try out this food, and Jason arrives just as we’re about to get our sake. Let’s do this.
2:05 pm We’re talking about mutual friends (you already know where this is going, right?) and James says, “There was an old Veda Rays video where I killed Tarra.”
I respond as expected. “That’s the best!”
“Well, we pulled it down because it was…not being well received because of the violence-toward-women factor.”
Huh. “I get that, I get it being mis-perceived like that.”
“And when we made it it wasn’t such a Thing, but then there was a bit of rumbling, and as a couple of years went by we took it down,” James says. “But the premise had nothing to do with that – it could’ve easily been a man. It just happened to be a woman in the chair.”
So what was the premise, then? The band was riffing on maniacal, cultish figures to illustrate their song “Wait for Teeth to Show.”
“So the letter shein means tooth, right?” James starts. “There’s a tarot card that corresponds with that which is this fire card. The video would show flashes of the card, and the idea of a tooth in this context is like…in simplest terms it’s like, ‘The big fish eats the little ones,’ and you can’t understand the nature of reality in black and white, really. Things that seem horrible could actually be releasing energy so it can reform.”
“There’s a bigger purpose,” I fill in.
Basically yes. “But it wasn’t