You might have heard of them — or maybe you haven’t. Either way, RAYLR is a band you need to hear.
On Nov. 5, 2021, four Azusa Pacific University alumni and one senior stepped onto a stage set up in a parking lot mere yards from the dorm rooms they lived in as freshmen. The stage lights panned over the heads of students packed together in front of the stage and illuminated even more students flocking toward the crowd. As they prepped their instruments, the crowd of students in front of the stage grew in hushed expectation and curiosity.
Half of the crowd had heard of the newly formed band in the months leading up to the concert or had listened to their two released singles. The concert-goers who were in the loop informed those who were there simply by way of curiosity who the band, RAYLR, was as it were some insider secret.
RAYLR played a slew of unreleased originals, their two released songs and a few covers. By the end of the concert, the whole crowd, despite their previous knowledge of the band, was jumping up and down to songs they were hearing for the first time.
“RAYLR is a project that started when five friends decided to make music together,” said Lauren Brasesco, the band’s manager and a senior at APU. “Their music lands in the indie/rock genre, but each member’s diverse musical background contributes to their sound. Their backgrounds range from jazz to country to pop, and you can hear influences from these genres in their music.”
The five friends that make up RAYLR are lead singer and guitarist Richard Guinta, guitarist Taylor Warnecke, keyboardist Justin Watson, bassist Brendan Grellman and drummer Garrett Morris.
According to Watson, RAYLR was created out of multiple projects that were shared among the group of friends. He said working on their debut single “Safe One” together is what led them to commit to starting a band.
The band currently has two singles released on all streaming platforms.
“Safe One,” released in July of 2021, has over 18,000 streams on Spotify and showcases the band’s style, combining poetic lyrics with an upbeat melody that utilizes the instrumental talents of each band member.
RAYLR followed up “Safe One” with the release of “What We’re Here For” in October 2021. “What We’re Here For” is a drum-heavy energetic anthem that comments on a directionless stage of life filled with empty thrills.
“Our music falls somewhere in the alternative-indie-rock/pop world,” said Guinta. “We’ve drawn inspiration from bands like The Band CAMINO, The 1975, as well as artists like John Mayer and Noah Gundersen.”
The APU community seems to have taken to the band. RAYLR’s music is played through the speakers at campus events, their stickers can be seen on students’ water bottles and laptops and a loyal following of students travels into LA to see their shows.
This interest in RAYLR from the APU community seems to follow a trend of APU students becoming invested in student bands. In past years students have voiced interest in bands like Ryland and Sola Luna which also consist of APU students and alumni.
“There have been some really cool artists to come out of APU, and we’re proud to follow in their footsteps,” said Morris.
Their style of music has also clearly resonated with an audience beyond APU as is evidenced by the number of shows they have played in the Los Angeles area. Brasesco estimated that they’ve played a total of nine shows at venues including The Mint, Molly Malone’s, Hotel Cafe and APU events.
Now, all of the members of RAYLR have graduated from APU and are continuing to work on music together. In fact, according to Watson, the whole band currently lives together in a house in Azusa which makes collaborating on projects easy.
Additionally, the band plans to continue producing music going forward and to continue developing as a professional endeavor.
“RAYLR is far more than a side project at this point,” said Grellman. “We want to work hard and push it as far as it will take us, ideally getting to a point where we are making a living doing so.”
The band recently made a major advancement on the path to taking RAYLR beyond being a side project. According to Brasesco, RAYLR was recently scouted by Symphonic Distribution and signed a distribution deal with the company.
Those following the band’s journey are bound to see a lot from the group in the near future.
“We have a lot of big things we’re working on for the future,” said Warnecke. “We are continually looking for shows to perform at on a monthly basis all around California. We are also working on making merch for the band focusing on quality and ethical clothing/apparel. But the most exciting for us is working on putting out new music for an upcoming EP this year.”
Along with the promise of new music, RAYLR has several shows planned for the upcoming months. On March 22 they will be performing a show at The Mint for fans above 16 years old, and on April 13 they’ll be performing as part of BeachLife Festival’s Wednesday night showcases.