JAY PRAY |
Justin P. Romanos has had a love for music since was he was just old enough to pick up a guitar. Justin was drawn to performance and songwriting at an early age, and growing up became a regular in the DIY music scene around his rural Connecticut hometown. He and his friends had ever evolving musical tastes and learned more about the process of making music by consistently forming new bands and recording in Justin’s makeshift home studio. This landed him a spot at Drexel University's Music Industry Program. Here he found a home of like-minded peers and gained a lasting nickname, "J Pré", short for an early band called the Justin P. Romanos Experiment. He honed his craft by continuously writing and spent much of his time in the close-knit Philadelphia basement community where he fronted the indie rock band “SHMNS.” After graduating college in 2014, it was time to regroup, refocus, and reinvent himself as a musician.
Justin relocated to Brooklyn, NY and began to combine the best of his musical beginnings into his biggest, boldest, and most colorful pop album yet; as the newly reincarnated Jay Pray. Under the polished production of Brandon Bost, Justin’s new album flourishes into a lush landscape of bright tones in which every detail is carefully slotted in place. A strong but subtle beat propels the collection forward as it dips into sultry shadows and bursts into powerful blasts of sunshine. Intricate synth riffs and Justin’s gentle lilt twinkle amongst the swelling wall of sound, transforming love musings into a tropical sonic escape. Jay Pray is a refreshing arrival in a saturated pop scene with a debut worth diving into head first.
It wasn’t a spiritual journey as many musicians claim bring their songs to life, but for SHMNS - pronounced “shamans” - it all fell into place as if destiny were packing a suitcase for a trip not quite yet planned; casually and with equal parts fate and faith.
Philadelphia’s electro/indie-pop SHMNS intend to make a bold statement with their debut EP, Somewhere Between Here and There (released May 14). “Here and there is where we are and where we essentially want to be, musically and conceptually,” reflects guitarist Isaac Louis. “It has become our mantra,” adds vocalist and conceptualist Justin P. Romanos.
Comprised of four music industry students (vocalist Justin P. Romanos, guitarist Issac Louis, bassist Mike Morrongiello, and drummer Richie Straub) who have experienced the ins and outs of the DIY Philadelphia music culture since 2010, SHMNS aims to add a sense of polished validity to the scene while still remaining true to their roots. Influenced by such artists as Local Natives, Tame Impala, and Minus the Bear, the quartet have created a unique sound that is rooted in the various members’ frustration with the electronic scene as well as their ambition to create fresh mix of live instruments with electronic elements.
Everything that vocalist and founder Justin P. Romanos has done musically has lead to this album. “Going into a studio and working with a producer has shown me how different it really is than doing it all yourself,” notes Romanos. Initially writing all the songs that comprise Somewhere Between Here and There with a combination of core guitar tracks and midi instruments, Romanos’ main focus was how to translate these compositions to a full band once it came time to record.
Working with Philadelphia based producer/engineer Brandon Bost, SHMNS were able to develop a unique mix of the electronic elements that dominated their youth with a fresh combination of live musical arrangements. “Recording Somewhere Between Here and There, was an interesting process in regards to figuring out how far I could push the band as musicians and getting to know them as people,” reflects Bost. “It was pretty obvious that even though they have a sort of hi-fi electronic exterior, SHMNS is very much so a band looking for vintage tones—cohesively melding their electronic influence with their vintage sound.“
There is an unregistered hominess in SHMNS’s debut EP that is softened by wistful hypnotics, gradient slopes that marry harmony and lyrics, and an abundance of beauty and balance in Romanos’ voice as he lingers sentiments on the tip of his tongue. Like a summer night so crisp, warm, and humbling, SHMNS cannot effectively run from the mysticism that has been, in ways, naturally selected for their songs; both bold, innovative, yet with a warm touch like that of long drive home with no cars blocking your way.