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WPGM Commentary: Rayowa Are Keeping The Faith On Their New EP ‘Believe’

Hi, we are Rayowa. A funk/soul/disco band formed by three brothers, Dan, Reece & Luke Baker from Basildon, Essex. We’ve been obsessing over and making music together since we were kids. We are self-taught musicians and producers.

Where we are from is a post-war town so there isn’t much to be influenced by culturally here in the same way you’d find in London. This left us in a sort of musical bubble, and so that coupled with the music our parents and grandparents influenced us with, and then our own exploration has resulted in the Rayowa sound.

We always get asked what our name means so before we get into this EP, Rayowa means ‘life’ in a language called Hausa. We just really liked how it sounded and looked written down so we went with it. We liked it because it felt a bit like Shalamar or Odyssey, two classic R&B/soul bands we really like.

When we chose the name we wanted something that represented a rebirth because we each felt like we’d been born again when we started the project having each done a few failed bands before we formed this one.

Rayowa started really quickly just before the pandemic, in the space of about 6 months we formed, signed a record deal, got our live band together, worked at Abbey Road, sold out two headline shows… basically we were on a roll and after years of being in bands that didn’t quite get there, we finally felt like things were on the road to kicking off for us.

Then lockdown came, which completely derailed the momentum we had, knocked us as people and our affected our family too as we all went through a really tough time during that period and experienced a lot of grief and heart ache. That made being creative during that time pretty difficult for us as the three of us experienced our own individual battles with mental health.

As much as everyone wants to stop talking about the lockdown, it’s something that had such a massive impact on the world so naturally it’s something we’re all still feeling today. Our new EP is a project born out of the pandemic and while some of the tunes were written before it started, we finished the EP during it, so it’s a very much a collection of songs that make us think of that time and how we felt.

Keep Believin” is a lyric from the the title track and was a mantra we adopted during the pandemic so it felt natural to call the EP Believe as it summed up our experiences during 2020 & 2021.

The tunes explore a number of themes but collectively encompass the message of keeping the faith, regardless of how difficult the circumstances you find yourself in are. Tying back into the explanation of us choosing our name and wanting it to feel like a rebirth, finally releasing the EP has felt the same.

We’ve had a really amazing year as a band and things feel really good again. It feels like the belief we had to summon to get through the difficult times has carried us to this new chapter, so this EP feels like a celebration of the challenges we faced as people and it feels good to have been able to channel that ill-feeling into a positive.

In terms of the creative process for this EP and how Rayowa works in general, Reece takes care of what you hear, Dan takes care of what you see and then Luke is the frontman. It’s a dynamic that works really well for us and has done since we started Rayowa.

Reece has spent over ten years studying the production and song writing techniques of the classic soul/disco/funk/R&B records of the ’70s & ’80s and so the result is a carefully considered blend of those genres.

It can be difficult to do but the aim is to always create something that sounds authentic to the records of those times, yet feels modern and a sound of 2022.

We wanted to push beyond the boundaries of disco we explored on our first EP and showcase a wider range of influences including R&B, funk and soul. Our aim was to create something that sounds fresh and modern but also feels as familiar and as timeless as your favourite worn in record.

“Good Life” is a feel-good disco influenced tune about aspiration, while “Believe” is a soul record at disco bpm that could soundtrack the triumphant ending to a film. It’s about keeping faith in whatever it is you’re pursuing in life.

“Searchin” is a syncopated funk track about unanswered questions from the past, and “Remember” is an R&B/soul influenced track that should be listened to on a summer night with the windows down. It’s about remembering who you are in difficult times.

The EP also features an incredible line-up of musicians/friends, most of which also play with us live. There’s Nico Ariza on drums, brothers Mike & Peter Anderson on percussion and bass respectively, Jasmine Duxbury, Darnell, and Nicole Nyarambi on backing vocals and brothers Dave & Stephan Mather on brass and strings.

It was recorded at our studio, ‘Studio 39’, mastered by Tony Cousins at Metropolis Studios and mixed by Sheriff Mumbles at Koru Studios in Trinidad.

The vision for visual side of the EP was to make the package feel really coherent so we wanted the artwork and videos to have a running theme. We worked with Kieran & Corey Rid of La De La Studio, Bethnal Green on this side of things.

We shot the music videos for “Good Life” and “Remember” in Spain. We referenced the Nick Love film The Business starring Danny Dyer & Tamar Hassan. It’s a British rise and fall gangster film set in the ’80s that we grew up watching, so when we had the opportunity to fly to Alicante to shoot the videos, we went for it.

We wanted to capture the grit and aesthetic of The Business but make it look a little bit Tarantino with some hints of Goodfellas. The soundtrack to The Business caught our attention from a young age.

Before we’d seen the film, we’d hear our Mum playing tracks like “Hanging On A String” by Loose Ends, “Don’t You” by Simple Minds and “All Night Long” by Mary Jane Girls; so when the film was released in 2005 and we heard those records soundtrack the visual of these British blokes living the so called ‘high life’ in Spain, it felt really inspiring.

When working out what to do for our videos, we felt our music gave us that same feeling we felt as kids watching it for the first time while feeling really nostalgic, so we wanted to recreate that.

The music video for the title track “Believe” is a little different. We wanted to show a different side to us with this visual and shine light on the wider members of the Rayowa project.

We play live as a 9 piece and the energy we all feel when we play gigs together is amazing and is such a refreshing, unique experience for us all. We wanted to give viewers an insight into that and a flavour of how our live shows look and feel.

The initial idea for the EP’s artwork came when Dan designed a couple of cover art mock ups for “Believe” and “Remember”. He designed them with the intention of it looking like film credits, almost Tarantino-esq but set on the coast in Southern Spain at dusk/night time.

We sent the ideas over to Kieran who got to work and did an amazing job at taking the art from concept to delivery. The result was 4 unique pieces of artwork for each track featuring all the things you’d associate with the location we’d referenced.

We are really proud and excited to share this new body of work with the world are really grateful to be doing what we love. We have more new music coming soon and we’re playing a headline show in London at Chats Palace on the 1st of December to celebrate the release of the EP – tickets are available here.

Listen to our EP Believe below!

Words by Rayowa // Follow them on Twitter + Instagram

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