Miles to Go Before They Sleep: Miles of Wire

One night we just stumbled on Miles of Wire, opening a show at the Way Out. We were immediately seized by Raphael “Ray” Maurice’s lyrics and voice. Here was a man and a band that could straddle the line between irony and caustic wit as if he were born to do it. When I talked to Maurice that night, he said they were putting together a CD and would be playing around town over the next few months. On a recent Wednesday night, we had the opportunity to sit down with the band prior to their gig at Magee’s on Stag Night (every week, a buck a bottle). The band—Maurice (guitar, singing, and complaints), Shawn T. Bell (bass), and Adam Anglin (drums)—gathered around a table and offered literary thoughts about lyrics, making it in the music biz, and chick rock.

1. How did the band come together?
STB: I’ve known Ray for a number of years. He played violin for an impromptu jam for a band I was in a few years ago. About two years ago, his brother mentioned to me that Ray was back in town and writing songs, and would I want to play in the band? I asked him and the drummer at the time to come over and we laid down some tracks, but nothing came of it and we never played any shows. [The original band was called Black Valentine.] We finally did start playing as Miles of Wire with a different drummer—but he never really did like the material.

RM: And I was in a studio out in Washington [Missouri] and every once in awhile Adam would come over. He has been a friend since childhood. He would sit down and just play the drums like a motherfucker. I was starting to like my time playing with him better than Miles of Wire. So we finally got rid of the other drummer and brought Adam in. It has been great ever since.

STB: I think Freddy Friction is the first person that heard us. I don’t know how he even heard us. He was really our first advocate; I have a lot of respect for that guy. He took a chance on playing us. I think I gave him a disc and I called him a couple weeks later and he said, “I lost it, but I’ll book you a gig anyway.” He called up a few hours later and said, “Hey, I found the disk and it’s great.”

RM: He is just the kindest, avuncular, wonderful person. He bought me a beer last week.

2. So when does the CD come out?
STB: We are finishing up the mixing right now. The plan is to release a small run of the CD as a promotional release. We’ll take this 200 and send them out to college radio stations and maybe sell a few. We will take the feedback we get and maybe do a little remix, then probably run 2,000.

We are just really happy with the CD. It’s noisy, it’s quiet, it’s tough and tender; it’s got all sorts of stuff on it. I think the selling point of Miles of Wire music is that it is cool enough for guys to dig, but the lyrics are heartfelt enough and come from an emotional place so that females can really get into it. A lot of our initial feedback was from women who said, “this is great stuff.”

But not chick rock?
STB: Yeah, we are not a boy band.
RM: I am actually going out to L.A. in about three weeks to talk with some record labels. Several of them heard the first demo we did and some basement tapes I did with Adam; they were really impressed. So we are going to see what happens. It is a tough road, though, because I have seen so many great bands in St. Louis and they don’t get signed. You know they don’t want to sell out, and yet they don’t get signed and nothing ever happens.

3. What do you like? What influences you?
RM: I love the Replacements; there is nothing better than them. They can be sad and funny and ironic…they can be all those things, but when you listen to like Let It Be or Sorry Mom, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, that is just fun shit, unrelentingly fun. I like author Cormac McCarthy as an influence. I like Hüsker Dü. I just like earnest rock ’n’ roll: it doesn’t want to call attention to itself, and it just wants to be really good.

Most of my songs are very southern. I was a classics major, Latin and Greek; English major, too. I started playing guitar, but before that I just read a lot of books. That’s where it all comes out of.

4. You all seem to concentrate on the fun aspects of rock ’n’ roll. Is it fun?
RM: One of the disillusions about rock ’n’ roll is that it is not fun anymore. It’s all ironic and college-y and overeducated…and I know that is coming from someone who likes to reference literary material, but we try to make it fun. You know, it’s like “Wild Nights,” which references Emily Dickinson. I am not saying, “Look, I know Emily Dickinson”; it is just a singable line. It is a fun song. To this day, my favorite band in the world is the Highway Matrons. The night I got my first guitar, a piece of shit, I went to a Matrons show and watched Mark Stephens just command that mic. I saw that and I said, “I’m going to do that someday.” You know, maybe not as well, but I’m going to have a band. We just try to have a lot of fun. The bands I grew up watching, like the Matrons, were just fun for me; they didn’t have to be so serious. Rock ’n’ roll is pretty much a dead scene except for a few bands. It needs to be more fun.

SBT: We may be fun, but I think [Ray] is selling himself short when he says we are just all about fun. I’ve been in several bands, including cover bands and many different genres, but I’ve never been in a band where the audience sits and listens to the lyrics so intently. That’s because he does have interesting lyrics, he can sing very well, and he has good melodies. I don’t think that is the typical thing you see in bars these days. I don’t think it happens a lot where you want to listen to what the guy is saying.
AA: I think people definitely pay attention. Obviously, when you play local shows like this, you bring out a lot of friends, then they sort of stop coming. We have been seeing a lot of new people and the audience seems to keep growing.

STB: It doesn’t make a difference to me if the audience keeps growing. First off, it is important that we have fun and then it is not all too important that St. Louis likes us or not. We are going further.

5. What’s “further?”
RM: We’re going to see what happens with LA.

STB: Then I think it is Monterosa, Illinois. [Laughs]

RM: We would like to get a tour with Wilco. I’m pushing for that.

STB: I’m not.

RM: I think it would be a friendly audience to what we are doing. I think Jeff Tweedy is a genius. Personally, I think Wilco is the American Beatles. They make common objects strange…one of the great things about poetry and rock ’n’ roll.

STB: I would love to tour with Fountains of Wayne.

AA: I just want to tour.

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