Music News

California Dreamin'

XrayOk was one of the most promising indie rock/electronica groups in the Valley. Formed in Phoenix in December 2002, the band's self-released first album, Reflex, debuted at No. 158 on the CMJ Music Charts and stayed there for three weeks. At the time, it looked like XrayOk was going to be our next breakout band. Surely, the group's catchy concoctions of '80s New Wave, Britpop, and dance beats would infect the ears of some major label scout, and XrayOk would be signed and shuffled off to stardom.

But that didn't happen. First, XrayOk abandoned us, relocating to Los Angeles and losing its bassist, Michael Hartman, in the process. Then, the band's second release, an EP titled Like Life (released in April of this year), failed to make any inroads with record labels. Now, XrayOk singer/guitarist TJ Hill finds himself doing a phone interview before the band heads out on a completely self-financed, 18-city tour in support of its new EP, Moderation, and explaining why he left Phoenix for what hasn't turned out to be a greener pasture, after all.

"We were doing well in Arizona, but I've always wanted to move back to California. I lived in San Francisco for a while and absolutely loved it," Hill says. "It was nothing against Arizona. And I moved because of the ocean. I'm an ocean guy."

Moderation has more of an electronica sound than XrayOk's previous releases, something Hill partially credits to the lack of a bassist. But the album's lavish synths, melodic guitar, and infectious grooves still haven't piqued the ears of the industry. And for the record, Hill says he doesn't care. "Our plan is to do the indie thing and not have corporate fuckheads fucking around with our music," he says. "But if something good came along, we'd take it."

Okay, so maybe he does care. He's just a little frustrated. After all, the bill for XrayOk's current tour is being footed by the band members ("We all have jobs," Hill says), friends, and family members. Instead of a tour bus with a working toilet and decent beds and maybe a roadie or two, XrayOk will be tooling around America's highways in a van crammed with equipment the band members have to lug around and set up themselves. "It's hard," Hill says. "Sometimes the only way to deal with it is to get fucked up every night."

Fucked up or not, signed or not, Hill and his bandmates — keyboardist/synthesizer wizard Ally Smith and drummer Jack Duff — plan to keep doing their thing. Like snowbirds, XrayOk will be back in Phoenix in the winter, when they plan to record a full-length album with Flying Blanket Studios owner Bob Hoag. "He's out there, but he's a genuine guy, and he makes great records," Hill says. "We still have some Arizona ties."

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea