There’s no such thing as a ‘casual’ fan of The Mayan Factor. Those who have heard their music have been moved by their music. Since the tragic death of the band’s vocalist Ray (Ray-Ray) Schuler in Feb of 2011 the band has been revitalized by the outpouring of support from the fans. They have released an album in december of2012 and have since found a new vocalist in Lenny Cerzosie and have been playing some live shows recently.
I have been a huge fan since the first time I heard ‘Warflower’ like many others and I wanted to get some more of the story of the band and what they were going through at the time. Percussionist Dan Angermaier was super cool to answer some questions I had:
Take us back to 2003 when you guys are making ‘In Lake ‘Ch’ and what is was like for new band like you guys to be recording your first album. What the response like was in Baltimore? How did you guys all feel about the energy in the band?
Great time in our lives. The energy was right. We were really connecting. Working hard and partying hard. Ray was in great spirits, enjoying the energy and writing all the time. In the rehearsal studio and picking up every gig we could find. Probably playing out 3-4 times per week and then spending 10+ hours at our practice spot going over the songs and writing new ones.
We played all the little clubs on off nights when nobody was around. Had a residency on a Monday night at a club called The Mojo, for free Nati Boh 40’s. We got really good and people were starting to come out and see us on weird off nights at these crazy little spots.
Finally we decided we would take these songs to the recording studio and try and lay down a couple of them. We got to Waterford Studios with Frank Marchand as producer and figured a couple songs in 2 days would be awesome. From the first note it was as if the whole universe was magic. What do they say about “luck”? Its preparation meeting opportunity. We were well rehearsed both in the studio setting and live and the opportunity to record at a great studio with a great producer, was right in front of us. We rocked it. Pretty much did 10 songs straight through and used day 2 to lay extra parts and work out the layers.
We took that album to the streets and had our CD release at the cool club in Baltimore City, Fletchers! The marketing was mysterious. WAKE UP!! was the message. Something new is coming. Something different. You’ve ben lied to. This is the real deal. WAKE UP!!
All the rehearsals, all the studio magic, all the gigs in front of nobody for nothing. We brought our little Monday night following to Fletchers for our big event and blew the place apart. From the crowd to the band and back to the crowd, everyone knew this was a sharing of energy. This was a moment and we were all in together.
Now lead us through 2004 and 2005 and the making of ’44’. Were you guys dreaming of rock and roll stardom? How did you come to find out about your ‘underground’ success and how did the excitement elevate?
44 was equally amazing to make and experience. We had new energy with Dan Angermaier on drums, replacing Matt Toronto. Dan brought a new positivity and although Ray was getting a little out of control off stage, the new line up was exciting, new, fun and felt just like home.
Our crowds were growing and we started picking up gigs in New York City and New Jersey. New management from Nokio of multi platinum Dru Hill and Randy Acker who was VP of Def Soul off of Def Jam records. There was definite new pressure but we felt good and alive and knew we were connecting with each other and every person who heard the music. Again, the album hit (44) and whoosh! Everyone loved it. Reviews came in and the music was reaching way out places in Spain and DJ’s in German clubs were spinning Warflower and people were emailing us about how they connected with this music and passing it to their friends. Fans made videos and they went viral. It wasn’t a 1 song or 1 album fluke. The band was hot and we were talking label deals with management and doing showcases. Everything seemed pretty great on the band level.
Even though there were outside industry tensions and expectations, excitement levels and a now global following, we always felt like the studio, the rehearsal space and live shows were home base. It was warm and comfortable and we were bulletproof from all outside chaos. Outside of this comfort zone, Ray was starting to struggle.
Then take us through around 2006 till now. Had the band still had plans to re-form and release more material? Or was it too far gone and the members parted ways before the passing or Ray? How big of a part did the fans play in deciding to release ‘Yesterday’s Son’?
Although the band had been apart technically, we still got together in some form here and there and played acoustic shows in pairs or some formation. We spoke on the phone and met each other out at the bars. Definitely had times of tension but the music was always pure and honest and always the most important thing. It was the glue and we always knew that it was present. Even when brother fight, they are still brothers.
Brian moved to the beach and sat the next couple of years out to start a family.
Ray had some addiction problems and his health was declining. It was draining and we could tell he was scarred. Again, the warm safe place was getting together to jam, rehearse and hit the studio to work on new demos. We went back to Frank Marchand as producer and laid down scratch tracks for new material. Ray was smiling and full of jokes. Ray had about 8-10 songs, some more done than others. Some with basic melody ideas and some pretty well finished on acoustic and vocal only. Still needed beats and instrumentation. During the demo sessions, Kevin and Dan and Chuck were designing rhythms for the new material and Johnny Burke, new to the band on guitar stepped up and brought a rock folk/country twang to Rays style. The sound was a little different and still great. Johnny fit right in
Spirits were high in the studio but the demons crept back after the demo sessions were over. Rehearsals and shows were canceled and the demos sat.
After Ray’s passing, we put the band to bed. No thought of continuing. Band, family and friends mourned Ray’s passing and we closed the book on The Mayan Factor.
It was always our intention to have a big blowout party for the Mayan Apocalypse and “end of the world” in 2012. Initial thought was to have a guest singer do a cover band version of The Mayan Factor songs at the big club in Baltimore, Rams Head Live. Jeff Jones stepped up and learned all the songs and we started thinking about how to make this show even more of an event. Had an idea to revisit the demos Ray and the band had laid down a year or so before. Listening back, Ray was pretty damn spot on with his guitar playing and vocals. Even though some of the lyric ideas were not fully formed, they had great melodies. We decided the band would go back and lay down new, well rehearsed tracks behind Ray’s existing guitar and vocal tracks. We would leave studio conversations and banter in as seaways between songs to capture Ray’s spirit and reconnect to the moment. Being back in the studio with Frank Marchand and playing these songs again, felt like home. We knew it was only for a moment but it was good.
As excitement to play The Mayan Factor songs again mounted and the date drew nearer, we individually and collectively started going back to websites and youtube to see what kind of activity had been taking place since the band ended. As we had all disconnected, we were amazed to realize that the fans were more active than ever before. Nothing had slowed down. They mourned Ray’s death but still found great salvation in the music. Youtube hits were nearing 1,000,000. Lastfm.com had 1.2 Million plays of The Mayan Factor songs. Our minds were (and still are) completely blown.
We decided to offer one last gift to the fans by releasing the last Mayan Factor album with Ray, Yesterdays Son, on December 24, 2012 at The Rams Head Live show and online. We created a secret website – yesterdaysson.com to display the music of The Mayan Factor and show information. Word got out and we quickly got over 700,000 visits to the site.
Yesterdays Son was a beautiful tribute and the fans totally dug it and we once again put the band to bed.
Fast forward to 2016. Dan and Kevin have been writing and releasing songs, doing small tours to LA’s Whiskey a GoGo and The Viper Room, Austin, TX for SXSW, and NY and Jersey runs with new rock group Black Angel Down, fronted by multi platinum R&B star Nokio, from Dru Hill. Our manage Jeff Cerzosie has a brother named Lenny who is an unbelievable star guitar player and vocalist who fronts a heavy rock band called The Infinite Staircase and also plays guitar with a new band called Le Projet, fronted by lead singer Kevin Martin from Candlebox and Morgan Rose from Sevendust on drums. Somehow The Mayan Factor came up and we passed some of the music to Jeff and Lenny. Lenny immediately connected with it, having suffered a loss of his girlfriend to an overdose and relating to Ray’s lyrics and pain. Lenny and Jeff put together a little video teaser of Lenny singing and playing some clips of choice TMF songs like Warflower and Beauty and the Beast. We were absolutely stunned at how much he nailed it. Lenny did not sound like Ray. He sounded like Lenny but the magic was right there again. Dan called Brian and Chuck and sent them the clips and we started to think and talk about the possibility of reviving TMF. It either had to be great or forget it. We put together a rehearsal date, Lenny learned a bunch of songs and took the drive down from NY to come and jam with the band.
It was perfect. It was warm and it felt like home, again.
We are very excited to bring The Mayan Factor back again and play, write, record and share this old and new energy with all our friends and fans again. WAKE UP! I am another yourself – In lake ‘ch – we are all here, now!
Thanks so much, Dan! We hope to hear more from The Mayan Factor for years to come!