With each of Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish’s three full-length albums earning a WYCE Jammies Award, as well as snagging the number-three spot for Best Original Band on Revue’s very own Best of the West readers’ poll, there is little doubt that the group has captured the attention of West Michigan.
And this duo consistently delivers their heavy-hitting brand of blues and country rock with the energy of a badass punk band, something singer and guitarist Jesse Ray and drummer Brandon Hopp said fans truly appreciate.
“You really feel like part of the community when people embrace you, and you feel a commitment to them,” Hopp said. “They expect a certain level of performance, and I think that’s why people like us, because we try to bring the best live performance to every show we play.”
That hard work and dedication has paid off, not only in recognition within the music scene, but to the point that it has made them completely self-employed. There’s no day job to contend with when opportunity knocks and they need to travel out of state to play, like they did two years ago upon receiving an invitation to perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
“That was the first year we were together,” Ray said. “I had been on the road a couple of times before that. We had a bass player at the time and it was a full car with a videographer and my girlfriend at the time. It was quite a f**king blast to be very honest. The crowd was awesome, too.”
The group no longer has a bass player, something that’s both limiting and freeing at the same time.
“I’ve been in smaller bands before, and it gets really limited because there’s fewer people to bring things to the table,” Hopp said. “But it’s almost easier to improvise, to make up a little six-minute jam or whatever.”
For now, the duo prefers the two-piece setup as it seems to work best for them. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely against the idea of adding a member, or that they haven’t gone out seeking it.
“We think it would be an option, but at the same time we also just like having the duo,” Ray said. “If we had a bass player, he could at least be in the band and luckily we wouldn’t have to change the name. What we’d be looking for is a young, hungry, handsome, 23 or 24 year old. We’ve tried. We tried Christian Mingle and everything.”
Most recently, the band has been working on its fourth full-length album, due out before the end of the year. Hopp and Ray have taken some more time in the studio to experiment, creating a newer sound that they’re sure fans will appreciate.
“I’m excited for this new record, because it doesn’t sound particularly like what you’d expect from us,” Ray said. “It always makes me nervous, though, recording a new record. What if everybody hates it? ‘I like the first one better!’ You know? Because I know how many times I’ve said that, and here I am eating my own words now.”
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