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The Trial Of Oli Brown

Former Brit-blues wonderboy Oli Brown stands accused of betraying the scene with his new hard rock trio RavenEye. Will the defendant please rise…

Can this be Oli Brown we see before us?

Back in 2008, when this writer first interviewed the Norfolk bandleader around the release of debut album Open Road, he was a cherubic blues cub in a work experience suit. Fast-forward seven years and Brown is unrecognisable: a shock-haired, skull-shirted, Beelzebub-bearded wildman who’d make you hit the central locking if he approached at the lights. “Yeah,” he nods. “Less of the suits, I guess. And I don’t straighten my hair any more. I needed a change. With the music as well.”

No kidding. Turns out that Brown’s appearance is just the tip of the transformation. If you’ve heard RavenEye’s debut EP, Breaking Out, or caught their European support slots under Slash, you’ll know this new trio are harder, heavier and hairier than the buoyant blues-rock that established Brown as the darling of the Ruf Records roster. “I really wanted to shake things up,” he says. “Get out there and sing differently, perform differently. I started out loving heavy music as well. I love rock as much as I love blues. I was a big Chris Cornell fan and I was obsessed with Audioslave. I remember losing my mind when that first single, Cochise, came out.

“RavenEye is more riff-driven,” he continues. “It’s heavier rock. I’ve made it more about the songs, rather than too many lead solos. There’s a lot more fuzz and bass effects going on. The live show is different as well. It’s more about the energy and the atmosphere. We want to shut down those inhibitions, have a good time, get loud. It gives us an excuse to jump around.”

And yet, in an industry where artists are prodded for more of the same, the bandleader admits he’s often felt on trial since the first RavenEye material took form in March 2014. “There was a bit of an uproar about the idea of making this band. More negativity than positivity. I don’t want to mention any names, but it was people that had supported me from the start. It was frustrating. It was disappointing to hear it from people that I expected some kind words or well-wishes from.”

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