Shuffle: Gabriel Schray Embraces the Mysterious Life of the Recording Artist Over Performer
Akron recording artist Gabriel Schray, who releases music as G S Schray, has been active in the local music scene for more than 20 years. But with his release of the eight-track album “First Appearance” this year, the artist has garnered a wave of widespread, international acclaim.
The material is shrouded in ambient, new age, art-rock aural elements. It’s the follow up to his 2017 release “Gabriel” and has garnered the attention of fans and press across the globe, particularly after being released and distributed by London-based record label Last Resort, birthed from an NTS Radio show.
Schray said after catching the attention of Tom Cathcart, who runs Last Resort, the two joined forces, and his self-released material has been put in front of new, unexpected audiences.
“We have a good distributor. Honestly, it’s kind of a mystery to me because I’ve been putting out records for over 20 years, and it was always the exact same 15 people, which was cool. And I was gonna do it regardless and keep doing it,” Schray said. “But it’s been, like, a slow snowball of these bigger sites and organizations looking at it, and it’s awesome.”
"I've fully embraced the idea of 'recording artist,' and I'm no longer ashamed to say those words."
Embracing the role of the recording artist
Schray has been a key part of the Northeast Ohio music scene for decades, teaming up with local players and contributing to community-focused events like Square Records anniversary shows, which both bring together reunited bands from the area and highlight local acts who are gaining attention through word of mouth.
But the artist now floats contently through the scene in the background, preferring to showcase his creative endeavors through his releases and one-off projects, rather than hitting each local venue playing shows every weekend.
“I don’t think I’m a particularly dynamic performer,” Schray said. “I like doing it, but it’s more like inviting my friends over to play slot cars or something. It can be very fun and even fulfilling and we can have a beer to drink, but I’ve fully embraced the idea of ‘recording artist,’ and I’m no longer ashamed to say those words.”
His recordings capture warm, atmospheric moods with reverb-soaked guitar, saxophone and keen influences of Talk Talk and Sade ringing out through his silky, glowing sound patterns.
“I like performing — I enjoy it if a fun opportunity comes up or a weird kind of venue or weird idea comes up I really enjoy doing — but I don’t see them as mutually exclusive,” Schray said. “In fact, I see performing as a completely different thing to what I do recording wise.”
Creating original scores
The musician has created original scores for television and documentary film, in addition to creating his own personal soundscapes.
He scored key scenes and provided cues and library tracks for the second season of “Take My Wife,” which was released in 2018. The comedy series was co-created by Rhea Butcher, an Akron native who has gained recognition as a comedian, writer, skateboarder and visual artist.
Schray said he first encountered Butcher in the days of the Lime Spider and Square Records “indie rock milieu” he was centered around nearly two decades ago.
"I met Rhea in the early 2000s, early aughts, and they asked me to do the soundtrack because they really wanted somebody from Akron to work on the show,” Schray said. “I really appreciated that opportunity, and it was a great puzzle to solve."
He said several years ago, he and Butcher also recorded a split 7-inch for a now-defunct label.
Schray also created the music for the Kathleen Endres directed documentary, “BLIMP! Sports, Broadcasting and the Goodyear Airship,” which was developed and created by University of Akron students and alumni.
"I'm not trying to be mysterious, although I do ... kind of appreciate the days where things were like a little more mysterious and everything wasn't just 'here's your full life'"
Accepting art in all forms
Aside from creating original music, Schray has created animations and visual art to accompany various creative projects, including YouTube “watch parties” or live streams, where he will play music and provide improvised commentary for listeners.
The track, “His Peculiar Livestreams” from “First Appearance” may allude to these internet events, although Schray’s enigmatic qualities in his artistic endeavors may refer to something else entirely.
Of his inclination toward utilizing all facets of multimedia as creative outlets, Schray said his fascination with college radio and CB radio, along with the ability to utilize modern technology, has allowed him to pursue various projects behind the scenes as he wishes.
Working on dynamic new material
Prior to the release of “First Appearance,” Schray spent more than a year working on “Gabriel,” where he was focused on capturing each moment and recording as many first takes as possible.
The cover image of the “Gabriel” album features a photograph of friend and actor Gabriel Riazi, which was intentional on Schray’s part, as a way to keep audiences wondering who was behind all the dreamy, dramatic instrumentation.
“I’m not trying to be mysterious, although I do, sort of in my more nostalgic moments, do kind of appreciate the days where things were like a little more mysterious and everything wasn’t just ‘here’s your full life,’” Schray said.
Schray is currently working with a group called Lemon Quartet that meets every Monday to improvise new music. He said he’s creating an album with the group and is focused on entering the “psychic space” to start a new solo record as well.
Although Schray prefers to manifest his art in the form of recorded material, he can be seen serving as DJ or surprise performer at the occasional local venue, namely Musica, where his spouse and venue manager, Jenn Kidd, hosts happy hour each Thursday and Friday evening.
Listen to “Gabriel” and “First Appearance” online via Last Resort Records.