The Flying Stars of Brooklyn, NY drop new gospel single, “My God Has a Telephone,” on Colemine Records

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Aaron Frazer. Photo by Rosie Cohe.

 

 

You may not know Aaron Frazer by name, but if you’ve heard the debut Durand Jones & the Indications album released in 2016, you’ve heard his voice. While he only has one lead vocal track on the album (“Is It Any Wonder”), it’s a stunning marriage of a laid-back groove and breezy vocal. Bandmate Durand Jones has categorized Frazer as a secret weapon in concerts. While Jones has handled most of the lead work thus far, Frazer has gotten to perform “Is It Any Wonder” during their tour stops over the last year as well as perform covers like Brenda Russell’s 1979 deep album track “Think It Over.”

Aside from smooth soul, though, Frazer has another deep musical passion: gospel music, especially regional 45s. Born in Baltimore, he has found himself collecting gospel 45s from that region of Maryland over the last few years. Touring across the country has provided him an opportunity to get a greater appreciation for just how hyper-localized, as he calls it, each city’s musical thumbprint really is. With a love for the genre in mind, those gospel 45s were a driving force for wanting to write and record one of his own. “I gravitate towards the ones that take their cues from sweet soul, with close mic’d drums and vocals, rather than the roomy-sounding live congregational recordings,” he states of his personal preferences. He continues to elaborate, “The rawer, the better. I’m a sucker for records where the bass or guitar is way out of tune. It gives me the feeling as a listener that I’m hearing a personal expression of faith, rather than something with lofty ambitions or pretensions.”

Label founder Terry Cole has been wholly supportive of the initiative. This 45 will be the first of its genre on the label based out of southwestern Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati. Cole and Frazer have had numerous discussions about gospel 45s since work began on the Durand Jones & the Indications album. When Frazer pitched the idea of a Devotional Series to his boss, exclamation marks apparently spewed right out of Cole’s mouth.

The inaugural release came out on October 20 under the name the Flying Stars Of Brooklyn, NY. It follows the naming convention of so many gospel groups from the ’60s onward to combine an extravagant adjective, a celestial body, and a name of a town or region to differentiate it from a potential similarly named group from another part of the country. Furthermore, he states, “the localization shows pride for the community you’re a part of. Brooklyn, of course, has an incredible legacy with gospel music, and I’m just trying to do right by that history.”

 

Frazer invited friends such as Micah Blaichman of Lord Youth and Wyndham Baird on guitar to play on the record as Frazer handles drums and lead vocals. Recorded in his living room apartment in Brooklyn, the musicians opted to record as a live session on a Tascam 484 Portastudio as opposed to tracking instruments individually. The two songs, “My God Has a Telephone” and “Live On,” are a full group effort. Frazer speaks flatteringly of Wyndham and Baird as co-writing partners calling them “incredible songwriters and interpreters” as well as of Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who helped to co-write “Live On” along with providing some rhythmic guitar flourishes.

 

Rachel Housle and Phyllis Ophelia contribute their gorgeous background vocals on the simple but effective “oohs” in “My God Has a Telephone.” Blaichman’s bass provides a backbone for everything else to rest on. On the flip side, Frazer handles all the harmonies himself while organist Steve Okonski leads the charge. “My God Has a Telephone” comes across as conversational where “Live On” seems more reflective and self-reassuring.

Does he prefer one song over the other? If so, Frazer isn’t telling. “I went back and forth between what would go on the A side, but I’m a believer in double siders! I feel like both tracks can stand on their own.” The original tunes are something he wanted to share with the world–and himself–as a reminder to promote positivity to combat the overwhelming negativity that pervades today. “Whether people are religious or not, I believe the themes of gospel music can be applied to any worldview.”

 

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