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Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011

The Raykings' In-the-Moment Americana

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When it comes to rustic Americana and folk traditions, authenticity and genuine honesty reign supreme. Consisting of longtime friends Casey Stang and Kyle Krueger, the Milwaukee duo The Raykings have used that to their advantage, living in and making the most of each moment.

During one of their first gigs opening at Shank Hall early last year, they took the stage as virtual unknowns. But as they showed off their harmony-soaked Americana/folk boosted by melodies from mandolin and guitar, it didn't take long for the crowd to gather and listen intently.

“They were there mainly for Will Hoge, but they were incredibly observant and paying attention to what we were doing, and we fed off that,” Krueger recalls. “After the show people came to us and showed authentic, genuine appreciation for what we were trying to do.”

The mandolin-guitar-led duo has been performing regularly around the city ever since.

“We're very melodic, and those harmonized vocals really are the key,” Krueger says of the band's dynamic. “We're a duo, so we're switching out arrangements between guitar and mandolin and percussion. The thing that really solidifies the sound is the vocals between Casey and myself.”

The duo's chemistry is largely a result of their long friendship. When the two met in fifth grade, they instantly found a shared passion in music. In high school they formed a classic rock/country band called Moonshyne. College came and things slowed down, but the two continued to play music, Krueger with a roots-rock band called Lifevest and Stang with the band Dustworks.

Eventually the two started sitting in at each other's shows, and as they played together informally, they realized they wanted to continue in a new band.

“We hadn't played together in quite a while, so we sat down and played a couple of tunes we liked and we thought, 'What the heck. Let's do this thing and see if it works,'” Krueger says.

A quick booking forced their hand in getting songs ready, but it didn't take long for the duo's chemistry to come together.

“It's not often that you find a person you've known for so long that shares a similar sensibility, not only in music but life in general,” Krueger says. “Even if you don't play with that guy for five, six, seven years, you have a common thread you base your music decisions on.”

The two have no plans to record a full-length album, but say they'd like to record EPs to document what they're doing on a year-to-year basis. They hope to release new music in the next few months and strike while the songs are fresh.

“For us it's all about right here, what's happening in the moment, as opposed to putting out songs written over a couple of years,” Krueger says. “I think it would be an advantage, since we write a lot of songs, to put them out quicker.”

The Raykings perform with Stacy Riedel and Peter D'Amore at Shank Hall on Friday, Nov. 4.