The Evolution of Sam Ray and His Band 


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Trigger warning: This article includes references to depression, suicide, and substance abuse. 

Being a teenager in a world of social media and digital platforms is not easy. Sam Ray, the lead singer of an indie band, certainly felt these challenges. Ray started the a band named Teen Suicide when he was a teenager. Ray is now 23 and aware of the message he sent with the names and lyrics of his earlier songs. Teen Suicide has changed its name to American Pleasure Club, and the band, along with Ray, has matured. 

Ray started Teen Suicide with friends in 2009 as an 18 year old high school student. They posted their songs on Bandcamp, which is a website where a band can share its music. Listeners sift through millions of songs and pay per song to listen. Though Ray did not think anyone would buy Teen Suicide’s songs, shortly after releasing their music, the band’s music started quickly growing in popularity.   

The original name of the band, Teen Suicide, was a reference to a movie from the 1980s, Heathers, in which a high school girl attempts suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs. The movie appealed to the band members because it was about struggling high school students, but the members did not think about the implications that came with the name Teen Suicide.

Teen Suicide songs, which were written at a time when Ray was young and struggling with depression and addiction, have notoriously dark themes. For example, the song Skate Witches is about a girl who takes drugs to escape her depression and self-loathing, as she says, “Cause I don’t like myself and I can’t be someone else.” Similarly, the song I’m So F***ing Bored is about intense depression and hopelessness and includes lyrics such as “I don’t want to go out, I’ve given up on being happy” and “I don’t have a future anymore.”

In 2016, Ray married Kathryn-Leigh Beckwith, a rapper known as Kitty. Ray and Kitty collaborate and take inspiration from one another. By this point, Ray had overcome his addiction and found happiness. Since his marriage, Ray’s work has been described as an “encapsulation of Ray himself — eclectic, emotive, impressionistic and immaculately nontraditional.” According to Ray, “You can only be angry at things for so long before you’re like, ‘Everything is really funny and enjoyable.’”

The band started volunteering for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. Ray met a lot of people who were struggling with drugs, depression, and anxiety, like he had been in years past. By 2018, Teen Suicide was a name that Sam Ray “found regretful and embarrassing, born from his personal brand of dark irony and from an expectation that the project would never blow up.” Ray changed the name of the band to American Pleasure Club.

American Pleasure Club’s lyrics are more mature. Ray realizes that he is writing lyrics for an audience, something he was not aware of when writing for Teen Suicide. When writing lyrics, Ray “[reads] things very carefully now… and [wonders] how it might read to so many different people.” One of the major recurring themes is the notion of maturing. According to Ray, American Pleasure Club’s lyrics are about “growing out of terrible places you’ve been in, corners you’ve backed yourself into, that kind of thing.” As one critic said of their first full album after the name change, the band “shows how little has changed and how much they’ve grown up.”

American Pleasure Club’s album f***ing bliss, released in 2019, still has some dark themes, but also has a new sense of optimism. The song Faith is about people relying on one another; the lyrics are hopeful and include lines such as, “Just by saying the word and calling your name I’m here with you.” Another song, Oranges, is about happiness in simple, mundane things. Ray sings about “eating oranges in [his] car on a perfect spring day [his] heart remains the same.”

Ray’s journey from an depressed and addicted teenager to a happier, mature, conscientious adult can be seen in the transformation of his music. When he was young and struggling, he did not think of the impact of his band’s name, or how its dark and hopeless lyrics would affect others. After conquering addiction and finding happiness in marriage, Ray became able to understand the and the power of his voice. The band’s new name, American Pleasure Club, and its hopeful lyrics, reflect Ray’s transformation into a mature adult musician.