[First published at Noisey]
Sam Ray spent Christmas in Florida with his wife, Kitty, and her family. He sent some tweets about how nice the holidays were. Kitty’s stepmom got her a hoodie with Sam’s face on it; there were a few small dogs to hang out with. On New Year’s Eve, the 27-year-old remembered what things were like two years ago, when he’d impulsively flown to Los Angeles to stay with his manager, clear his mind, and escape the fetid relationships that had taken over his life in the aftermath of heroin addiction. “I needed sunshine, a break, and some time to hang with people who didn’t disgust (and kind of scare) me,” he wrote.
A few days after posting that, back home in Baltimore, he and Kitty made all the foods they were too afraid to make with relatives around. Kitty made something called “egg gravy rice.”
Ray couldn’t have imagined this contentment a few years ago. Over the phone from Baltimore, he describes it as “a happy, functional, wonderful life that I never dreamed I could have.” A compulsively prolific musician, he’s released dozens of records over the last eight years. He’s formed and fronted the frayed and serotonin-starved noise pop bands Teen Suicide and Julia Brown and released delicate but overwhelming ambient records, mostly as Ricky Eat Acid, but sporadically under a range of other names. For a while, he was working on a sprawling project on Tumblr called 420 Love Songs. Regardless of form or genre, Ray’s music has always been engrossing and, at its best, arrestingly beautiful. But, even when he’s built a self-effacing comedy into his lyrics, his work has usually been consumed by a sense of imminent mortality. Teen Suicide’s last record, 2016’s It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot, was advertised—accurately—as “a 26-song metanarrative about heroin addiction, death, and grocery shopping.”