I raked the toy guitar and sang along to my two Beatles records." At 14, he took up the guitar and wrote his first song; at 16, he became a Christian; at 18, he got an electric guitar and amp and proceeded to blow the amp’s speaker within eight months; at 19, he discovered Christian rock in the forms of Larry Norman and Resurrection Band and wrote his first Christian song; at 20, he was ready to join a group. Rey joined a church band in 1980 and made his live debut in October of that year. Soon the band was playing rock sets on the side featuring several Rey originals. Two years later, Rey released the Unrehearsed Walk EP and formed the prototypical Christian pop-punk band the Visitors. In 1982, Julio Rey became friends with a coworker and fellow student of the University of Miami named Nina Llopis.
Llopis played guitar and had sung in several cover bands, and was also in the process that would lead to her becoming a Christian. After the Visitors broke up in early 1984, Llopis and Rey decided to form a new group. The Lead was officially launched when drummer Robbie Christie was recruited later that year and Nina took up the bass when no suitable bassist could be found. "This ensured our being more punk rock than anything else.
Nina actually wrote the Lead's first hardcore songs on bass." The next three years saw the Lead play clubs in Miami (eventually opening for Suicidal Tendencies, DRI, Marginal Man, and MDC) and releasing an array of tape and vinyl starting with an EP in 1985. All this began to catch the attention of the bare beginnings of the Christian punk movement, and led to the invitation to Cornerstone '87. The Lead would return to Cornerstone in 1988 and 1990. They were the second band signed on REX, the label that would later introduce Believer and Living Sacrifice.
Their only CD, Burn This Record, was released in 1989 and went on to be nominated for a Dove award. By then, they had added liberal doses of thrash metal to their sound and guitarist Andy Coyle to their lineup. The Lead broke up amicably in 1991. Rey started recording a series of punk and metal demos with a drum machine on his Portastudio which he eventually released on his own Not Silent label in 1992 in two cassettes under the name Frank's Enemy. "I was pursuing a heavier, more extreme, more complex sound," Rey recalls.
By early 1992, he found two teenagers, bassist Marc Golob and drummer Alex A, to transform Frank's Enemy into a full band. The next five years saw the release of three CDs, appearances at Cornerstone 97 and several other Christian festivals, "and a couple of times when we got thrown out of clubs." By 1998, it was time to move on. "My wife and I had been married five years and we wanted children. I couldn't have a day job, plus a marriage, plus children, plus a band all at once." So during the next six years, Rey recorded at home as time permitted, releasing the results on his website.
The results included a new solo EP named after his daughter Astrid in 2003. Astrid, with its accessible melodies, alternative-pop arrangements and mature lyrical outlook, was a turning point in Rey’s recording career. "I'd always written songs in different styles, but I never pushed them as much as the extreme stuff until then." In early 2004, Rey decided to return to live performance. That August, he began attending open mics throughout South Florida, playing sets that combined new material with selections from his back catalog as well as unconventional versions of other people's songs.
He found the past hard to leave behind. “I was trying to create a full-band atmosphere by myself, actually playing solo sets on distorted electric guitar sometimes, and it honestly didn’t work.” Rey spent the latter half of 2005 reassessing his music, playing only to his home church congregation on Sunday mornings. He took up the harmonica, placing himself in a rich tradition of singer-songwriters. A simpler, more direct style emerged.
“I’m just letting the songs speak for themselves now,” he says. He also marked the end of his first solo phase that November with the low-key release his first full-length solo CD. Named after his youngest daughter, Corinne, the CD contains all of Rey’s alternative rock home recordings up to 2005, as well as some of the more memorable live performances recorded on open mic night at the Main Street Café in Homestead. Recently, Rey has split his time between performing live in South Florida, working on a full-length acoustic CD (to be fittingly titled Understand the Words), and compiling a 2-CD retrospective of the Lead's back catalog (Hardcore For Jesus, released in October 2006). He has released two EPs featuring nine songs from the CD, Understand This Sampler Two, and Four Songs With Alex A on last.fm and MySpace. Julio Rey lives in Miami with his wife and three children. -- 26 May 2007 Read more on Last.fm.
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