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Strangers: Strange Apparations

Strangers
After battling some serious Frape on his social media profile (for the record, no Ben Britton did NOT shit the bed), the Strangers frontman sat down to have a chat with BLUNT ahead of the band’s nationwide tour in support of their debut full-length, Persona Non Grata. Produced by Tom Larkin of Shihad fame, the album is laden with guitar-driven, rollicking riffs and makes for one dynamic and confident release. In other words, just the sort of thing we like to hear! While Britton reckons they’re not reinventing the wheel, Strangers seem quite content to slap on a fresh set of tyres.

Hey Ben, what have we caught you doing?
My mate just hacked my Facebook account. Man, that’s so early 2000s. I just had to log out as he’s being a mischief-maker.

So basically your entire friendlist now knows how much you “love cock”?
[Laughs] Pretty much. It was something about me shitting the bed, which didn’t happen by the way.

That’s cool, we believe you. Actually, after trawling the internet, I found that you’re “just five Sydney guys who live and breathe music – unless Seinfeld reruns are on”.
Yeah, we’re massive Seinfeld buffs. It’s ridiculous [laughs].

We’re probably giving you a bit of a Sophie’s Choice here, but could you name your favourite episode?
Oh my god! This is my favourite show! It’d be like if I had children… It’s a real tough one. I’m not gonna be clichéd and say “The Soup Nazi” or anything like that, because that’s what everyone says – it hardly makes you a real Seinfeld buff – it’s fine, you can like that episode, but I really like the earlier seasons. From season three I like “The Limo”, which is a really good episode and if you haven’t already seen it, do it, because let’s face it, everybody likes Seinfeld and if you don’t, then I don’t really want to know who you are [laughs]. I’ve got heaps and heaps. “The Non-Fat Yoghurt” one is excellent. From there, I moved onto Curb Your Enthusiasm. Our bass player doesn’t like Seinfeld and he doesn’t watch Curb because he just can’t deal with the situations. It’s like, ‘Why would he say that? Why would he do that? Don’t do it Larry David!’

Now that your debut Persona Non Grata has been out for a while, how are you feeling about it?
Yeah, I’m really happy with it. We worked pretty hard on the record and I think across the board, all the songs, we really went through them with a fine-toothed comb – from melodies to guitar lines to leads to drums – all that sort of stuff. The thing I really like about it is that it’s got a bit of a raw sense about it in the pop song sort of writing. I mean, yeah, we’re a heavy band, but in the same sense, we are a pop band: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, outro chorus. I find it really engaging in the verses and there’s big choruses. That’s my cup of tea; no frills. It’s a really good place to start for a first album, so I’m really happy with it. Your first record is a real special moment that’ll always be there, you know what I mean?

Being your debut, were you going into it with a mission statement so to speak? Or was it more looking at just doing something you love.
That’s exactly right. I’m not really that sort of guy. Every rock band these days is like, ‘I’m more rock’n’roll than you’ and all this shit, but I’ve got no time for all of that. I just want to write songs that I really love and I connect with and they make me feel something, that’s the bottom line for me. Yeah, I like big sounding tough riffs and big drums and things like that, but at the end of the day, a song is just a song and a song will define your band and I think that across the board with ours, a lot of the songs on there, they’re all us and they’re all exactly how we feel. There’s no bullshit in there. If you listen to it, I’m not really trying to prove a point as such, I’m just singing about everyday stuff that is happening to me and things that are going on in my life. These days, everything has been done. We’re not living in the ‘60s anymore where bands are coming in and reinventing the wheel, it’s quite tough to do that these days. I never really wanted to go out there and reinvent the wheel, I just wanted to write some cool, catchy pop songs and stuff that I can get off my chest, so I can get it out of my head. We are an original band; no one sounds like us and no one’s doing what we want to achieve in terms of how we’re approaching things, but are we fucking revolutionary? Probably not. But at the same time, we make really catchy fucking music. It’s like the Foo Fighters. They just write songs that they love. All of their influences are pretty much on their sleeve, but they’re great songwriters. It’s all about the songs for us.

Not that you’re necessarily thinking about it now, but with the second record, they always say that’s the tricky one. Do you think there’ll be any pressure going in to do it?
Yeah, I mean, there’s always pressure, but I think the trick is not to really get caught up in that and just keep it how you want it to be. Get into the studio and just write how you feel and don’t overanalyse it. When you start overanalysing, things start to fall apart. You’ve always got to have something to say, there’s always got to be that emotional connection to the songs. If you don’t feel that, then you might be going the wrong way, but at the same time, if a band writes a song that the singer doesn’t really feel, you can push through that and that’s how some of the greatest songs have been written as well, so it’s sort of a catch-22 situation. As for the second record, we’ve already started writing. There’s a lot of heavier stuff on there, but a lot of it is really the emotional connection that I always kind of look for, that same feeling I was getting when I was writing for the first record. There’s going to be pressure, but we’ll just keep doing what we do and keep evolving as a band until it gets to a point where hopefully it breaks though.

Some bands have taken to recording overseas and heading over to the US; is that something that you guys would consider doing? And do you think it’s a worthwhile pursuit?
I think it depends on the situation you’re in. We have a great studio down in Melbourne, and if we get the opportunity to record overseas, fantastic. That would be a great experience for us and I don’t think anybody would say no to that. We are actually going to the US this year to play SXSW and we’re doing a showcase in New York before jumping up to Canada for Canadian Music Week, so we are playing overseas, but recording-wise, these days people are recording albums in their bedrooms. You waste so much money in studios, especially really big ones, and unless you have the songs to back it up… What’s that old saying? You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd. You’ve got to go in with songs and I think the bottom line is we just want to get the pre-production and the songs to a certain point down here with our manager Tom Larki and then we’ll see where we go from there.

You’re currently in the midst of a nationwide tour as well. What can people who haven’t seen you live before expect from your shows?
A big party vibe is the way we approach it. We kind of look at shows as a house party and we’re just a house party band there to get everybody in a good mood and ready to party on, sing along, let their hair down and have a good fucking time. It’s going to be really loud, I’ll tell you that, and there’s going to be a couple of surprises along the way, but that’s the sort of band we are. Our shows sit in that pocket where anything can happen. You’re not going to hear the CD live, it’s going to be more fresh. We have a few beers before we play and then see where the night heads. I’m looking forward to it. We’ve never been over to Perth, so going over there for the first time should be great.

If you haven’t already, go out and catch Ben and the boys when they roll through a town near you!

Strangers Tour Dates

Thu Jan 31st – The Great Northern, Newcastle (18+)
with The Dead Love / Born Lion
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Fri Feb 1st – The Annandale Hotel, Sydney (18+)
with The Dead Love / Born Lion
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Sat Feb 2nd – The Patch, Wollongong (18+)
with The Dead Love / Born Lion
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Thu Feb 7th – Ed Castle, Adelaide (18+)
with The Dead Love / The Pretty Littles
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Fri Feb 8th – Workers Club, Melbourne (18+)
with The Dead Love / The Pretty Littles
Tickets: theworkersclub.com.au

Thu Feb 14th – Newport Hotel, Fremantle (18+)
with Further Earth / Coveleski
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Fri Feb 15th – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury (18+)
with Further Earth (FREE ENTRY)

Sat Feb 16th – Amplifier Bar, Perth (18+)
with Further Earth / Coveleski
Tickets: oztix.com.au

Sun Feb 17th – Indie Bar, Scarborough (18+)
with Further Earth
Tickets: oztix.com.au

 

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