We caught up with NYC trio Strange Names to talk about staying sophisticated and sharing group showers. A combination they’ve perfected.
We’ve hardly had enough time to obsess over Strange Names’ brand of funk-licked basslines and oh so catchy pop hooks, let alone their boy band good looks, but as soon as we’d heard of them, NYC-based boys Liam, Fletcher and Francis were already announcing the release of their debut album. They assure us that their first release, Use Your Time Wisely comes from a profound place, but their most recent single “Ricochet” is about making the eyes at someone at a party. We’re totally into it regardless.
They met in Minneapolis and after leaving other bands to begin their own, they headed to NYC to re-record what would become Use Your Time Wisely. We grabbed a moment with Strange Names before the album’s release to find out all there is to know about the trio, including that one time they took a group shower…
You ditched other bands to start your own! How did you know it was the right choice to make?
(FX) All of us enjoy performing no matter who we’re performing with, but pursuing a career in entertainment takes time and energy. It’s hard to juggle multiple projects. When we noticed the response to our new project, we had to follow our instincts and devote ourselves to it completely for it to come into fruition. When every step you take with your music brings you somewhere you’ve never been before, you simply have to keep on walking.
We think you definitely made the right choice. How would you describe your music?
(FX & LB) We stay sophisticated. A sometimes angsty and patchy amalgamation of timeless moments. Pop music.
You say you “fight the avant-garde within”? Why not just run with it?
(FX) A better word would be to ‘control’ – or ‘mold’ – our tendency toward the bizarre and unfamiliar. We want our message to be universal, and to show off our craftsmanship as songwriters.
How do you go about songwriting?
(FX) In many cases we might create some rhythmic figure with a particular melody and just write stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Sometimes they aren’t intended to have a meaning, but you come to understand it later. Often you don’t get it right the first time and you have to rigorously perfect the smallest section. Still, you need the smallest grain of inspiration to even begin writing. That can come at any time and you just have to be ready to capture it.
(LB) I echo all of the above!
Tell us what your first single “Ricochet” is about?
(LB) It’s about feeling someone else’s energy and entering into a space where they can meet and become volatile. Dancing or wrestling is a good image to throw down, but it happens at all scales. It’s just fun.
What’s your favourite track on your debut Use Your Time Wisely?
(FX) “Ricochet” has been a favourite to play live since its inception, but I love the places we brought our sound on the album closer, “Overused Phrase” – another song we wrote earlier in our career.
Do your prefer recording or performing?
(LB) Recording is like living in a fantasy novel and performing is tearing yourself away from it. But it’s probably the most exciting challenge for any performing artist – seeing what you can really do with everything you’ve gathered. We find a lot of magic when we record and then greet the challenge of retaining it – and if we make it work, then we know the song is working.
(FX) I have different feelings toward both. I feel more challenged when recording and more natural when performing, so recording feels more like a job and performing a hobby. Yet, you’re rarely putting a lot of effort toward both at the same time, so there’s this on-season off-season dynamic with the two. It’s always a welcomed change when the shift happens.
Why did you choose to re-record your album in New York?
(FX) We knew the album we had was good, but not great. We needed to approach it again from an entirely new angle. We found a great producer who we really sonically gelled with in the city, and eventually decided to relocate completely to be closer to the label in anticipation of the album’s release. Did the move to NYC end up having an influence on our new approach toward recording the material? Absolutely, yes.
What’s been the highlight of your time together as a band so far?
(LB) Well, we all live together right now so I’m gonna go ahead and say that one time we took a group shower.
Sounds cosy! What are your aspirations as a band?
(FX) Tour the world, share our music, make some friends, make a mess, push some boundaries, and inspire somebody else.
‘Use Your Time Wisely’ by Strange Names is out 18th May on Frenchkiss Records.
Words: Lily Walker.