Strange Boy are doing things differently. Made up of Kieran Brunt and Matt Huxley, the pair first met through mutual friends while studying music at separate universities. “I was going to do classical singing and then had a meltdown and a freak out and was like ‘oh my god, this is a terrible idea,'” Kieran says. “So I asked for a guitar for my birthday and I was like ‘I’m going to write songs again’ and then Matt made a remix of one of our friend’s music and I heard it and was like ‘oh my god, this is brilliant’!” So I called Matt and asked him to meet up…”
Forming a friendship, it’s Kieran’s classical background blending with Matt’s electronic and production skills that make the duo so compelling. Crafting beautifully melodic masterpieces, the pair dropped their debut EP “Annunciation” earlier this month. A combination of Kieran’s haunting vocals and poignant and powerful electronics, it’s an exciting introduction to what the pair can do.
Already with a second record lined up for next year, we caught up with Kieran and Matt to find out all there is to know.
What was the moment when you knew you wanted to make music together?
Matt: The first tune we made! It was really, really exciting and it fell in place so perfectly. It sounds really contrite, but it’s true. Kieran had this folky song that he wanted to record and we were sat in his kitchen and he played on the guitar and I was like “aww this is a very beautiful song” and then I just went home and produced a demo of it…
Kieran: Then you sent it to me and I was like “that’s exactly what I wanted!”
M: I mean, it’s not representative of a lot of our music, we wish it was that easy.
Was that a defining moment of Strange Boy?
K: Yeah! It was just perfect. But it’s really funny because we’d spent ages making the music and didn’t release anything. It’s become a bit of a joke with our friends because we started making music about two years ago. But it’s been good because we are slowly working out what it is we’re doing and we’ve played little, I think after a year of working on stuff we played one gig, then we left a few months and played one more gig, kept working on it and then we made the CD, and then we’ve been doing a couple of gigs here and there.
M: I think, as well, it’s a case of you have to make a lot of stuff to discover what it is that you’re trying to do. And obviously it takes quite a long time to make stuff. We didn’t want to blow it out with the first thing that happened, and we’ve developed a style of working together and a methodology with workload.
K: So corporate, I like it!
M: It takes time and repetition and practise to get to that point – that’s our excuse for taking so long to do it.
K: Yeah, we have different approaches to making music as well. Taking the time to do it is important for us and where we’ve got to now is 95% of the time the songs start with me and I’ll think of a lyric idea. My phone has like 1000 different lyric notes, some of them are so bad, like ones I think of when I’m drunk walking home and then the next morning I wake up and think “oh my god no one can see this!” but yeah, I will come up with these ideas. I’ll probably write up a whole song thinking of the lyrics and melodies in my head over the course of six months and slowly sing to myself in the shower and then when it’s ready to put down, I’ll sit down and, because we’ve been working for so long, I’ve got a bit of electronic capability, which I didn’t have at all, so then I make a demo and I’ll send it to Matt and he will work on it then send it back and forwards then we meet and we will come to a good agreement.
M: It’s studio music you know, it’s made on a computer, there’s no jamming element to it really which – your mum is always like “it isn’t a band, you don’t practise”.
K: Yeah, it used to piss me off so much! She used to be like “Kieran, shouldn’t bands practise?” and I was like “we will practise when we have a gig, mum!” A lot of albums are made like that nowadays and it’s not a bad thing. We have a friend who’s in a guitar band and they meet three times every week trying to see what works, and we’re just so the opposite of that. And so we get to a gig and we’re like “oh fuck, how are we going to do this?” and now we’ve been doing it for a year and a half so we’re now at a stage where we can be like “ok, cool” and we can go off on one.
“We want people to like it and to come away from this and be like ‘wow, fuck’ rather than ‘that was cool, I liked that.’ I want it to get you in the gut.”
Your EP “Annunciation” is out now! Can you tell us a bit about how that came into being?
K: There wasn’t a unified theme for all of the songs, but a lot of it is quite self-reflective, about looking at yourself and being terrified or anxious or happy or whatever. The first track “Annunciation” is about looking at an event in someone’s life and thinking things are quite shit and quite horrible. I’ve sung in choirs for the last 10 years, and I’m not religious at all but the poetry of the bible is in my head a lot. Some of it’s just amazing and I’ve read the most amazing poetry in chapel about this moment in time being a frozen point around which everything in the universe is revolving, and I like the idea of trying to transfer that idea to this moment in another person’s life. It’s like a little cosmic point of energy. So, the lyrics are all about looking at this one point from many different angles and perspectives. It’s meant to be a bit confusing and a bit heart-breaking too.
The next one, “Love the Night”, is based on a book that our friend is turning into an opera and it’s about someone with multiple personality disorder, so they wake up in the morning and they’ve got 10 people and they chose which one lives in their body and they control it and it all goes tits up. I want the song to be like a conversation with yourself so you can go on a voyage of discovery in your head and in the middle you find yourself.
What’s the feeling that you want people to take away from this EP?
K: I think the next EP we’ve made is more rhythmic and driven which will be more striking. This one, in comparison, is meant to be a bit moving, a little bit dark and more pretty delicate textures. The next one is more hard hitting. I hope people like the stories, When Matt writes music he doesn’t think in terms of stories in the same way.
M: Kieran writes really good, very narrative, quite theatrical songs, and historically I have always found it quite hard to hear lyrics, and I’m not really into any classic songwriters because I find it quite hard to follow lyrics closely, so what’s interesting working with Kieran is these songs have quite a distinct narrative structure, and they are dramatic and they have a drama built in them which is unfolds a lot of the song, it’s not just a vibe. Musically it’s about matching or continuing on with that journey and I think these songs particularly are quite narrative. It’s not just like a sound or a vibe or just a feeling.
K: What I’m loving is that we are always growing as musicians, and I’m finding it so interesting to see how that comes into the music we are making together and to see what our idea originally is and how we are changing and growing. We want people to like it and to come away from this and be like “wow, fuck” rather than “that was cool, I liked that.” I want it to get you in the gut.