Forming in 2010, noisy Melbourne four-piece Strangers From Now On have quickly developed an underground reputation as a must-see live act. Known for their acrid jams and the sheer unpredictability of their gigs, the outfit form a bridge between the noise rock of past and present.
Garnering comparisons to everybody from the early days of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds to The Jesus & Mary Chain and Rowland S Howard, the outfit unveiled their self-titled debut EP last month, which served as the declaration of arrival for a unique and confronting new band.
Ahead of their official EP launch, we spoke to bass player Dan Myles, who told us about the process behind recording the EP, what the band have coming up for fans, and what it was like playing a game of pool with Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe of My Bloody Valentine.
Music Feeds: You guys have quickly developed a reputation as a raucous live act, how much of that would you say translated into your debut EP?
Dan Myles: Not so much to be honest, I think we have always been more confident with our live set than with our first EP. It’s hard to carry the kind of energy you can create in a live show and put it on a record. You can get away with a lot more in a live show. Perhaps it’s best to think of the two things as entirely different mediums. You shouldn’t be trying to recreate the live set but rather just create the best recording you can. That’s certainly the attitude we have taken whilst working on the next EP.
MF: Can you describe the recording process behind your debut?
DM: It’s actually been quite some time since we recorded that EP. At the time we had very little resources and only had a half day in a studio, other than that we did some of the tracking in Gab’s garage, a warehouse in Footscray and with Mic Letho at his home studio in Elsternwick. We spent a lot of time with Mic throughout the mixing process, he was really patient in guiding us through each painstaking step. It was very much a first time type of effort. We have actually just finished recording our second EP and there was much more in the way of process the second time around. We spent more time in the studio and in pre-production, demoed a number of the tracks before getting to the studio and spoke at length about what worked and what didn’t. It’s a skill and definitely feels like we are developing more of a process each time we go through it. Each time there is more preparation and more of an understanding of what works in a recording environment and what doesn’t.
MF: Was there any difficulty in putting down some of the more acrid and non-conventional sounds that make up such an integral part of your live set?
DM: You get a good chance to tweak things, and play around as the recordings are mixed which is always fun, but on the whole not so much. Those sounds really come together at rehearsal, once performed and rehearsed endless times they are easy enough to recreate in the studio.
MF: You guys have drawn many comparisons to the early days of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. How valid are these comparisons? What are some of the other influences on the band? Your lead single Midnight Town, for example, sounds like it has some country shuffle behind it.
DM: We have all listened to an enormous amount of Nick Cave, from the The Boy’s Next Door to The Birthday Party through to Grinderman, so it’s not surprising it comes through in the music. We are also huge fans of Rowland S. Howard, which is probably even more apparent. More recently we have had less of a focus on that kind of sound though and it feels like things are probably shifting away from that influence a bit.
MF: Word is you guys are already back in the studio. Does songwriting come easy to the group? How does a Strangers From Now On track form?
DM: Yeah we just finished recording our second EP a few weeks ago. This time around we had worked hard to get the resources for more studio time and had the pleasure of working with Lindsay Gravina at Birdland Studios. Lindsay has worked with a number of our favourite Australian artists and it’s been an incredible opportunity working with someone with such a wealth of experience.
As for the ease of songwriting, it’s yes and no. We have gone through months where we have scrapped dozens of ideas and then there are those times when the song seemingly writes itself and comes together in moments. Often the songs start to take on a life of their own, they really pull you in a certain direction and the track comes out easily enough. It often feels that way when you are writing something you really connect with.
Our process usually begins at rehearsal; we’ll just start playing something and slowly it will come together into an idea. From there you go away, come back, go away etc. If the song wants to live you get a feeling that you really want to play it again. More recently Gab and Aidan have both been spending a lot more time tinkering with synths and that’s certainly changed the way the songs are coming out. We are spending more time in our bedrooms as Aidan builds synth sounds and we discuss how the structure should come out, then we’ll take it to rehearsal work out the problems, correct them and whittle it down like that step by step. The newer stuff has definitely come out of a process more like this.
MF: What role would you say Melbourne plays in the band? Is there something inherently dirty and raw about Melbourne rock & roll?
DM: Melbourne has played a huge role in allowing us to play music. We are so lucky to live in a city where you can get a gig as a reasonably inexperienced band, draw a crowd and get paid for it. That’s really rare and very special. We developed everything we do by playing these small venues and connecting with the people who go there. If we ever end up doing anything of note it will be thanks to these small music venues.
There’s more to that actually, because Melbourne has this amazing small venue music scene there is a great community of bands that form up around these areas. We have all learnt a massive amount from the bands we have shared bills with. It’s such a shame that these venues seem to be struggling so much in recent years as they are right at the heart of what makes Melbourne so special.
MF: Can you describe your All Tomorrow’s Parties experience for us?
DM: Wow yeah, that was fun! It came completely out of nowhere. We had been more or less on hiatus for some months when we got the call. I remember wanting to squeal like a child when I heard the news, in fact I’m pretty sure I did. The opportunity to play to a bigger room to that kind of crowd was fantastic and free tickets to a festival with one of the best bills I’ve ever seen. Wow. We also met our current manager after that show and she has been really great in the last few months in bringing things together and really opening doors for us. It really was a kind of turning point.
MF: Was there anything you took away from watching or hanging out with some of the other ATP bands?
DM: Oh yeah, so many of the performances that day completely blew me away. The Drones are always amazing and despite having been a punter at a handful of their shows they always impress me. Swans were really great, though we all could have done with the air-conditioning that day. Einstürzende Neubauten were easily the highlight of the festival, just one of the best gigs I have ever seen in my life. Also playing a game of pool with Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe of My Bloody Valentine was lovely, one of those, “I can’t believe this is real” moments.
MF: You’ll soon be launching the EP at Boney in Melbourne. What can fans and newcomers expect from the gig?
DM: We have a handful of new songs in the set now, all of which we have just recorded and will be on the next EP. The new songs are a little more restrained and brooding and are a good indication of where we are headed with our sound. It’s also the night before my birthday and our final show in Melbourne for the year so I’m sure we will all be celebrating and keen to play a wild set.
MF: What do Strangers From Now On have planned for 2014?
DM: We will be releasing our second EP early in the year, and will hopefully be up and down the East Coast on a tour to support it. We’ll also be back in the studio again before the year is out to record our third EP. It should be a fun year!
Strangers From Now On’s self-titled debut EP is out now, get it here.
Strangers From Now On Live Dates
Thursday, 5th December 2014
Tix: Via Boney
Friday, 6th December 2014
The Factory Theatre, Marrickville NSW
Tix: Via The Factory Theatre
Supporting Flyying Colours