STRANGERS FAMILY BAND
“In the Pouring Rain (Very Strange)”
by Ryan Muldoon
The strangest thing about the Strangers Family Band? Take your pick. The band’s very foundation seems built atop the quizzical, the curious, the “wtf?” – from their home base of Orlando, Florida, to their history of changing band members like most people change socks. But perhaps strangest of all is that it just works – very nearly perfectly. To listen to the band’s self-titled, seven-song E.P. (available for free download at the band’s website) is to be stunned by both the quality and quantity of ideas on display. It’s as if the band put a stack of “Nuggets” box-sets through a meat grinder, and devoured every corner, every nuance of the psychedelic genre.
Bassist Scott Seltzer sprays us with the details of their strange transmissions, leading up to the band’s Sunday night appearance at Austin Psych Fest 3.
Your MySpace page features visual references to Syd Barrett, Aliester Crowley and … Loni Anderson? What do each of these people mean to you? To the music of Strangers Family Band? Apologies is that’s not actually Loni Anderson … but seriously, what does Loni Anderson mean to you?
I think Syd Barrett is sort of the obvious one. He is the embodiment of psychedelia and psychedelic music. Not to mention one of the greatest musicians, and artists in history. Crowley is a spiritual/mental influence and an iconic figure in the religious realm of psychedelic counter-culture. Lyrically and the dark undertones in our songs are heavily influenced by Crowley. “Enochian” and “Strange Transmission” on our EP both feature Crowley recordings. The woman is actually Marilyn Monroe and she represents the sexuality in psychedelia. Basically, the three make up the three sides of the “psychedelic pyramid.” Art, Spirituality, and Sexuality. Loni Anderson combined with Burt Reynolds is the “third eye” atop the pyramid.
What can you tell us about how Strangers Family band came together? How long were you “strangers” before you became Strangers?
Most of the band had never been “strangers” before we became Strangers. I (bass) am brothers with Rick(guitar) so we have been playing together forever. Me, Rick, Ates(Vocals), and Juan(Drums) have been involved in various projects together over the last several years. Our latest addition to the band was our keyboardist, Kevin, who started playing with us a year ago after we saw his solo project Totem Pole. But we have had close to 20 members in and out of the band over the past 3 years so we have had some “strangers” in Strangers.
How many members of the band are from Florida? What has Florida meant for your own musical development? Orlando, in particular? What portion of Florida musical history or contribution do you feel is too often overlooked?
All five of us are actually from Florida. All five from West Palm Beach, which is around three hours south of Orlando. Florida is a strange place for music. You are sort of a loner here, especially as far as psychedelic music goes. It sort of forces you to get out of the state if you want to achieve anything, which is why we have been touring constantly over the last few years. Our house has evolved into a venue in Orlando though so that is one of the better parts of being here and has had a major influence on the band. The portion of Florida music history that is overlooked was the band The Future on Films in Space (2007-2009). They are one of the best, if not the best (psychedelic) band to exist and were a major influence on our band. YouTube them. Hopefully their album will surface one day and change the way music is made.
Not being a master of musical performance or composition, personally, I feel odd saying this, but every single song on the Strangers Family Band e.p. strikes me as perfectly played and expertly constructed – down to every chiming note. How has your song-writing process work historically as a band? How much does the band strive for personal “perfection” and how much is left to being “close enough for rock and roll”?
The song writing process for that EP basically came together in a LSD trip in one night. Me, Rick, and Ates had songs written and we recorded them that night and over the next few months, primarily on LSD, sorted through the hours of recording and structured/composed the songs. We have put a lot of time into those songs so I’m glad they come off that way. We are also big time “gear-heads” so tonally we also strive for perfection. We didn’t play those songs to a metronome so I guess that’s close enough for rock and roll aspect.
Have you happened to read the new book by Don Lattin, “The Harvard Psychedelic Club”?
I have not read it yet but I am really into early Leary and such so I have to put it on the list.
I ask because I think the Strangers Family Band music can very fairly be described as “trippy” – both in perhaps commonly associated lysergic sense, but also in the notion of a voyage. For an E.P., there’s a pretty stunning bit of musical variety presented – from the yearning of “Girl I’ve Been Taken” all the way through to the foreboding “Beware the Autumn People.” Even the vocals show a tremendous amount of variety. How does the concept of a musical trip – any meaning – influence the band?
For the EP we really wanted to show the variety of songs that we are in the process of re-recording for our first full length album. Most of the EP will be on the album which is a 16 song concept album and most definitely a musical trip. The album is heavily influenced by the concept albums of ’67/’68 (Sgt Peppers, Satanic Majesties, Piper, Village Green, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Vol III, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) and we want to bring that musicianship and vast musical variety through instrumentation, vocals, and song structure to our album, while creating that “musical trip.”
Favorite Beatles song – and why?
Favorite Beatles song is one of the hardest questions you can ask someone because there is about 300 good answers to that question … but I’m going to go ahead and say “A Day in the Life.”
Sir Francis Bacon said this: “If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world.” Your thoughts? What does it mean to be in a “Stranger Family” band?
That’s a good quote. I think it means the world is lacking a lot of citizens though. Being in Strangers Family Band means a lot of different things to different people. We have lived, toured and basically done everything imaginable together over the last three years so it has most definitely evolved into lifestyle and a family as much as it is a band.
How did the Austin Psych Fest come to your attention and how did the band come to the attention of the presenters of the fest? Any bands in particular that you are excited about seeing?
We have noticed Austin Psych Fest since its inception a few years ago and are really excited to be part of it this year. We played with The Black Angels a couple of Summers ago so that could potentially have been how we came to their attention. Also several people have told us that they emailed APF on our behalf so maybe it was that. There are a lot of bands to be excited about seeing. Obviously Black Angels are always great and Silver Apples should be amazing, Spindrift is great … the list goes on and on. But I really want to check out Night Beats. We played with them in LA in March and unfortunately missed their set but have been listening to their stuff online and really dig it.
What’s next for Strangers Family Band?
The release of our full length is the next major upcoming thing. And some great tour plans are in the works. Most of the stuff I am not at liberty to go into much detail about as of now, but expect good things in 2010.
Stranger Family Band’s self-titled, seven-song E.P. is available for free download – visit strangersfamilyband.bandcamp.com