Sydney’s Strangers are a band quickly making a firm footprint on the local rock scene. Having released debut studio album ‘Persona Non Grata’ last year, the group is gearing up for a quick run of Australian shows before heading over to the States. Killyourstereo.com caught up with frontman Ben Britton to discuss touring, plans for the year ahead and all things rock ‘n’ roll.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Ben.
Not a problem at all, thanks for having me.
It’s only a few weeks into 2013, how has the New Year been for Strangers so far?
It has been good. We’re just trying to get over the Christmas and New Year hangover, which seems to drag on a bit into January (laughs). Everything is starting to get back into clockwork again and we’re just in the rehearsal studio five days a week and getting ready for the shows that are coming up in March [and also] getting ready for the States, and saving some cash. It’s going pretty good.
Fair enough. That was going to be my next question about the upcoming Australian tour, how is that shaping up?
It’s great. We’re all really excited about it and we’ve got some really good bands that are supporting as well. We’re really excited, we just want to get back on the road again, we’ve had a little bit of a break for a while, so we’re really excited mate, can’t wait.
And also, the other thing you mentioned before, the US tour, can you fill us in on that?
We fly over to LA in March – I think it’s early March…and we’re going to do some showcases in LA. Then we’re going to jump down to Austin and do South By South West and then we go to Canada to do Canadian Music Week and from then on head to New York and do some showcases there. And then it is home time. It’s going to be awesome, we’re all really excited on that one.
What are you expecting from the shows? I imagine it’s your first time over there. Do you have any expectations in the lead up?
I have none at all, I don’t have any idea what’s the vibe (laughs). I’ve never been to the States in my life. We don’t really know what to expect. I know they’ll be tiny club shows and that type of stuff. We just really want to get over there and smash it out regardless of venues. I think, depending on the venues we play, if it’s a shitty little venue, I mean we’ve been playing shitty little venues and they’re the best venues. It teaches you, without the production side of things, with big stages and big PA’s, to sort of wing it in parts and just pray that note is right when belting it out because you can’t hear it on stage (laughs).
But, that’s the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing. You’re on a knife’s edge for most of the shows. I think that’s the whole thing that surrounds SXSW too. I think labels want to see you in the worst circumstances. That’s what I’ve heard. We’ve had enough experience already to kick that ass (laughs). I don’t have any expectations about it. The lower they are, the less disappointed (laughs).
2012 was a big year for the band, with the debut album coming out. Can you give us a brief insight into how the year was for Strangers?
It was really fast and busy and that was the whole thing we wanted to do as a band originally. We just wanted to stay really busy and tour a lot. So as long as we were on the road we were happy. By the end of it, we were in September and we were doing the residency [Cherry Bar], we were back and forth, driving to Melbourne every Tuesday and then driving home through the night after the show and then playing Sydney – we did that for like eight weeks. And so by the end of it, we were welcoming a little bit of a break. But, once you get that break, a week into it, you’re like, “ok, I want to get back into it.” We couldn’t really ask for anything else. It’s happened really, really fast. We’re really grateful to be in this position and we just take it as it comes. We’re welcoming 2013 and welcoming a new album, we’re all really excited.
With the album, when you’re in the studio, you’re recording it and listening to it over and over, but now that the dust has settled, do you view an album differently?
It’s funny, you over-analyse the songs so much. You try not to when you’re in the studio, when you’re in the creative process and try not to second-guess yourself, you try and let all ideas come out – shit or good. I guess that’s the thing, you’ve got to mine through a whole lot of shit to get to the gold (laughs).
I mean, when we were in the studio after the ideas had been put down, we look back on it now and I honestly don’t feel any different to when I first started the album. We knew the songs were strong. The thing is to make records with no filler and I think we achieved that. I still look at the record and love it and am still really happy with it and I feel for us, it’s a really good achievement. It’s our baby, it’s our first record. I’m sure we’ll feel different to it coming up to the next record, but the first record is always really special.
I know we’ve covered the touring, with the States and all, and also the writing, but in 12 months time where would you like Strangers to be?
just want to keep pushing myself and having the same amount of push when it comes to writing music. I don’t really care about any of the crap that comes with music – the fame and all that shit. I’ve never been one of those people and I don’t think our band has. I think we just want to become a band that is a great song band. I want to be a writer, a really good songwriter. In the end, I want to keep my eye on the prize and keep challenging myself, putting myself outside the box and out of my comfort zone and writing records I just love. If I can keep doing that, I’ll be in a happy place. [We] just want to keep busy touring, writing as much as possible and enjoying it man, while it lasts and while we are doing it and getting to play music and do those things. Because I always feel the rug gets pulled from underneath you eventually and I still feel that way. But, I guess it’s like any job, any apprenticeship, the more you do it, you do your 10, 000 hours and you hit a point where this is the peak of your musical career. I’ve heard that comes around your third album, so we’re all really excited. We are a band that wants to be around for five albums, we don’t want to be a flash in the pan sort of band. I just really want to concentrate on the music. If I can continue to do that and still be happy, I’ll be a happy man by the end of 2013.
And, what you answered there ties into my next question, when you talk about stepping out of your comfort zone. Being in a band you learn from your experiences. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt so far?
When it comes time to writing songs and stepping out of your comfort zone, some bands stagnate. Some bands got big and became a great band from following a formula they had. In my opinion, we aren’t one of those bands. We always want to challenge ourselves when it comes to song writing. We could play a blues track on the record and do this or do that, but you’re never going to get a record that’s like, “here’s a standard hardcore or metalcore record.” We try and challenge ourselves and listen to a whole different range of music. We want to try and be as original as possible. Every record I want fans to think, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next with Strangers? I don’t know where they’re going to go?” And I want to be that band. I think the most important thing I’ve learnet is to reinvent yourself and keep challenging yourself. Because if you’re not challenged and comfortable, then the next record is just going to sound like the first. That’s a decline I don’t want to be in. I don’t think it works for us. I think that’s a really important, key factor in it.
And the other side of things, what I’ve learnt, I think last year and probably on the record, I’ve got to stop being afraid of being shit (laughs). So many bands to get ideas in general, a lot of bands try and write music that comes out 100% perfect sounding like it’s going to be on the record. But, to jam out, you just have to jam out a whole heap of shit to get to the good stuff. If you’re jamming and sounding like shit, it starts to open up doors for ideas. That’s one thing I’ve learnt is to be patient when it comes to song writing.
That’s one thing I’ve noticed when listening to your record, each song is a bit different from the next. What are some of the main influence and inspirations that develop your music?
It’s hard to say. We all have similar tastes when it comes to the older stuff. We all grew up on Sabbath and Metallica. By no means, Metallica is not necessarily an influence on us, but we all got into the ‘Black’ album when we were kids and we all got into Sabbath. We got into Kyuss and all that type of stuff. I guess when you love rock ‘n’ roll and all the bands you listen to, and you want to know the history of rock ‘n’ roll and where it all comes from, as soon as you want to know that, it’s a direct route back to the blues. Some of the stuff on there [the record] we tried to keep it concentrated on blues, it’s all blues. At the end of the day, we just ended listening to a lot of older stuff and even some modern stuff. There were some Sabbath riffs on there. Every band has an influence. Every band wants to sound like some sort of other band (laughs).
Are there any words you’d like to pass onto our readers before we let you go?
Just basically come to the shows, they are going to be good. There’s going to be a party vibe going on. It’s going to be a real rock ‘n’ roll party and we’re really excited about it. It’s going to be heavy, loud and all the elements you really want on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.
Excellent, thanks a lot for the interview today Ben.
Thanks for having me. Hopefully see you at a show soon.
Yeah, I’ll have to come check you out when you’re down here in Melbourne.
Yeah, come along man, we’ll have a beer.
Sounds good, thanks Ben.