Shedding Some Light: Strangers Interview

3 Jan

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After what seemed like an inordinately long build up (even we started our preview profiles in November), 2013 is finally upon us. The New Year is a time for reflection and forward thinking. No doubt a number of you have made resolutions or have aspirations for achievements over the next 12 months. Bands are no different. For some this year will mark an opportunity to build on past success and kick on to new levels, others will want to put a difficult period behind them and to move forward, for others this will be the year, the one where it all comes good and global superstardom beckons.

London based Strangers are likely to fall under the first category. Born out of the ashes of songwriter David Maddox-Jones and drummer Raife Hacking’s former band the then unnamed combo hooked up with producer Glen Nicholls (The Prodigy, Snow Patrol, Everything Everything) and keyboard player Piers Sherwood-Roberts in 2010 and became Strangers. The band have gained plaudits for their neo-pop sound solidly ever since and 2012 was no different with rave reviews coming thick and fast. Buzz has been building steadily and, while there has been change within Strangers in the last few months, there is genuine excitement at what 2013 holds for them. We met Piers in Soho for a brew before Christmas and talked about the changes, their hopes for the future and even the likelihood of the group living in a big communal house (Dave has just, like Piers, become a London resident leaving only Raife as the only band member residing outside the capital).

Despite having possibly the poshest name we have ever heard, along with his fellow bandmates of course, Piers is an incredibly down to earth and easy going guy. Our conversation is peppered with jokes but his enthusiasm and ambition still rings through. Like all good bands, Strangers are continuing to evolve, both sonically and in personnel terms. Glen, who Piers says ”was a big part of our sound in the beginning”, is no longer connected to the group. It was a professional parting of the ways but, he explains, the trio’s sound has continued to expand and grow. It isn’t quite as dark as when they started out; in fact, it is swimming in a sea of pop.


A few new songs were debuted at their last show of the year in November and while we weren’t there the guys have been kind enough to share with us a demo of one of them, “Broken”. Piers is quick to point out that it isn’t finished but it already sounds massive; a vast pop banger with just the faintest hint of a darkness within. “Dave said it’s like Justin Timberlake meets The Cure” laugh Piers. He’s spot on; it has a hitherto untapped dancilbility to it, a boyband shoulder hustle even. It’s been on very heavy rotation since we first heard it and we imagine it will remain so long after it comes out. Hopefully it is an indication of what is to come from Strangers as, while we loved the likes of “Safe/Pain”, “Promises” and “Shine On You”, they represented the beginnings of a subtle transition; “Broken” is something else entirely.

”We will definitely go more pop, it’s what we want”, explains Piers. ”It’s a natural progression. We want to make upbeat dancey pop music”.

Something else they want is success. Dave came close with a former band, The Departure, but they felt the full force of the EMI buyout a few years ago and were dropped by the label. It had a profound effect on Dave who told Beatwolf.com last year that he “went off the rails for about six months after that happened”; but his desire to make it wasn’t diminished. It is something his colleagues share.

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”We all want to be hugely successful”, Piers agrees, ”but we believe in the music and we all work very hard for it so it’s not like we are expecting it. Dave is restless. He is a restless character, spend 10 minutes with him and it’s like “How does that guy function?” He is just on all the time and we all share the same passion. But we love what we do; we all get along very well”.

Having built a reputation on a darker, broodier foundation there must be a slight worry then that this new direction could alienate their existing fanbase. Anytime a band tries something new there are always those who will bemoan the change and lambast the artists for not sounding exactly as they did before. “Yeah”, says Piers, ”we’ve had discussions about that and I think it’s natural for a band to progress. I mean, we haven’t released albums and albums so I guess normally it’s slower in terms of progression in the sound like that but I think we know our mind”.

He reassures us that the darkness will never leave the sound entirely; even “Broken” is likely to be rinsed in shadows a little before it is released to the world. “We will never lose that (the darkness). Because we are called Strangers, it needs to be kind of dark and glum”. Of course if they had been called Best Friends, all bets would be off.

The band is currently in the process of writing and recording for a planned album this year as anyone who follows them on Twitter (where they tease us with excited statements of how the process is going) will know. They have already released three EPs so an album is, they feel, the next logical step. There is, Piers says, no set date in mind though, they are currently just recording and playing around with sounds. ”Every time we go into the studio we try and do a song until it is finished, but no, there is no set date. We are just going to write and write and write and see what happens, there is no rush”. He pauses as we challenge him, no rush doesn’t really chime with their level of ambition and hunger for success. ”Well”, he laughs. ”A bit of a rush”.


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One Response to “Shedding Some Light: Strangers Interview”

  1. name not supplied March 10, 2013 at 23:18 #

    just love these interviews you do on here, bloody brilliant mate x

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