Earlier this month we hosted our first official CMJ Dark Paradise showcase alongside our blog brothers Crack In The Road and disco naïveté, an incredible evening closed out by one of our favorite synth-pop outfits, Strange Talk. The Melbourne four-piece had quite a busy week (as did we), often with two performances a day, but thankfully after cruising around the Hudson River for a bit aboard The Jewel, we were able to pull frontman Stephen and guitarist/keyboardist Gill aside before their headlining slot at the Wind-Up Records/’Stache Media boat showcase for a quick chat where we discussed everything from the craziness of CMJ to opening for P!nk and performing at a theme park. Also, check out some more photos from their boat show after the interview.
LB4YB: So firstly, for anyone who hasn’t heard your music, how would you describe Strange Talk?
Stephen: Fun, dance-y…
Gill: Electronic with a little bit of rock in it
Stephen: Fun, dance-y, electronic with a little bit of rock in it. Yeah, I guess from the live sense we try to bring a bit more of a rock sensibility to it, but yeah, we pretty much just try to have fun and make music that’s as hook-y as possible. When we’re writing a song, we want to be sure people will be singing it or will be able to sing it for weeks on end. So I guess that’s how you would sum us up.
I like that. Who would you say your primary musical influences are?
Stephen: I guess, I mean each four of us have different influences. I guess we’re probably all on the same page when we say someone like Michael Jackson. I mean personally mine is Freddie Mercury from Queen. So yeah, but I mean if you’re talking more current, anyone from Daft Punk to pop like Rihanna. We listen to so much music on the road that I guess when we’re writing music it comes down to whatever we’ve been listening to at that point of time, and then we just put all of those influences into a big blender.
Are there any current smaller acts that you guys have been listening to that we should know about?
Stephen: When you’re talking big scale, I guess a smaller act could be someone like Tame Impala, but I mean they’re kind of blowing up at the same time. But, to be honest, I think I’m one of those people who knows a lot of songs but doesn’t quite know the artist, if you know what I mean?
Gill: There’s one girl who’s playing CMJ coming up called Elle King who I really like. Very different from Strange Talk stuff, but yeah.
Speaking of CMJ, how’s that going so far? Is this your first time doing CMJ or have you done this whole thing before?
Stephen: This our second time – second year in a row, actually. It’s been pretty hectic – just like it was hectic last time, but I think when you don’t do it for a year you forget how hectic the previous year was, so I mean there’s lots of quick load-ons and load-offs, no soundcheck – I mean, it’s very raw. You can’t play here and expect to have an amazing sound with no soundcheck or anything like that. So we’re pretty much just gonna take it for what it is, play as well as we can, and then move on to the next gig, really.
Makes sense. Any favorite shows you’ve played so far or any new favorites acts that you’ve seen?
Stephen: I mean, we haven’t had a chance to go to venues other than those we were playing, and we haven’t always had the chance to see the bands playing before or after us. I mean, highlights for us would be bands like Little Daylight and there was a band that played the other night called Joywave was it?
Yeah, we love Joywave, too!
Stephen: Yeah, they seemed pretty cool. But to be honest, like, every other show we’ve played we’ve had to load in just before and then leave straight away, so unfortunately for us we haven’t seen much. But definitely this show, on this boat, is the coolest one we’ve played so far.
Yeah, this is really cool!
Stephen: We played at Converse for a Fader Magazine party last night, which was really cool, too. We got some free shoes and some stuff.
Any other cool places you’ve played?
Stephen: We’ve played in retail stores, we’ve played at Dream World which is a fun park in Australia. Have we played anywhere else that’s a bit weird?
Gill: We played in an Armani shop back home for a store opening.
Stephen: There’s been some really crappy places we’ve played and some really cool places. I mean, yeah, as long as we have fun, that’s the main thing.
Nice! I seriously feel like you guys are playing the most shows out of almost any other band. I’m impressed at how you guys are able to play that many shows!
Stephen: So are we, to be honest. After this boat, we go straight to another show.
At The Westway, yeah? We’ll be there!
Stephen: Yeah, I mean I think this week is something like eight shows in five days, so it’s pretty intense, but after doing it last year we knew what to expect. And after this we’ve got a tour coming up, which is gonna be great.
With The Griswolds, yeah?
Stephen: Yeah, we’re doing like a North America tour with them, which should be cool.
So I’ve seen you guys a few times in the past year and have definitely noticed growth in a live setting and was wondering how you guys feel like you’ve progressed in the past year or so.
Stephen: I think it just comes down to playing show after show after show – I mean, playing the same set is something we try and steer clear from, as it gets really boring, so we try and add new sections in or change up the structure of some of the songs. And not only that, but in the beginning we would play our songs straight from start to finish just like the record, but we came to realize that not everyone wants to hear us play the exact same as the recording, so we try and change it up a bit, and not only that, but as we’ve spent so much time together there’s a lot of bonding as a band and learning what makes each other tick. I guess when certain members leave certain bands they’re never the same, generally speaking, because it’s hard to just replace the chemistry after spending so much time together. Yeah, I guess that’s how we’ve grown.
Gill: I think we’re pretty influenced by – if we listen to something really amazing we try to incorporate it into the band.
Stephen: We’ve been spending a lot of time in LA, living over there, and we’ve gotten to check out a lot of really cool bands over there. Like really, really cool, but not pop music or indie music or anything like that.
Gill: Some jazz and R&B.
Stephen: This band that we’re really digging at the moment is called The West Coast Get Down. The most amazing thing about it is you just turn up to the venue, and it’s free, and they just play a residency every week, and they’re probably just the best musicians the world has to offer, like right in front of you. No PA or anything, it’s just as raw as you get, and it’s mind-blowing.
But you guys are originally from Australia, so how would you compare playing shows over here with shows over there?
Stephen: It’s a lot more exciting here, because it’s new. I mean, we’ve toured so much in Australia that it’s just nice to have different cultures, and I think there’s a lot more excitement received from us as well, because this is like untouched territory, so people are seeing us for the first time, and I think that adds to the charisma. So we’re always gonna call Australia home, but it’s just nice to step outside of that, because the world is a big place, and there’s a lot to see.
So I’ve heard your record that you released in Australia, and it’s awesome. Why hasn’t it been released here just yet?
Stephen: At the time we weren’t actually signed anywhere else but Australia, so we didn’t actually have anyone to put the record out (in the US). It was actually a year yesterday that we played at Santos Party House where the A&R guy from Wind-Up Records came, so pretty much a year from yesterday is when the conversation actually started, and we ended up signing to Wind-Up Records. We were gonna release it here in October, but we wanted to push it back a little bit for logistic and marketing reasons.
Of course – especially since you’re building some more hype during CMJ.
Stephen: I mean we’re still so new over here. We have had an EP out, which was done really well, but there’s no rush. We prefer to set it up right and have a successful release over just rushing it out just to have an album out, you know?
So what was the album recording process like?
Stephen: It was pretty simple and didn’t take too long. It probably took us about six months of actual recording. We went away to a farm in country Victoria, and we pretty much just wrote songs, and six months later they were mixed by Tony Hoffer who’s done Phoenix, M83, The Griswolds. I guess there wasn’t too much around it: we just went away, locked ourselves away, and then took some time off touring to write the album.
Alright, so last question: I know that about a year ago you played that secret show with P!nk, which I still find to be super awesome even after all of this time. Tell us about that!
Gill: Most people were polite, but some kept on asking “who are you?!?!”
Stephen: Yeah, it was so secret that even we weren’t told who we were playing with until like the day of the show; we were told it was a pretty big deal, but we weren’t actually told who it was until it was only a matter of hours before the actual show. We got there and as we were loading into the venue, her security was kicking us out, because no one’s allowed to listen to her soundcheck, apparently. So we pretty much still had gear in hand and had already been asked to leave, so we just threw everything in and grabbed a few beers while we waited. We didn’t actually meet her, as we were in our own little section, but it was a great experience, and I guess something to add to the résumé.
Gill: Haha yeah, it was just so random.
Yeah, I read that somewhere and was surprised – but also very impressed.
Stephen: It was different, but it was fun. I mean, she’s a great talent, and there’s obviously a reason why she’s the best at what she does in the world. She’s very talented and just has a great voice.
It’s funny, actually, I don’t know if you were aware, but her biggest market is actually Australia, even over America.
Stephen: Really? I can see that, because the line at the venue was like – well, where she played was this big square building, and the line actually went all the way around and actually met itself again. I’m pretty sure it was a free concert where people could win tickets. But yeah, it was great exposure for us, I mean we got to play to a full room.
Yeah, that’s pretty incredible. Well thank you guys so much for chatting with us, and we look forward to seeing you perform in about an hour!