Posted Apr 18th, 2014 (9:27 am) by Sarah Wilson
Strange Talk
Image by Sarah L Wilson Photography
Music Player: 

On the eve of the US release of their debut album, Australian band Strange Talk had been tooling around the states and we caught up with them in Brooklyn. We met them before their show back on April 7th and spent ‘A Day With’ the band. We hung out, took some pictures and asked the guys some questions about music, song writing and what causes are close to their hearts.

First, some introductions:
From the left:
Guitarist Gillian Gregory; bassist Gerard Sidhu; lead vocals/keys Stephen Docker; drums Travis Constable

They were playing at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg and we met them there as they loaded in for the show.

The band were nearly at the end of a long stretch of shows that had run from Austin (SXSW) to California and all the way back across the country to end a couple days after our meeting in Brooklyn in DC. Even with all the travel, all the shows and all the work that it is for a young touring band, Strange Talk were friendly, genuine and genuinely excited for their show that night. But there’s a lot that happens before the good stuff (the live music) on show day...

Once you have your gear in the venue, there’s set up:

And sound check:

Once the sound has been adjusted and everything is ready, it’s time for meetings and food, if you can find it! Stephen and Gerard ducked out of the venue for meetings while Gillian and Travis stayed behind in the green room, checking messages and killing time.

It wasn't too long before Stephen and Gerard returned. Then the band were joined by Adam Rhodes, a representative from ACS—an auditory specialist company that manufactures in-ear monitors. He was there to make molds of the guys ears for creating their personalized in-ear monitors. There was much laughter and teasing of each other as Adam worked. Who knew how much went into the creation of these essential tools?

After a quick check of the ears, a cotton plug on a string is set into the ear canal. The string is how they remove the finished mold.

Then a fast setting polymer, not unlike that used to make molds of teeth, is squeeze gunned into each ear:

It’s allowed to set. As you can imagine, the moldee can't hear much of anything during this process:

When it's dry, the polymer is removed via the string to produce an exact mold of the ear (this is Gerard's ear if you were curious!):

Pretty interesting process, actually. When they were finished molding, there wasn’t much time left before they were to hit the stage. Beers and chatting filled the time, along with a rotating cast of characters from labels, management, etc.

A little drum practice

Some horsing around

Until it was time to head down the stairs to the stage.

The stairwell down from the greenroom at Music Hall of Williamsburg is lit exclusively by blue neon, it was a cool lighting and as I took a couple of shots from above...Gerard repaid the favor!

Then it was time to hit the stage. Per usual, a Strange Talk show is a great live show! Full of energy and danceable tunes, but we told you all about that here.

Once their part of the show was over though, the night wasn’t. Gerard was up on stage again, this time behind decks to offer an impressive DJ set between the Strange Talk and Blondfire sets. I was to find out later, Gerard’s background is in production and as a DJ, one of the key attributes he brought into Strange Talk.

The rest of the guys made their way out to the lobby to meet up with fans and friends around the merch table and bar.

As Blondfire prepared to take the stage, Stephen, Travis and I adjourned to the greenroom to have a quick chat about Strange Talk, the new album and the best advice they never took!

IYS: Your new album is due out soon, congratulations. Some of the songs on Castaway have been out there for a bit already, how did you set the direction for the album?
Travis: This album is a collaboration of songs over the past few years because there’s songs on there that we’ve released but then up to the new single which was just released late last year.
Stephen: The newer stuff we added to the album, we just wrote. We didn’t think about it much. We just…we were just listening to a whole bunch of music and we just put everything into a big blender and...
Travis: (laughing) yeah!

IYS: Fair enough! Any idea what’s going to be the next single?
Stephen: After "Young Hearts?" Gee good question.(looks to Travis)
Travis: There’s a couple of different ones that have been thrown out. There’s the possibility of one called “So So,” which is a favorite of ours.
Stephen: Yeah (nods)
Travis: We haven’t really played it live that much but we did initially, that’s one. I don’t know, (to Stephen) “Is It Real” maybe?
Stephen: Yeah, I guess we’re going to see what people like…
Travis: Yeah, see what takes off really.
Travis: It’s good when a song takes off and you get to sorta add that to the set. Because that push to add new song to the set is a lot of fun. The funny thing is that we still play songs in our longer set that haven’t been released.
Stephen: (nodding) Yeah
Travis: Which people like so we’ll look at them for the next album.

IYS: None of those are going to be on Castaway then?
Both: No.
Stephen: No no. These are songs that we wrote like when we first started out and we just for some unknown reason never got them on an album.
Travis: We love playing them live...
Stephen: Yeah. So maybe they will be on album 2, we’re not sure. We still like playing them, they’ve been with us since the beginning.
Travis: We have fans that talk about it too. They come up to us after and say ‘hey what was that song’? So hopefully we’ll get a chance to put them on.

IYS: You’re an awesome live band. Is there anything you’ve written and gone back to rewrite or rework because it would be impossible to play live?
Stephen: I wish we had the luxury of doing that! We do try to do it in a way that we can reproduce it live as opposed to having to change the track we’ve written. Having said that, before we actually formed a proper band, it was just a lot of the music written at the start, just the two of us [Stephen and Gerard] and we never...we did it for fun we didn’t think we’d ever have to play it live. So that was our habit and we didn’t have any idea what was capable on stage. What a drummer is capable of, what a guitarist is capable of we just kind of played what we could and uploaded songs. They [the songs] got a lot of attention from labels and management and all that kind of stuff…Going forward like, I mean now put all that onto the live stage now, me personally, my whole way of writing and imagining what can be achieved on stage is completely different to what it used to be so yeah...I guess it’s definitely changed the way that we write.
Travis: I think, like playing stuff live you get an indication of what works live and you go ‘cool, we can implement that factor in.'

IYS: What does your process look like? What is the first thing you pick up to write with?
Stephen: Depends. Going forward even more, like the next bunch of stuff we’ve never actually the four of us have never gotten into...you know just sort of jamming out and stuff. We’ve always just been a very studio production team, build the songs up through software and samples and stuff and the song is the last thing to come together. Now it will be good to get together and just—jam out and stuff.
Travis: Yeah. We get an idea...
Stephen: Yeah—we listen and get an idea to sample something or whatever or a bass line. Every song is different. We like to keep it that way because if you start doing the same thing over and over again...

IYS: Have you ever played anything live and been like ‘oh god we’re never doing that again?'
(Both Laughing)
Stephen: Oh yeah...song called "Time Machine."
Travis: Yeah...we played it once...
Stephen: We didn't get it!
Travis: Yeah we did it in sound check and we cut it because it sounded shit!
Stephen: We were hard pressed to play a new song for a show and we had literally finished it like the day before and we’d never rehearsed it. And we thought ‘we’ll rehearse it.'
Travis: Do a sound check on it.
Stephen: Yeah, we’ll rehearse it at sound check for the show and if it doesn’t work there we’ll leave it. So we did it for the sound check and our manager watched the sound check and was like ‘yeah...maybe leave that song out.’

IYS: Ouch! OK... So what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about the music industry and did you follow it?
Stephen: I didn’t. (smiles) First thing I ever heard about the music industry is when I was growing up. I was a classical violinist and it was: 'If you are out to make money the music industry is the wrong industry' and obviously I didn’t listen to it because I’m still here. (laughing)

IYS: Do you still play violin?
Stephen: I can still play, yeah. I mean I don’t practice or... To be a classical musician whether it’s violin or whatever it’s playing really you have to really really give it seven days a week...
Travis: The knowledge is still in there!
Stephen: Yeah the ideals and stuff that I’ve learned over the years are still in there. I mean that’s what music is...
Travis: (laughing) We drive down the freeway and put on digital radio to a classical channel and be like ‘Hey Steve, what is this’ and he’s like ‘That’s baroque, that’s romantic or whatever’ and he knows it!

IYS: So you’re the classically trained one of the group?
Stephen: Yeah and these guys...
Travis: I’m not a classically trained symphonist or anything like that and Gill and I maybe come from different backgrounds but I think the whole knowledge of music can be compounded in different ways. I mean our bassist comes from a producer background so his view of music is different as well. But the combination of it...(smiles)

IYS: Right, you need to have all different interests so it doesn’t go all one direction.
Travis: (laughing) Yeah...don’t want to go in One Direction. I’m not saying they’re a bad band...(all laugh) One direction though, can sometimes be pretty bad. It’s good to have a few different areas coming into one.

IYS: On that note, I won't keep you much longer. It really was a great show and we appreciate your time. Let’s end on a non-music related question. Are there any causes close to your hearts that you guys, Strange Talk, support?
Travis: My mother suffers from multiple sclerosis. She’s suffered with it for the past 15 years. She’s doing great, learned to find the signs and there’s a lot of people younger than her have suffered even more. But that’s a cause that’s close to me and if I can help out in any way. And also my grandmother suffered from motor neuron disease, it’s what Steven Hawking has which pretty much effects the muscles then the organs and she passed away quickly after being diagnosed, like 12 months, and it was pretty hard to watch my grandpa go through that as well. So those two causes are close to my heart. (looks at Stephen)
Stephen: (nods) Right. When we support something it’s a humanitarian cause.
Travis: ...a cause that’s focused on helping people less fortunate, morally correct...

We turned off the recorder then and shook off the rather serious ending to the interview by heading back downstairs to the lobby where we found Gerard and Gillian hanging out, chatting with fans.

Don’t be too bummed if you missed this tour. Strange Talk’s album is due out April 29th and they’ll be back in the states during May for more shows!

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