Interview - Strange Names

We caught up with Fletcher, Francis, Lawn, and Liam of Strange Names ahead of their headlining set at DC9. The band talked to us about starting out in Minnesota, moving to New York, their collaboration with directors Anthony and Alex, and more. Check out the conversation below. Image via Stereo Gum

Capitol Sound DC: You guys started in Minnesota. How did that affect the start of the band and everything that transpired leading up to moving to New York and signing with French Kiss?

Francis Ximenez: Well, actually to begin with, obviously Minneapolis has a huge support system for local artists- they just love local music. But when we started our sound wasn’t really the type of sound that Minneapolis was producing at that moment-it hadn’t produced it before. So it was really hard for us to find bands to share a bill with or anything like that. It took us a moment to kind of like work our way into a scene and build up relationships with other musicians and stuff like that. That was kind of hard to figure out at first. And in New York, if we had started in New York, granted everything would have been more difficult but I feel like it would have been easier for us to find our community faster but at the same time, it didn’t take us long-it took us maybe a year, a year and a half to find a solid group of people that we love to play with and love to hang out with.

Liam Benzvi: Yeah I mean it’s an interesting transition because when we were writing a lot it was when we were faced with a lot of challenges as far as just the hustle of being a young band and only needing the fulfillment that your music gives you to kind of keep you going. I don’t know, like that struggle in line with the struggle we had the first year we lived in New York-it’s kind of similar. We’ve been writing through that too so maybe the next record-if we’re a little bit more settled is gonna sound a lot different.

CSDC: Moving to New York, did that feel like a natural progression for the band?

FX: Yeah, for the band absolutely. Not necessarily for any of us personally. But anyone, you know, in arts and entertainment has to be there at some point whether it’s just for a visit or whatever. We happened to go for an extended period so we could record with somebody and you know we just decided to try it out-try living there. We all make it work, it’s a very livable city.

LB: I’m from there I’ve got my family there.

FX: So yeah it’s nice, with Liam’s family we have a nice support system like we did in Minnesota. For the band though, absolutely natural though. At the moment that’s where, like I said, we had a little support system built up and it’s also a cultural hub. You know?

LB: Totally.

FX: Who knows we might move somewhere else as a band but for the moment I think we needed to try out New York, swish our toes around in that water for a bit and then move out to the shallower part of the pond I guess.

CSDC: Moving to New York and living in a city where everyone is chasing the same type of dream, is it motivating? Stressful?

LB: Is it stressful? Absolutely it’s stressful but it’s also an exercise in, I don’t know, dignity. Dignity to just keep it about what you’re creating or generating it yourself I guess.

Lawn Mall: I think in a productive way one’s failures are exposed a lot more quickly in a scene that’s less hospitable you know? For what it’s worth if I am to be critical of Minneapolis, the problem with it is that people tend to be very affirmational of like whatever. It’s very easy to like make a band and be like ‘I’m in a band!’ and people will come and see you and support you. Which is neither here nor there, but in New York there has to be some substance for it to stay afloat. You have to push for it.

FX: Even your friends in New York won’t want to see your band if you suck. You have to pay your friends to come out and see you.

CSDC: Seriously?

LB: No, no. Actually I totally understand what that is—but that’s what makes it great. I mean like I don’t think this band would have started if we started in New York.

CSDC: Really?

LB: No way. Because New York puts you in a very individual place in a very regular amount of time. You’re taking the subway by yourself, you’re going to work. You have a routine where you have to be alone for a good portion of the day. And like that builds your kind of, you know ego, in a way. Not ego but starting a band in New York, it’s much like an individual thing. Whereas in Minneapolis it’s easier to find a community there maybe? I don’t know, who knows.

CSDC: So how do you guys feel you’ve been received by New York?

FX: Well! I mean you know we didn’t walk into New York on a red carpet or anything. But at first the shows were just kind of like-there was good attendance and now there’s just great attendance. We have a built-in community of friends and lots of New York fans. We’ve been accepted into a local scene in a way. We’re not like in any way a seasoned New York band- we haven’t been around. We don’t deserve any sort of like, local credit but I mean we haven’t seen any type of resistance from anyone.

LB: The more you play the more people see you and then tell other people. We definitely want to play more.

CSDC: Is it hard to book shows?

LB: Not really.

LM: We have a booker.

LB: Yeah, our booker kind of mostly does it.

LM: And with that come limits on how often we can play shows. So it’s not so much a consideration of ‘if’ but ‘when.’

CSDC: So, you just released the music video for “Trespassing,” did you guys come up with the concept?

LB: No, we collaborated in a way with these directors, Anthony and Alex. They are this dynamic duo and they are super camp and morbid and kind of have this very characterization-oriented view of life and what is entertaining. And that totally matches with our kind of sick sense of humor sometimes and we totally gelled. They came and approached us at a show and it was cool and we hit it off right away and we went to Jersey City and shot the whole motherfucking thing. Fletcher got to hook up with a mannequin and then a real person.

CSDC: How was that?

Fletcher Aleckson: Great.

CSDC: It’s not something I would want anyone to see me watching at work, which is where I watched it, but I loved it.

FX: No yeah, my mom asked me if we could take it down. If we could say like ‘oh just kidding!’ and then take it down. But then we talked and she came around.

CSDC: So, how did you guys decide music was something you were actually going to do, as opposed to treating it like a hobby?

LB: That shit’s inside you. It’s kind of just like you have to do it. You have to. Otherwise I’d be like so depressed. It’s just like one of those things.

FX: Maybe we’d have other hobbies. Maybe we’d like fix cars or something.

LB: But I mean everyone has a day job, you have to have day job of course.

CSDC: So you guys have day jobs?

LB: Yeah we all do, we all gotta work a little bit.

CSDC: What do you guys have to do? What kind of jobs?

LB: That’s something we are not at liberty to say.

FX: We do lots of different things.

LB: No, no, no but like those are our little secret daytime activities—or nighttime activities, depending on how hard we need the money.

CSDC: Alright, we’ll leave it at that.

LB: Can we say something a little more dignified first?

FX: Do we have a motto?

LB: No.

FX: ‘Okay bye’—that’s our motto.

LB: ‘No’—that’s the motto.

LM: That’s really lame.

LB: It involves looking at a phone

FX: Lawn with the motto—no Fletch has the motto.

LM: We all have strange names! That’s not the motto.

CSDC: That’s how you got the band name though right?

LM: It isn’t but it’s also true.

LB: It is..

LM: Well maybe it is for you—I wasn’t involved in that part of the band. Sorry I’m just derailing things now.

FX: We’re just derailing things now.

CSDC: That’s the motto.

FX: If you come away with anything, we’re derailing things now—that’s what we’re doing.

 

We’d like to thank Strange Names for taking the time to chat with us before their show. DC marked the beginning of the band’s lengthy tour so be sure to check them out when they are in your city. To view a full list of tour dates click here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uV5nZxVakU

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InterviewsJenny Ryan