Indie + Alternative culture appreciates new rising artists that create diversity and new insights within their respective genres. We constantly feature notable indie & alternative artists on the verge of success.
Meet this week’s featured artist in an exclusive interview. Introducing You To Your Next Favorite Artist: Los Angeles based Strangeheart.
Singer/songwriter Jeff Thompson and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Queen officially formed the group in December of 2012, and quickly created a buzz while receiving plenty of recognition for the release of their first single, “In Another Life.” … Furthermore, the hiring of drummer James Longstreet to play on the tracks brought a cohesive sound to the band that they felt was missing. Drawing influence from modern bands such as Crystal Castles and Empire of the Sun, to 80’s bands like The Cure and Pet Shop Boys, they’re known for their pure electro pop sound.
We had the chance to talk with Jeff about Strangeheart’s music videos, the LA music scene, and all things alternative culture. Read on to find out more about your next favorite artist.
What are your top 3 favorite albums that inspired them to get into music?
Weezer’s Blue album. I remember hearing it on summer vacation when I was in junior high and was instantly addicted to tracks like “Buddy Holly” and “The Sweater Song.”
Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse really inspired me into wanting to play guitar. After i got that album I went and bought my first guitar.. it was a blue Fender Stratocaster.
Elltiott Smith’s Either/Or was one of the first albums that really hit me in the gut. I used to have that album set as my alarm on my CD Player through high school. Funny how I never wanted to get out of bed.
What are your fondest musical memories?
Playing alongside Future Islands at the Independent in San Francisco is one of my fondest musical memories. Seeing Depeche Mode perform live this year was also pretty cool.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
I’ve been stuck on a lot of New Order and the Cure lately. Some more modern bands I’ve been listening to are Tanlines and Twin Shadow.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
My dream collaboration would be to write with Robert Smith from The Cure. He’s been my biggest influence as a songwriter. I know it sounds cheesy but I always sing Cure songs at karaoke bars. I know all the words and never have to look at the screen. Part of me probably wishes I had been in that band in another life.
How would you describe your band’s sound and aesthetic? What has influenced you into creating this type of performance vibe?
Modern indie/electro-pop. Layers of synths and live guitars with vocals that call to mind the Pet Shop Boys. The bands looks is often referred to as a tall glass of water. Nah we mostly wear tank tops and and jeans.
You guys just finished shooting your latest music video. How was the shoot? How do you come up with the ideas/aesthetics for your videos and what is the whole process like?
We just shot the music video for our song “Cope and Steady.” It was a two day shoot at the beach in Malibu and at the studio in Van Nuys. We haven’t seen the finished product yet but we’re all really excited for it. The shoot was really just a passion project amongst friends. I have a lot of friends who work in the “industry” and we’ve always talked about collaborating. It was awesome to finally get to work together. Now I don’t wanna give too much away, but the concept was inspired by the movie “Lars and the Real Girl.” It should be out before the end of the month so be on the lookout.
You guys have been playing a lot of local shows lately, from the House of Blues, to the LA Zoo, to the Echo—where you experienced your first LA concert 2 years ago at a CHVRCHES show. How has it been playing at these renown and iconic venues that you’re used to frequenting as fans/audience members? Do you think LA is a great city for a band to emerge in due to these amazing venues and entertainment opportunities? In other words, what do you think of the music scene here?
Yeah we’ve been playing a lot of cool shows around LA. The Echo was by far the best show we’ve had. I love playing really loud and the Echo is definitely good for that. The dance circle that formed was pretty sweet too. LA crowds can be tough at times, but when they’re warmed up they can be insane. Only our guitar player is native to LA, our drummer is from upstate NY, while Brandon and I are from Northern California. We all moved here to pursue music and we’re still doing it so I think that says a lot about the scene here. I’ve met some of the coolest people and love the people I play with.. can’t imagine being anywhere else right now.
Speaking of LA, your sound is what I consider the epitome of California music. How has growing up in California and playing all around it inspired your sound and creative process? What is your writing process like?
Pretty much the only secular music I was able to listen to as a kid was the Beach Boys. My family vacationed in Santa Cruz every summer and my dad would always put Beach Boys tapes on for the occasion. I can’t help but think that has a little bit to do with the “California sound.” As far as the writing process goes I feel like it’s ever-evolving. I tend to go through streaks of writing 3 or 4 songs a certain way before finding a different process and then trending on that for awhile. A lot of times it has to do with who I’m writing with, because the way I work by myself will completely change when I’m writing with Brandon or another producer. Now that I find myself producing more, songs often start with a beat and instrumental idea. Then come other layers and I wait to get inspired to write vocals if they haven’t happened already.
Your sound reminds me of Ra Ra Riot and Smallpools, just to name a few. What artists have you been compared to and how do you feel about these alternative genre comparisons?
I think both Ra Ra Riot and Smallpools are great bands. I’m stoked about that comparison. My vocals get often compared to the Pet Shop Boys which I don’t really get, but I do love the 80’s. We also get compared to The Cure and Empire of the Sun sometimes. I think it’s great to be compared to such awesome bands. If people are comparing you to The Cure then you have to be doing something right.
You guys are quite the avid twitter, facebook and vine users.As an indie/alternative artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
Social media is one of the hardest things to keep up on as a band. To try and promote the yourself everyday is an impossible task and nobody wants to be spammed by a band. I’ve found it best to just use Strangeheart’s twitter like a normal person, but with the occasional, “oh yeah we’re a band and we have a show,” tweet. Being on social media is definitely necessary. It helps keep you relevant. As much as people complain about Spotify and free streaming music, it’s a great way to hear new music. I’d rather people listen for free because we were suggested on Spotify than have never heard of us at all. I guess if I had gotten rich being in a band at one point I might feel otherwise.
Which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Two songs that come to mind immediately are “Lilac Wine” by Jeff Buckley and “Girl from the North Country” by Bob Dylan. My car broke down a few weeks ago and I’ve been riding my bike listening to Bob Dylan and Jeff Buckley religiously. I definitely recommend seeing Cymbals live or checking them out online. They just had their first US tour and came through LA a few weeks ago.
Without a doubt the best kept secret in LA is the LAPC (Los Angeles Producers Club) in Van Nuys. About four bands and different producers claim it to be “home.” Strangeheart is pretty involved down there and we often show up for open mic night on Wednesdays. Check it out at http://laproducersclub.com/
What is Strangeheart currently working on? Any new projects?
We just released our debut full length record titled, “A Common Theme.” We’ve been playing a lot of shows around Los Angeles and have some stuff lined up along the West Coast ad the summer progresses. We’re also looking to release another single or two in the very near future along with some remixes.