With a new single ‘Eleventh Hour’ and an announcement of a second album ‘Kaleidoscope’ I had plenty to talk about with Brisbane based prog band The Stranger.
First off guys we better do the old raise your hand and tell me your names!!
Tom: I am the singer, vocalist and songwriter.
Kalen: Singer and vocalist????
Tom: Yes and I have the longest hair haha
Kalen: I am one of the guitarist and also a songwriter.
Drew: I am also a guitarist and songwriter as well.
Linc: I am the bass player and funnily enough I am also a songwriter!
Tom: Lucky Dan wasn’t here because he would have just been I play drums!
Kalen: He wrote some stuff too. Also I produce and mix everything we do.
Cool so Covid wouldn’t have stopped you guys then.
Linc: A tiny bit. We did record a lot during lock down.
Kalen: Yeah we did but it was still an unbelievably stressful time. I have two jobs. I produce bands and I drive Uber when I am not booked up in my studio. When Covid hit I was working with bands, but they had to pull out obviously, so I was driving Uber, but no one was going anywhere. I worked for 12 hours a day driving Ubers, came home and tracked guitars for 6 hours and then slept for 6 hours. It was just that on repeat. So it was stressful, but we still got stuff done.
Drew: The rest of us were feed grapes on leather bound couches….. we were fine!
Kalen: Did you make it through Covid alright?
Yeah I am in Adelaide, so it wasn’t so bad here. We had a couple of smaller lockdowns, then we had that one with the pizza wanker.
Kalen: Wait do you guys know about that? What happened?
In a nutshell they traced a dude back to a pizza bar that had Covid and he lied about what he did there and sent the state into lock down. Wouldn’t have bothered me so much but it fucked up my plans to go to Melbourne for gigs!!!! They shut everything down pretty quick.
Kalen: Pandemonium for a couple of hours.
It was insane. We were in the chemist when it got announced and by the time we got out there were lines at every store and cars banked up for miles. They even locked down McDonalds!
Kalen: Wow that’s hardcore.
Okay so tell me all about The Stranger.(Everyone looked at Kalen!)
Kalen: So we are The Stranger, We are a progressive metalcore band. We have been kicking around since 2013-2014. It originally started with myself and Daniel who isn’t here. We used to play in another band together and when that one fell apart we decide that we didn’t want to stop. We wanted to keep writing music, so we started The Stranger. The general idea was that we came from a band where we were pretty pigeon holed sound wise. We were doing the female-fronted metal thing and that kind of had a very distinct scene. The rule for the new band was anything goes as long as it is good. Very shortly after we found Tom.
The vocalist singer guy!
Tom: Ha yeah. I originally joined on bass, but I have been singing since I was 11-12 years old. After awhile the bass was to hard to keep up with so I started singing to them and we went from there.
Kalen: It worked out really well and then we recruited a couple of other members who have since left and we now have Linc and Drew in the band. We released our first album in 2017 which was very well received. Like any absolute no name out of nowhere band from Australia, the publicity we got was very good but there wasn’t a tonne of it. We were still very proud of that album. We put a hell of a lot of work into it. We recorded it with a guy called Adam Merker who has done some really great work for bands like Disentombed and Lagerstein. We had it mixed in Sweden by a guy called David Castillo who has done Opeth and Bloodbath and mastered by Jens Bogren who is one of my personal heroes. He has done everyone big in the metal world.
Since then we have had a couple of line up changes and we have basically spent the last couple of years refining our sound. That’s what it is like for any band who moves forward, you’re always working on trying to become a better version of yourself. You find yourself more and more as you go along. One of the things that we were able to do with this new album which we lacked a bit of on the first album is write with more intention. The songs are a little bit more to the point. On the first album we have 9, 10, 11 minute long songs, they are great, its cool having your big prog epics. This time we were a little more to the point and kept them song length which is good. That is that ongoing process of finding how you write.
Yeah and like you said you have had line-up changes. Its also everyone becoming used to how the other band members write.
Kalen: Absolutely. You know the writing process is continuing to evolve. Typically the way things have worked is that I have come up with the bulk of a song idea, or Tom will come up with the lyrics and then Tom and I will work together. On this album Drew wrote a whole song which is sick.
Drew: I did a song!
Kalen: Drew did a song… Linc wrote the bulk of another song as well which is really cool. I think the more we go along we will hopefully increase this collaboration as opposed to mostly coming from one person.
So how does your process go? Just lots of back and forth until the song is finished?
Kalen: Do you mean between us?
Drew: It’s pretty different for each one.
Kalen: The basic thing is that one of us will bring in, if not a whole song then at least a substantial chunk to inform what the song is going to be. So it will be like ‘I have this much done but I’m not sure where it is going to go’ and then we might work on it from there or it might be ‘Hey here is a whole song’, which we just tweak and refine. We all have our little riff graveyard folders too so something might come from there.
That graveyard file is a common thing!
Kalen: That’s the thing. Inspiration is tricky. It’s very difficult to have inspiration on command. Sometimes you get really lucky and an idea so strong falls into your head that you can follow the whole thing to a full song in a few hours or a couple of days. Sometimes you have an awesome riff that you sit on for 2 years because you have no idea what to do with it.
Linc: We have examples of both of those on the album. The title track Kaleidoscope took Kalen a night to write the whole thing.
Drew: The song that I wrote I came up with the original idea I think 1.5 years after I joined the band. So its been around for like 3 years now.
Tom: I was writing lyrics to that right up to the recording process.
Kalen: That one was very tricky. The thing about Drew’s song, which I think is probably his greatest strength as a songwriter, is that he is really good at bringing in complex chord structures and chords with a lot of depth and nuance. It meant that the music was so interesting on its own that we found that when we tried to come up with vocals it was a case of how do you add to it without taking away from what is there.
Dan joined us at this point.
Kalen: So we all have our own strengths and weaknesses as songwriters. This is just one ongoing journey of learning each other and learning the process and refining it. Working off each other’s strengths to write bitching songs. One thing we always really try and go for in our songs are hooks. Especially in vocals. I really love when something we have written gets stuck in my head for a week.
Tom: A lot of that vocally is inspired by Voyager. They are a really catchy hooky band. Leprous as well with there intense proggy approach to music. That very easy to get into vocal style. You want to attract people and have them interested in the melody before they go and read the lyrics.
I’m a real lyrics girl. I like to listen with the lyrics in front of me.
Kalen: Have you listened to the first single yet?
I have indeed. I have listened to it a couple of times now and stuck it in my playlist. It’s really good.
We digressed and ended up on the Voyager band wagon and the guys mentioned they had played with them before which led me to ask who else they have shared the stage with.
You have played a few shows then!?
They all laughed.
Kalen: We’ve been around for 6 years now so we have played a few.
Have you travelled interstate much or just Queensland?
Kalen: Off the back of the first album we toured the East Coast. We basically been everywhere between here and Melbourne.
Everywhere but Adelaide!!
Tom: Yeah sorry!
Kalen: We haven’t made it to Adelaide yet. We will get there!
Tom: One positive that has come out of lockdown is that the distance between our first album, it was 2 years before we got another song on the ground. This one we are already rolling into new material. That sense of momentum. Creating new things and expressing ourselves in new ways and collaborating and editing ourselves. The way we are as a band now, pre Covid lockdown is so different to how we are now. We are so much more in touch with each other’s preferences and style.
Linc: We are finding how we are writing is changing as well due to Covid.
That has been the greatest thing about Covid I think. Bands changing up how they write and not worrying about the “genre” label by adding different elements to their songs. I am all about that shit.
Kalen: The title prog is so broad, and it means that we don’t have to worry about genres.
Linc: We’ve progressed!
Kalen: Exactly. It’s like we do what ever the fuck we want and it’s all “prog.”
I have heard that heaps lately, ‘We are just playing whatever the fuck we want and if only a handful of people listen we don’t care.” I suppose you can have that attitude when you haven’t played for 12 months. It’s probably liberating for bands tbh.
Kalen: As far as writing whatever the hell we want, that being said the feedback we have had from this first single has been overwhelmingly positive.
It’s a damn good song.
Kalen: Thank you.
Tom: It’s more than that. We got a positive review to our first album but this one it seems that people are actually excited for it. When we released the first single off the other album everyone was like yep that’s good. But with this one everyone is like fuck when can I get more. It’s really heartening.
I think people are starting to appreciate prog a little bit more now too.
Kalen: I think so too.
Bands like TesseracT and Periphery are becoming bigger.
Kalen: We are all fans of those guys.
So Periphery are my all-time favourite band.
Kalen: Right on
Tom: They built the road that we are now driving down.
Kalen: It’s like the plans were laid in place by Karnivool and then Periphery came along and built the road.
Drew: I feel like they have cemented themselves as a timeless legendary band. They are like proper legends of the music world now. Because it is music for musicians and for listeners. The bar has been well and truly set, it has been for many Periphery albums now, so now everyone is shooting for something beyond that.
When I talk to young bands and they say they don’t know what to do band wise I always tell them to go and look at Periphery, not their music but the way they run their band as a business.
Linc: There documentary is so good.
Tom: Look at their progression from their first album to P4. They didn’t start out where they are now, they refined and honed their craft. They started simple and have just launched off on a trajectory.
Kalen: We are also really big fans of Caligula’s Horse. Adrian, the second guitarist does all our music videos. Dale does the lights at our shows.
Your like one big family.
Kalen: It’s a cliché but a rising tide lifts all boats and the more we can all help each other out and be involved the better we off we will all be.
That is absolutely correct. I only started Recurrent Verse in April. Let’s start a music blog in the middle of a pandemic!! The support I have gotten has been amazing.
Tom: Our Spotify stats have been rising in the US, they have shot above Australia now.
What about Russia?
Linc: Yeah Moscow is the 5th most popular.
It’s weird because a lot of the bands I have spoken to lately have Russia and the US pretty high up.
Drew: I feel like it might have started with, obviously Karnivool, but more so with 12 Foot Ninja the US kind of picked up the Aussie larrakin theme. That blossomed in to Caligula’s Horse and few other progressive metal bands. Now there is a keen eye on the music, but I feel like 12 Foot opened that up.
Kalen: Yeah. That’s a band I don’t think about much these days, but I think they have a new album coming out. They did a huge amount for the Australian scene. Periphery had a lot to do there too because they were friends and Periphery promoted 12 Foot a lot. I think you could safely say that without 12 Foot we would probably be a few years behind were we are now as a scene.
Dan: Its funny because I was talking to some of the guys from Caligula’s Horse and they were saying that whole Australian larrakin thing isn’t really accepted anywhere else in the world except by Aussies. We have just come to be known as people who can act like idiots on stage and people are cool with that.
Tom: We have this license to be ourselves but also be taken seriously which when we are screaming at the microphone ‘Get ya tickets’ and then we play something like Kaleidoscope and people actually take you seriously and listen to it and that is really 12 Foot because they are the same.
Kalen: On that note, just to bring it back to us.
Haha oh yeah!! See this is what happens…. Who are you guys again????
Kalen: We ask ourselves that every day! One thing I really like about this new album compared to the first one is that this album feels more personal. The first album we did a lot of storytelling, there is a song about Robocop, one about Warcraft lore. There’s a bunch of random shit. This album we have actually written songs that feel relevant to our lives, things that we care about.
Tom: Not just the songwriters lives but things we can all relate too.
Kalen: I don’t want to go as far as to say the album is a statement because it’s not. I mean the first single is. Eleventh Hour is a statement, like I have said in other interviews that is our first hippy, climate protest song. It kind of sucks because that message these days is starting to feel like a bit of a cliché or a meme if you are talking about climate change. It’s talked about so much in the wrong kind of way that it almost feels like a platitude now. The thing is it is still a ridiculously fucking pressing issue that some people hope gets swept under the rug or will be dealt with by somebody else.
That’s what has been happening for years. Let someone else deal with it. You know. And now look where we are.
Kalen: Too hard basket all the time.
Tom: look at what we’ve got on our hands now. That is almost exactly the point of the song. ‘We are waiting in wounds, that have been left by this wasted time’ we are now dealing with it and it is time to change.
Kalen: Those are the last two lines of the song. It’s quite poignant Tom.
So how many songs are on the album?
Kalen: There are 9 songs one of which is an instrumental interlude kind of thing. We kind of cover all the bases in this album mood wise. This first single is the big, serious face, heavy, dramatic song. The next one is heavy but with a more upbeat vibe, there’s also some funkiness. The next single we release, which is also the title track, is very personal for Tom. That’s very introspective, very..
Kalen: Yeah its sad.
Tom: Sad boy Tom. It’s just something that I think everybody feels. Loss of the sense of meaning and purpose in life. There is a resolution in all of us to break out of that. I just wanted to relate to people in the first albums lyrics, but I feel like maybe the closest I got was ‘In The Mire’ and that is 11 minutes of relating to yourself. So like trying to bring that personal experience into each song, at least in some way, is really important now I think. I think it makes the music more effective and it means that people will be able to listen to it over and over again.
A better connection with your audience.
Tom: Absolutely, and I want people to be able to feel the same catharsis that I felt when I was writing that song. As soon as that song came out onto the paper, I read it back to myself and I was like ‘Jesus that’s really how fucking upset I am?’ So that is the intention.
Kalen: The funny thing is there was another song on the album that is actually a similar one by me. A few years ago I was going through an insanely painful breakup and it was one of those times where the whole fucking song dropped into my head really quickly. Having that release in the form of music it really is catharsis.
And all you guys write songs like that, which in turn have helped me (and plenty of other people) get through some pretty heavy shit.
Kalen: Do you have any songs that you can point to as being really valuable to you?
Beartooth’s entire Disease album. If it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t be here. That pretty well kept me going.
Dan: Its crazy that, I don’t know, it makes you feel so connected to 5 or 6 people that are making this album.
Linc: Vibrations in the air.
I saw them in Brissy, and we went back to Crowbar after the gig. Caleb turned up there and I actually go to tell him how that album saved me. It was pretty surreal to be able to do that.
Tom: if anyone is ever nervous about trying to say that to a band, you shouldn’t be because that will completely validate their entire existence. Never be shy about going to tell a band how much their music has helped you.
I actually get paid out a LOT because I’m always telling the bands I love them, and I love their songs. You gotta tell them so they feel the love!
Tom: Don’t do what I did the first time I met Jim from Caligula’s Horse. I was a tad drunk and hugged him while telling him I loved him!!
Been there, done that haha.
Kalen: Well you know it’s all part of the experience!
It is. I think to because the Australian bands are so approachable.
Kalen: That’s it. It goes back to what I said before. There’s no rock stars everyone is just cool.
Last words before we end this?
Drew: I just want to go back to the lyrics. As much as this album is taken more seriously lyrically and it’s a lot more personal it’s so much more fun than the first album. And the lyric content is more fantastical which I had nothing to do with so I’m not boasting about my own achievements here. It is so much fun, there are songs on there which are incredibly personal and can help people on the level that we all just talked about, but its also really fucking fun. The second song on the album is easily my most favourite song that we have ever written. I still listen to it on a daily basis.
Kalen: The second song ‘Gemini’ was a fun one.
Oh I like that already because I’m a Gemini!!
Kalen: Nice! There you go. That’s a fun one for me because it’s another one I wrote really quickly but then I totally fucking forgot that I had written it. We were going through ideas one night a band practise and I played that one and the guys were like ‘What! It’s done, print it, it’s finished!!’
Tom: I love that music so much. I put almost the entire lyrics and melodies together in 2 hours on a train. I don’t think we ended up editing anything from it. It was just done. It felt right.
Kalen: That kind of leads me to your question. I think what I would really like to say about this album is that every song on the album really has a very unique personality unto itself. From a birds eye view they all sound like us but they are all very different songs. There are no songs on this album that are filler and that is something we always work really hard to achieve. I feel that whatever side of the heavy thing you are into we probably have something for you on this album and it’s really worth exploring. We are also really happy to be working with Bailey Graham at Octane and also Wild Thing records as well. Wild Thing are such a presence here in Australia.
They picked up Growth too which surprised me.
Linc: Very left field from what they usually focus on.
It’s such a good album. I brought the vinyl. I collect vinyl. That was another Covid thing, I thought I would start to collect vinyl and about 150 later……
Strangely the boys all laughed!!
Tom: Are you collecting or just buying them all?
I’m just buying everybody’s! Well only the ones I like…. Which happen to be most of them..
Kalen: You know that’s the best thing in my mind about the heavy scene in Australia. Especially prog. Everyone that listens to it is a fan of music. They may not be a musician, but no one listen to this stuff casually, they all really put focus into it.
I find that I will sit and purposely listen to vinyl whereas if I Spotify the same album I will just have it as background noise.
Kalen: Vinyl is like a conscious active experience.
Tom: Like wine tasting instead of just getting sloshed!
Kalen: Do you guys have anything to add.
Linc: I think you’ve pretty much said everything I ever wanted to say.
Tom: I just want to say Dan’s glasses look great
Kalen: Yeah Dan’s glasses do look great. You know what? Dan looks great.
Tom: Yeah he does.
Drew: I think a great way to sum it up is that we are very grateful for the reception we have had so far. And that comment starts back at the first show we played after Covid. Everything from that point up until now
Linc: Which was a ridiculous show. We played 2 hours straight. The same set twice. It was exhausting.
Drew: We were very tired, but it was just the best way to catapult ourselves back into things.
Do you have a date for the album?
Linc: The album comes out on the 9th April and the next single will be dropping on the 26th of February. And there will be another single somewhere between those two dates.
Kalen: We have a bunch of content coming out in the next couple of months all leading up to the album release.
Linc: It’s already a stressful!
Kalen: It’s cool though, that feeling.
It’s a good stressful.
Eleventh hour is the first single off the upcoming album. Listen to it and then listen to it again because there is a bit to unpack in it which is a good thing in my books.