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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Passing Strangers

With the announcement of a new record late last year, Wellington outfit Strangers also confirmed that March would see the end of the band’s existence. Having played together for close to half a decade, the band quickly became a salient force in the aggressive music community when they burst into the scene, and have remained consistent ever since. An enviable recording output and tenacious attitude to touring has seen them trek the length of New Zealand a number of times, eventually leading to an extensive tour of Australia in 2008. In true obituary form, it must be noted, they will be dearly missed.

The final record comes in the form of a five-song EP entitled Children. For a band who have always ensured the aesthetic value of their physical releases are of the highest quality, it was inevitable that a lot of work would be put into this final record. However, Strangers have opted to make this release available free online from the outset, creating only a limited run of the physical product. Thomas comments: “I just prefer people to be able to have the music for free, and to have enough physical copies to supply what people want, without over-committing and ordering big amounts of obsolete vehicles like the CD.” Despite the relative lack of tangible copies, Strangers have indulged fans with a package that sees the music accompanied by a four-page letter recounting the history of the band, and five heavyweight broadside lyric sheets. “I think it’s much more interesting now to make the physical items more unique, and to rely on free online releases to get ‘the word’ out on what’s going on. Then, people who genuinely like what they hear can get a real documentation of the release that’s hopefully much more significant than a few mp3 files.”

Although the quality of song writing has remained consistently top-notch across their four releases, Thomas explains the band’s approach has evolved dramatically, especially from his perspective as the vocalist. “On Children, I mostly worked on writing plenty of poetry beforehand, and then worked what I had into musically complete songs, rather than beginning writing to the finished music.” While he concedes that this leads to less “freedom to read audible narratives over a song”, he proposes that “the repetition of words can bring out specific ideas in much more clarity”. Furthermore, he contends that the approach, “leads to more sparse delivery”, and because the words don’t necessarily fit into the traditional verse/chorus structure, it allows “a real freedom to use the words more instrumentally”.

Despite this evolution across the band’s short career, they have nevertheless decided to call it a day. Addressing the break up of the band, Thomas explains: “These kind of bands never really seem to have a long lifespan, and I think we lasted longer than most.” While this may come across as an attempt at justification, this short lifespan is certainly a reality within hardcore, and is illustrated in the formation of Strangers themselves. The group evolved out of the equally adept and somewhat comedically named Guest Stabs Host, who similarly saw an arguably untimely finish. Thomas rationalises the end to Strangers, explaining, “at the end of it all, we just wouldn’t have known where to go next with what we wanted. I think it’s a welcome choice to go out on a good note with a last record that we all like, rather than half-heartedly drag on an era that should have ended earlier.”

Not one to be placid, Thomas is already moving forward in the wake of the split. He started another project in 2009, named The Body Lyre, which represents a significant departure from the remorseless sonic aggression which defined Strangers. Thomas describes the band, with great difficulty, as “kind of bluesy, kind of gloomy, kind of shoegaze-ish”, finally settling on “maybe just ‘alternative’… or something”. The two-piece have been to record and have their first full-length, Escape Songs, being slowly released in a novel way. “One new single is released for free online at the end of every month for the year, and the vinyl version of all 12 is released on December 31st. As well as that, we’ll be releasing four books during the year. The first one is coming out at the end of March through Mole Music. It’s a collection of lyrics and visual accompaniments for the first three songs.” It’s clear therefore that the blending of various artistic facets central to the final Strangers release will be pursued by The Body Lyre, a band who will utterly consume Thomas for the foreseeable future, at the end of which he expects to “be sitting around in a daze, wondering what the fuck happened”.

Strangers’ final show will be on Saturday 27 March at Garrett Street, with Freuidoids and Entrails.


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