The Living Strange are quickly becoming an underground sensation between their regular releases, wild shows, and undeniable charisma. Eli Sokolow is an exciting blend of Nick Cave and Ty Segall. He’s a little Marc Bolan, a little Prince, and very strange. We sat down and talked about their up coming music video, the music festival they’re putting on, and their West Coast tour. Fans can find The Living Strange at the following locations:
What are the origins of The Living Strange?
The Living Strange started when I was in high school in LA during 2014. I had met Ben at a music school and we began playing in bands together. After a lot of musical growth, lineup changes, touring, and eventually a cross-country move, we enlisted Nico and Miles to join us. Miles was a fan that kept coming to our shows so we figured he was always free when we played. Nico was late to his audition and made up for it by becoming our keyboard player. At this point, it feels like four eccentric and totally different people who all make more sense when they are in the same room together. So much has changed that I think of the early days as if it was a different band.
You release a lot of music, this year you’ve already put out two full lengths. What do you do differently from other bands that allow you to produce so much music?
We release a lot of music because I write a lot of music. It’s relatively inexpensive for us to record since I run a small studio as well. Nowadays, I think many bands are afraid to put out full albums because they think it won’t get the attention it deserves. I see a lot of three or four track releases. Nothing wrong with doing that but in my opinion, releases like that can lack the complete depth of exploring a musical philosophy. Some people believe that their debut album is supposed to make them famous, so they refrain from recording and releasing that album until they have a single that does well. I’m a bit more into learning from my mistakes to get to my best album. Everytime I make an album, I learn so many different things and that process builds so that the next one can be stronger. If we were a pop group, I’d probably have a different attitude. However, rock music is at a place now where listeners who pay attention to new acts are not turned off by bands who put out a lot of material (like King Gizzard or Ty Segall). There’s no way for listeners to listen to a band if they don’t have stuff out.
Do you ever feel a more focused approach with your releases would serve you better?
I’d argue that our approach is focused, it’s just unique. Although we released Baby On Cement earlier this year, we have spent much more time facilitating the release of GUNK – which is our main focus. Making all the stuff we want to serves us creatively. That’s what is most important. We aim to try different timelines of releasing music in the future, however, it would have to align with what the music calls for. Some albums, like Baby On Cement, really should be released at one moment rather than gradually due to the conceptual nature of the album.
What was your recording process like for GUNK? Did you do anything unexpected or unorthodox?
On GUNK, we got to record with producer, Sejo Navajas, at 4th St Recording – which is down the street from the Los Angeles garage that we started in. His open minded attitude allowed us to experiment a lot while working. We had five days to make the album. The sessions started with drums for everything, followed by guitars, bass, vocals, then auxiliary synths and percussion. Some of the tracks (like synths) were done beforehand at my studio. We must’ve used every piece of equipment in that studio. On “Shadow” we used goat hooves as percussion. On “Position” I sang the backing vocals through the pickups of a guitar. Ben played a fair amount of percussion that we processed to sound electronic. We knew the sound we were looking for and it was a solid balance of being deliberate while trying unlikely combinations of sounds to get us there.
Why did you choose ‘Stumble’ to make a music video?
Stumble has been a favorite at live shows and the vague nature of the lyrics allow for all kinds of things to happen, like shitting out blue gooey cyclops monkey babies. That riff is one of my favorite things I’ve done as a guitarist, since I still haven’t gotten sick of playing it. It’s a good track for people to start with if someone asks what we sound like.
How do you set yourself apart from all the other indie rock bands out there? What makes The Living Strange unique?
For starters, we don’t sound like The Strokes. That separates us from like half of the other indie rock bands. As musicians, we are all interested in approaching our instruments in unconventional ways while still reaching a visceral rock n roll energy. Rock music isn’t highly innovative as a style, but we bring a level of spontaneity, especially in our live show, that I have yet to see a lot of other bands at our level produce. We don’t use setlists, so that keeps us just as entertained as the audience. Also, sound pallette wise – we incorporate electronic influences in a very human way between Nico’s synth work and Ben’s live drum machine work. There’s no pre-recorded tracks at our shows but we can still make use of sounds beyond the typical guitar/bass/drums vibe.
Can you talk a little about the inspiration for this music video?
This video is a documentary of our lives. It’s cyclical and comical but violent and referential. Like a genius poem, no one could possibly understand what it means. It’s almost like we’re overdeveloped but we’re still monkey babies.
You perfectly blend DIY aesthetic with record label quality up and down your music and videos, what tips can you give other people to emulate your creative success?
We just let our minds run wild, try and execute all the ambitious things we want to, and figure out how to put it all together depending on what works and what doesn’t. One big thing that is highly important to our creative success is the belief in structure and process. Even though the things that we put into the structure are often outlandish, our work is still short and to the point. LGOD is the Brooklyn based director that turns our ridiculous music video fantasies into links that we can share with our fans. We would not be able to make these videos without him because he understands where we are coming from and where we want to go.
What’s next for you guys?
We are heading out on a West Coast tour. It’s exciting to defrost from NYC for a second and reconnect with our initial homebase. After that, we are hosting our very own music & art festival called Strange Fest at Brooklyn Bazaar in NYC on Saturday, December 1st. On the table for next year will be more touring and it’s very likely we will make another album.