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I tend to stick with pop punk but made an exception for this week. Few people know this, but I am also a huge fan of the power pop genre. Strange Neighbors “jangly power pop” to the max (even though they don’t like the term!)
If you like the sounds of Elvis Costello, the Gin Blossoms and even R.E.M., you will enjoy this band from Brooklyn, NY. When I listen to them, especially my favorite song, “Hotline Psychic,” I am teleported back to a time before smart phones and ruled our hand and we had to push actual buttons to make phone calls.
Enjoy today’s interview with Strange Neighbors. They were awesome enough to have everyone answer the questions and be sure to check them out on their socials!
Ian: Thanks for letting me feature you on Audio Angst! Before we get into all the questions, let everyone know who you are and where you’re from. (please include names of everyone in the band and what instruments they play)
Band: Aidan Vaughn Strange, lead singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the band. Dana Bennewitz, bassist/groove master. Zach Schweikert, lead guitarist, songwriter, backup vocals. Tracey Andronaco, drums.
Ian: How did you all meet and how long have you been playing together?
Dana: I joined the band in 2019 after seeing a flyer in the well-named practice space The Sweatshop (may it sweat in peace).”
Tracey: I'm co-founder of the band with singer Aidan, we started Strange Neighbors in October of 2017.”
Zach: I, very uneventfully, met Aidan and Tracey through an ad on the NYC Musicians Connect Facebook group. They were looking for a guitarist, I played guitar, and it worked.
Ian: Your sound is a breath of fresh air. My playlists usually consists of pop punk music but I really like your sound. I get like a mix of 80s/early 90s vibes and I love it. For those who haven’t checked you out yet, how would you describe your sound? Would you compare yourself to any other bands from past/present?
Dana: I use the term “power pop” even though I hate it. No one knows what power pop is until you play them Elvis Costello and R.E.M. and the Gin Blossoms and they’re like, “oh yeah, I guess” *laughs*. But, for those in the know, mainly obscure blogspot bloggers, power pop is a great description. We have a modern take on a the guitar-focused pop group.
Zach: Definitely Power Pop as Dana said. I think Jangle Pop gets thrown in there as well because of the 12 string guitar thing, and similarities to Big Star or REM, but saying that also makes us sound even more pretentious.
Tracey: Aw, shucks! Thanks! I think we have an interesting and unique sound, I know everyone in the band has different influences and I think when that all comes together, it actually makes for some great chemistry. I'm actually really into classic rock and oldies, old school punk and 80s 90s music, grunge/pop of those eras. We get compared a lot to the Cranberries. I think we have an alternative and pop rock vibe for sure.
Ian: When we were chatting on Twitter before this, you said something that really stuck with me: “We are trying to do something totally new. But it also means that internet music algorithms don't really know who to categorize us with.”
I respect you a lot for knowing this and still making the decision to be yourselves. I’m sure you could write music that sounds like everyone else but you want to make music that represents YOU and I think once the world “discovers” your sound, you’re going to be huge.
Aidan: Wow damn, that means a lot to us. That’s kind of what we keep trying to tell ourselves when things get tough. It’s funny too because when have practice we can easily whip our cover after cover and emulate so many sounds and groups – but that’s not what we started this to do. From the beginning we knew we wanted to be indie, rock, groovy, and not take ourselves too seriously.
We never had a conversation like “oh we want to sound like this or that genre”. Finding the sound through each of our different backgrounds blending has felt like a magical journey. Now that we’ve bonded for years we’re more confident in the direction our sound is going, even if that doesn’t fit into a perfect algorithm box. We’re taking more risks, and this next Winter writing session is one I’m most excited for.
Dana: Aw, thanks! That means a lot. I really like our sound, it is different which is great and I kind of like being an enigma in the best way.
Ian: Who are some of your influences in your writing and performing?
Dana: I absolutely love Bridget Kearney of Lake Street Dive. I saw once on her Instagram that she has a folding bike, and I ride a folding bike, and it felt like a Mean Girls moment a little bit. But more importantly, I think she’s got great style and pop sensibility, and is a driving force behind a lot of Lake Street Dive songs. She takes the bass from background and makes it more of a lead instrument without making it feel like a bad jazz rehearsal (of which I am very guilty!).
Tracey: I come up with my own drum parts for the songs, but either Aidan or Zach will typically show up with something new to work on and we flesh it out from there. It's a very casual writing process, actually. When it comes to performing, I just bring the raw passion. I can be more on the animated side when I'm really feeling it; head thrashing and all, dramatic movements. I get that from some of my fave 90s era bands, I guess.
Zach: I was a Beatles kid growing up, and I think they've still had such an influence on my writing, really trying to get those classic pop chord progressions with all the minor chords and 7ths in there. From a lyrical perspective I'll usually decide early on that the song is going to be about something pretty concrete – a high school dance, the mail, daily routines, etc.
Aidan: I listened to My Chemical Romance and all the emo screamo bands growing up. I’m still a metal head, too. Avril Lavigne had a big influence on my early songs, which weren’t very good, because I was 11, And Evanescence – I say Amy Lee taught me to sing because I’d walk around my neighborhood with my sports Walkman trying to hit her high notes, hoping none of the neighbors would hear.
Ian: It looks like you released a single in the Fall, what else have you been up to in 2022?
Dana: We toured! For three glorious days! And we got to play at some very cool festivals, including O+ in Kingston, NY and The Bash at Stony Brook University.
Aidan: We played like crazy! Recorded too! I have some memory loss issues which is why I take so many pictures but we did SO MUCH!
Tracey: In 2022 we were gigging quite often and also recorded some acoustic studio session videos, as well as a new EP that will be released 1/11/23. We have some other music videos in the works at the moment.
Ian: Any big plans for 2023? Hitting the road, or studio or both?
Dana: Hopefully both. I’ve been so delighted and amazed by the reception we get in other cities and want to continue playing other places, making new friends and meeting new fans. And there is no stopping the creative wellspring of Aidan and Zach, we’ve got some writing/refining nights planned with the goal of summer studio time.
Tracey: We plan to span our reach in 2023. I believe we'll do more weekend mini tours in different states and span out more in New York. We plan to record a full length soon and that could happen in the last quarter of 2023.
Aidan: BOTH! We have so much new material waiting in the wings ready to be fleshed out and morphed in the studio. We’re in talks of planning an East Coat tour, and spread our strange gospel.
Ian: There’s a few questions that I ask everyone, the first one being; If you could play/work w/anyone, who would it be & why?
Zach: I'd love to work with someone like John Cale. He's produced some classic albums for himself and other artists, and he seems like someone who keeps up with the times even though he's like 80 years old.
Dana: I would want to work with Dua Lipa. She’s got some fun bangers and despite her superstardom seems like a normal person. I also am a fan of someone who can poke fun at themselves, and she did that with grace when the internet made fun of her dancing.
Aidan: When I was a teenager, I worked as a music journalist for a UK based alt music magazine and met a powerhouse of a woman named Aja Volkman (actually the wife of the lead singer of imagine Dragons). Her band was called Nico Vega, and I landed this interview with her in their tour bus before seeing the show, and ever since then I’ve dreamed of co-writing with her. Her voice sends me to space, and she has a primal energy that I feel I parallel often on stage. Such a dream.
Tracey: Man, that's tough. I'd love to play with Dave Grohl because he's one of my early influences. I also would love to play with Keith Richards because I'm a HUGE Stones fan!
Ian: What's been your favorite city (or cities) to play?
Dana: I really liked playing in Troy, NY. I thought the city was working hard to cultivate a scene and people liked to have shows. Plus, I love a town with free shows.
Aidan: I’m a sucker for the Hudson valley – my Alma Mater is there!
Tracey: There are so many cities we still have to conquer, but I love good ol' NYC and Brooklyn. Nothing like the Big Apple and playing there is so much fun and the crowds get so into it. Super high energy.
Zach: I think I have to say right at home here in NYC. There are just so many incredible musicians here, I find it really uplifting. You have to bring it, or else...
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Ian: It’s been great to get to know you more and hear about all the exciting things you have going on. Where can readers find you so that they stay up to date with all the great stuff you're doing?
Band: Awesome to be able to answer these questions and that you're interested in the band and what we're about and doing for the music movement!
You can catch us on the IG @strangeneighborsmusic, Twitter - @StrangeNeighbs, YouTube Music, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming platforms and playlists!
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