Strata

Singer Eric Victorino puts forth a mission statement, saying, "What music has needed for awhile is someone who can put everything they have into a record." Further underlining his statement, Victorino says of the band's self-titled debut, "This isn't just a single with a bunch of filler, like a lot of albums today are – these are songs that mean a lot to us, and hopefully will mean a lot to the people who hear it." From the aggressive opener "Piece By Piece" to the melodic introspection of tracks like "When It's All Burning" and "The Panic" to the fully-bared statement of purpose that is "I Will Breathe Fire," Strata reveals itself to be a thinking person's rock band, with emotive lyrics, intricate instrumentation and a sense of realness. The album was entirely self-produced and self-recorded in the band's own studio, highly unusual for a debut album. Victorino considers Strata's independence and self reliance as one of the band's defining elements. "We just went about recording our songs because that's what a band does," he says. "There was no producer standing there telling us how to pull it off. And now Wind-Up is putting out the finished album almost exactly the way we did it." However, guitarist Ryan Hernandez remarks, "We're open to working with an outside producer in the future, but for now we've found this is the best way of getting our music out there the way we want it." It's been a whirlwind four years for the group, who met in and around the music scene near San Jose, California in 2000. Victorino and Hernandez "pretty much instantly knew what kind of music [they] wanted to make," Victorino recalls. They came together with bassist Hrag Chanchanian, a fellow employee of Victorino's at an Internet company, then drummer Adrian Robison was drafted in after being scouted by the band while playing for another band in the same practice facility. "They were watching my band play, and I was really stoked about that, but then it turned out that they were there to watch ME play because they were about to kick their drummer out. They tried me out on a Wednesday, we were practicing on Thursday, and one day later we were playing one of the area's premiere clubs." Strata finished up their album, and immediately hit the road. "Playing every night helped make us that much tighter of a band -- it's like a beast that takes over" says Hernandez. That cohesion is underscored by the band's approach to songwriting, which usually evolves from jamming in the studio. "With a lot of groups, one guy writes all the music; to me, that's not a band," explains Robison. "What's special about us is that we're four guys who are all willing to try stuff, and vibe off of each other." "It's a democracy where majority rules," adds Chanchanian. "We all want to make the best song possible." While Victorino downplays any autobiographical content in his lyrics – "I don't rely on specific incidents for songs, it's more about capturing the emotional residue of something that's happened" – he admits that such instant Strata classics as "I Will Breathe Fire," "The Panic" and "Waiting" all grew from the ashes of a four-year relationship. "Sometimes our songs sound negative, but we try to get across the idea that the very intensity of the situation can be a positive [one]" says Victorino. Those feelings are confirmed by the muscular instrumentation, including Hernandez's striking solo on "Waiting." "There are not a lot of notes there, but that's the whole idea of 'less is more,'" he says. "It's hard for a song to breathe when it sounds like there's five thousand guitars over it." As Strata head into what appears to be a very promising future, the members feel secure in their approach to their art. "Music is a powerful weapon if you use it the right way," says Hernandez. "It can definitely help people; it certainly has helped me."

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