Strange Talk

Strange Talk

Commanding, crisp, and perfect for summer: Cast Away is the highly anticipated debut by Melbourne, Australia’s electro-pop charmers Strange Talk. Following up on the international buzz brought on by 2011’s self-titled EP, Cast Away is 11 tracks of indie-meets-electro gems: relentless, hook-laced hits (breakout single “Climbing Walls”), rave drenched anthems (“Falling In Love”), big tom dance floor bangers (“Another Day”) and minimalist electro ballads (“Come Back Home”). Packed full of shimmering synths and pulsing pop beats, Cast Away is one epic, dazzling listen. “It was a long journey, making this record said frontman Stephen Docker, “We really challenged ourselves. It’s odd: you’ve got a classically trained violinist, a dance producer with a DJ background, and two funk/soul musicians. It’s weird how it all gels together, but that’s the unique flavour of Strange Talk.”

Off the back of killer singles like “Climbing Walls,” “Eskimo Boy” and “Sexual Lifestyle,” Strange Talk frontman Stephen Docker, producer/DJ/bassist Gerard Sidhu, Travis Constable (drums) and Gillan Gregory (guitar) have already made their mark, both in Australia and beyond. They’ve joined the line-ups of such festivals as Parklife, Stereosonic, Future Music, Soundscape and Falls; opened for the Rapture, Neon Indian and Marina and The Diamonds; hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Uncharted chart in the United States; and wowed New York City at 2011 and 2012’s CMJ Music Marathon. Now Strange Talk will make their U.S. debut with Cast Away this August.

In October 2011 Strange Talk decamped to a friend’s farm in Castlemaine, Victoria, 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne. In between breaking to play headline gigs across the country, they wrote and layed down tracks. “The farm was amazing,” remembers Stephen. “It had moose heads on the wall, an amazing veranda which overlooked a huge field with cows, a big lake, a gym so we could keep fit (laughs)... After a while it was sad to come back to Melbourne, because when you’re being creative like that it’s hard to leave it behind.” There was, says Stephen, “mood talk” about the direction of each new song, “For example, should it be a big club banging tune, or even a ballad, which is something completely out of our realm.” The singer took heed of advice given by the Presets’ Julian Hamilton. “He’d said to me, ‘If you’re onto an idea, roll with it – whatever comes out you’ll most likely stick to.’”

After the Christmas break in February 2012 Strange Talk headed for the coast, Gerard’s sister lending them her beach house in Victoria’s Mount Martha. Here, the second half of Cast Away fell into place. On the recommendation of pals Van She, Strange Talk had fallen in love with the gritty, digital workhorse sounds of synth – the Dave Smith Poly Evolver. Six songs in, they replaced older beds with their new favorite toy. By April, the record was complete. Enter mixer Tony Hoffer (M83, Phoenix, Beck).

“Tony was the perfect man for the job, he brightened everything up,” enthuses Stephen. “We record and produce everything ourselves, so over that whole process we really learned what works for us and what doesn’t. The thing that sold us on Tony was what he did with M83’s ‘Midnight City,’ I haven’t heard a song with such glitz, but at the same time such gritty sound.”

On Cast Away Strange Talk have widened their scope, reaching back into influences past and present to create a whole new sound. Basslines are deeper; melodies even more euphoric. “For the first EP we were heavily into M83, Phoenix, Passion Pit and Two Door Cinema Club,” Stephen admits, “but growing up, our biggest influences were people like Michael Jackson, the Police and Queen, among others, all of which I think you can hear more of on this record. We’ve stepped away from the ‘indie’ thing somewhat; the album’s a lot more complex, and really shows how we’ve progressed as producers and musicians.”

A year of shows and Strange Talk has morphed into one of the country’s most exciting live acts. It’s long way from the bedroom duo Stephen and Gerard envisioned when they met on MySpace almost three years ago. “We all know each other a lot more now,” Stephen laughs. “It’s weird how it works with such a diverse mix of backgrounds, but I think that does the project justice. ‘Climbing Walls’ was when the penny dropped for us. Now, we just want people to have fun, lose themselves in the songs. Enjoy the journey, from start to end.”

Stephen Docker (vocals, keys)
Gerard Sidhu (bass, keys)
Travis Constable (drums)
Gillan Gregory (guitar, keys)

How does the story start and where will it end? Re-birth and re-discovery have been common themes to describe the inside psyche of Matt Drenik's Battleme. 3 years ago Drenik was the lead singer of Austin, TX based psyche rock band, Lions. They had just released their first record in the UK and were touring with a reunited Monster Magnet. Then he got sick. And fought. And now his solo project, Battleme, is finding its audience. It all began with a haunting cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My" for FX's Sons of Anarchy. A week after its digital release, Drenik's Battleme found itself in the Itunes Top 20 charts. A few months later, he cut a record with Ghostland Observatory's Thomas Turner and the single "Touch" premiered on MTV Buzzworthy. The Atlantic, RCRD LBL, and MTV Hive quickly featured the track and the Washington Post claimed it as being "a career maker." Within a few months of the record's release, Drenik had formed a fledging new live band in Portland, OR. First it was a KEXP in studio session, then an appearance at Seattle's Capitol Hill Block Party. A west coast tour followed with an appearance at LA's Lobster Fest. The album track "Shoot the Noise" was picked to soundtrack the upcoming EA Sports NHL 13 video game. And Battleme's first headlining Portland date was recently previewed by the Willamette Weekly as, "…a continuous string of battles and triumphs. And they're pretty damn good." This is only the beginning.

Growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs with two older brothers, Matt Drenik was always influenced by his environment. One brother was in a noise band, the other with a keen taking towards New Wave. "You had the Jesus Lizard in one room and The The in the other. I was just a kid. I didn't understand the difference between the two." While he didn't understand the differences, these would be key stepping stones in his evolution.

Battleme really began in 2009 on accident when Drenik was diagnosed with uvetis, an auto immune disease that affects the eyes of which there is no known cause or cure. At the time of his diagnosis, Matt was coming off of four years recording and touring with Lions who exploded noise and energy – touring nationally and internationally with the likes of the Toadies, Local H, and Monster Magnet. Fans gravitated towards their raucous live shows as spectacles of Drenik's heavy state of mind.

After he got sick, things began to change. "It was time to go somewhere else." He dove back in to the things he grew up on. The Stones, Flaming Lips, Beck, Townes Van Zandt went running through the walls and Drenik wrote. He turned his thoughts to songwriting. He asked himself questions

like, "what would Bob Pollard do?" This was where he gave in to a re-birth. "I wanted something different. And I didn't have anyone telling me what rules I had to go by."

Wanting a change, Drenik moved to Portland, OR in the summer of 2010. He spent the next several months recording over 40 songs in his girlfriend's basement, bending from one genre to the next. He eventually narrowed them down to an 11 song record. After burning a few CDs for friends, Thomas Turner from Ghostland Observatory got a copy and responded. Drenik thought Turner might offer him a show with Ghostland. Instead, Turner asked to produce the record and put it out on his print, Trashy Moped Recordings.

For months, the two lived and breathed the songs. They sent mixes back and forth, collaborating on every aspect of the sound. Drenik's songs took on new forms – powerful hooks, bottom heavy grooves, and ethereal textures blended effortlessly with drifting, falsetto vocals to create an adventurous mix of post-modern rock and soul that would come to define the record. Synthesizers generate "Touch." A solitary guitar builds into a wall on "Trouble." The cosmic call to kill the quiet in "Wire" gives way to the sweet satisfaction of a "Killer High." Genres coalesce, dividing lines disappear, and Battleme allows the sounds to create their own field of vision. A view from the other side. Songs with no boundaries.

And now Battleme, residing in Portland, OR is figuring out just what to do.

Bucolic Distortion. A lover's Indian Burn. An Arctic Sun Tan. Aan's music is both mordant and gorgeous. It is the product of a boy's lust for companionship, isolated in the rural confines of a backwards Continental Divide. Aan is the music of someone whose love of love is ever apparent, but whose fear of it is just as strong. What comes from that love and fear is something original, modern, and brutally honest.

Aan's Portland, Oregon home has been the band's sonic forum since the fall of 2006, when songwriter Bud Wilson first started recording under the bedroom moniker "Amor Ad Nauseum". As the songs tightened and enriched, it was necessary for the outfit to expand in number. Finally in 2008 it was realized and Aan was a three piece, incorporating layers of instrumentation and embracing modern mediums.

The trio shares duties on myriad music makers; Texas transplants Reese Lawhon and Mica Rapstien take turns drumming, plucking and picking. Between the swells and low-end synthetic bursts, rich vocal harmonies abound between the boys, queuing likenesses to certain animal- based modern avant-pop groups. Somewhere in this mix of maligned sexual impulse and unrestrained infatuation there is love and vulnerability. The songs speak because the silence says too much.

2010 finds Aan on the cusp of their first official release with local artist collective label "Infinite Front", home to releases by some of Portland's finest creative luminaries; Castanets, Dragging an Ox Through Water, Ghost to Falco, Ah Holly Fam'ly, Ohioan and many more to come. It looks to be a busy year, with tours planned throughout the West Coast of the United States, and another release before year's end.

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Strange Talk with Battleme, Aan

Tuesday, November 5 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Brick & Mortar Music Hall