Look, Stranger! are one of my favourite new artists. I’ve met the lads on several occasions and it’s always been a pleasure. We even shared a Thai meal once, where Thom told me the secret to choosing the best Thai restaurant. There’s 2 criteria: it has to have loads of stickers on the windows/doors (Timeout stickers are preferable), and it has to look more like a cafe than a restaurant. This has served me well.
I was lucky enough to get to interview Tim, Ali, Thom and Dave, and they went into quite some depth with their answers. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
How do your lyrical-themes vary, in general?
Ali: Generally speaking, my lyrics are about the weather, Tim writes about slow decay, Dave writes about GIRLS (and politics) and Thom writes cryptic character studies. We’re a little unusual in that we all write lyrics but the songs all seem to work together.
Dave: I don’t write about girls.
Tim: Yes you do
Who are you all listening to at the moment?
Ali: Vast amounts of disco. Quincy Jones, Brothers Johnston, Narada Michael Walden, Sylvia Striplin, Aquarian Dream and so on. Plus a healthy slice of D’Angelo for good measure.
Tim: Talk Talk, Matthew Herbert, Scott Walker, Nuggets.
Dave: At the moment: Talk Talk (inc. Mark Hollis’s solo album), John Martyn, Bert Jansch, Zomby, Schumann and Boulevard de L’independance by Toumani Diabaté. Also Michael Jackson’s Bad.
Thom: The Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach, Nico Muhly choral works and Kevin Volans’s ‘White Man Sleeps’ – it’s frantic South African post-minimalism. Really liking the Ital Tek footwork stuff on Planet Mu too (Gonga EP) and unashamedly digging Steely Dan’s Aja.
Who are your musical and non musical influences?
Thom: I think we’re consciously influenced by bands beginning with the letter ‘T’ (Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, Tom Tom Club), dance music of all kinds and recent music by Everything Everything, Ariel Pink and Wild Beasts (second album). People compare us to all sorts, though – bands we don’t really listen to like Japan/Depeche Mode, or Scritti Politti who two of our members actively dislike!
As for non-musical stuff, I guess the amount of YouTube we watch (weird product demonstrations, North Korean mass games, football compilations, chess analysis) influences us. There’s this guy who uploads videos of him playing mad slap bass along with J-pop songs, all the while dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl. I think that influence is going to show through in our new songs. We all watch TV shows like Look Around You/Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place too.
Dave: In terms of non musical influences, I’m really influenced by things that are popularly believed to be ‘bad’. I like trying to work out why they’re considered ‘bad’ and see if those sames things can ever be made to be ‘good’. When not playing with Look, Stranger! I work in a publishing house, reading endless manuscript submissions. I have to read so much shite. But I can honestly say I’ve never read a single manuscript, however ‘bad’, that doesn’t have a sentence or phrase or pairing of words or whatever that has in some way affected me, positively. Being exposed to so much ‘bad writing’ so regularly made me realise that bad writing can be good writing when looked at differently, just that it doesn’t fit in the peculiar web of social norms that’s come to be known as ‘good taste’. Same with music, and lyrics. I found that realisation quite liberating.
Thom: You still think Scritti Politti are shit though.
Tim: I do too. I think that Scritti are one of those ‘you had to be there’ bands, because listening back to it, nasty nasty sounds. I rather think we’re much more sixties than people think. There is a real tendency to attach genre to the surface textures of a band, but I think that we take lots of cues in terms of structure, hook management and atmospherics from The Beatles and Scott Walker.
Thom: Tim is our resolute ‘rockist’ structuralist, as Simon Reynolds would say. I think it’s clear from our current listening that Ali (disco) and I (footwork, minimalism) are lapsed rockists, embracing non-teleological forms on our futile and clichéd search for Lacanian jouissance. This might actually be one of our strengths as a band – our melody and harmony musicians are more attached to narrative development than our rhythm section who are perhaps more interested in sound itself (what Tim calls ‘surface textures’) and a desire to distort or delay syntactically-determined goals through repetition. Look, Stranger! is classic pop songwriting with contemporary rhythms and production techniques.
You seem to be releasing ep/single/ep, one every 3 months, with One For The King EP being your next release soon. Do you hope to keep releasing new material or do you see your release strategy changing?
Dave: Our release strategy will change when we get backing…
Tim: We’ll release an LP when we have the right label backing definitely, otherwise you end up sitting on a record for too long. We’ll definitely put something out every quarter or more, in terms of tunes, videos, maybe a novel or two.
What are your release plans for 2012?
Ali: We’ll release another single or EP after this one in September, and then start on the album – we’re sorting out a strategy as we speak. Some of the songs from the previous releases will make the cut, but we’ve got a load of new ones kicking around which we’ll use too.
When do you hope your album will be released?
Thom: We made the move from expensive studios to self-produced bedroom recording early in our existence. It’s served us well, but it looks like we’ve now found a great, professional studio to work in where we can take our productions next level. The location and personnel involved are the most important things, but ideally we’re not going to release a full-length record without the backing of a label. Not until 2013 for sure.
Where do you hope to be this time next year?
Tim: Belgium is the place to be.
Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Thom: Sorry you have to fly to London to watch us. We’ll come to Spain soon, I promise.
One For The King EP is released 9 April, available as a digital download and 100 limited edition CDs.