Interview – Strange Names

Photo Credit - Ligeia Moltisanti

The Thanksgiving season is only a week away and folks across the country will need tunes for their hectic travels to their family. Luckily, a trio of men; Liam Benzvi, Francis Ximenez and Fletcher Aleckson who go by Strange Names, are the perfect source of enjoyment in this case. This is made more true with the release of their newest single, Into Me, that has been the track to absorb with ease in autumn. Liam of the group was kind enough to give a breakdown of their new work and their ongoing musical journey.

Naturally, conversation began with their latest single. “This was written and recorded initially two years ago. At the time I was listening to a lot of Prefab Sprout, and I wanted to emulate the kind of delicate, melodic ear-worm quality that they have to most of their songs. The challenge was to experiment with a different, more subtle kind of energy.”

Musically, their exploration is taking the men into fresh territory ripe for the taking. “Lately, we’ve been experimenting with our stage identities, how to stylistically present ourselves as a unit to make our music more compelling, thematically and visually. We want to travel too. We’ve been stuck in New York for a while.” It is time to get these men on the road for the world to see and hear.

Genre’s these days are a bit more fluid and Liam made note of that. “Aren’t all genres in jeopardy because there are so many? That being said, if our music makes me happy when I hear it, then it’s holding up just fine.”

They are continuously working on honing their craft. “We’re releasing our second full length album next year, and we produced the whole thing ourselves. It took three years to fully conceive and write… I think we’re all really proud of it. We record in a very counterintuitive way, and we somehow made our routines work with only ourselves to hold each other accountable.”

Strange Names have already hit some solid milestones to date. “At the beginning of this year, we hadn’t played in a while, but came out of a recording-only headspace to play some benefit shows for Planned Parenthood and Standing Rock. It feels good to be in any music community when there’s a common intention to do the right thing. Being an advocate feels good and fuels the performance. As far as the future goes, we want more bells and whistles: lights, full sets and we’re working on it.” Fans will be excited to watch that new effect in action as they progress!

Every show cannot always be perfect. “Our first show at SXSW in 2013, we broke a string on our main guitar during the first song, and then broke a string on our backup guitar during the second song. We got a friend of ours, mid-set, to get an acoustic string from a panhandler outside the venue and until we got that string, we had to tell jokes. The set ended early. It was painful.” Maybe they can add stand up comedy into their act?

Within the industry, everything is in a explosion of rapid change. “Music is really exciting right now. The good stuff is political, and the way in which artists take up space is changing. It’s been important for us as a band of three white cis men to continually ask ourselves, ‘why do this’ all the time. Why make music? Who is listening? We’ve resolved to use theatrics, more than ever in our upcoming album to play the roles of our ideal and attentive listeners: three curious aliens from another planet. These characters are individuals who have never known the concepts of romance or boredom or anxiety and can take great interest in them. The buzzy, trendy attribution of ‘self care’ to spending money on ourselves and championing blissful ignorance is really nauseating, but music, in its functionality, has always served as a method of escape in tough times. That’s what we love about it, and it’s still like that today.” It seems to be an adventure in itself.

When not in the throes of music, the men stay busy all the same. “I paint, Francis builds and designs furniture and Fletcher composes scores. [We love to play] dice.” They also have solid plans for the upcoming holidays. “We’re all gonna hide in the Ghost of Christmas Future’s cloak.” With the future in mind, keep an eye out for their new record to come for more musical glory!

Jam on.

Give Into Me a listen below: