Entertainment On Foreign Grounds – Straylings Interview And Album Review.

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“Carver’s Kicks” – Straylings.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/17359937″ iframe=”true” /]

You may well consider it a little early in the calendar to find us excogitating over potential albums of the year and ordinarily we’d be inclined to agree with you.  But of course that was before we’d heard Straylings stunning début “Entertainment On Foreign Grounds.” The London based duo have released an album infused with dramatic purpose, soaring melodies and brooding beauty, which has let us awestruck, bedazzled and hugely impressed.  Heck even their collective name is imbued with an almost timeless, evocative quality and conjures up a restless pioneering spirit that adroitly captures the essence  of their sound.

“Entertainment On Foreign Grounds” is an epic, dark, portentous sounding slice of wide-screen drama, at times strident, unsettling and haunting yet at other times gentle and consoling.  It works perfectly and is an album of light and shade replete with some fabulous visceral, coruscating guitar riffs from Oliver Drake which compliment Dana Zeera’s imperious, mellifluous vocals. Every track resonates with a dark beauty fusing a beguiling mixture of psychedelia, rock, blues, alt-folk and even a touch of eastern mysticism.

The oblique nature of the lyrics, which at times would have Benedict Cumberbatch in full-on Sherlock mode scratching his sagacious noggin, only adds to the mystery and allure. For example we have no idea what album opener ‘Carvers Kicks” is actually about although we’re pretty sure that the Mazzy Star meets PJ Harvey gem entitled “The Unravelling of Mr Ed” isn’t about a talking horse from the vintage U.S. TV show or indeed Milliband the younger for that matter! But quite frankly we don’t care because this is a genuinely rewarding début that we suggest will stand head and shoulders above many released in the coming year. As such it deserves to be heard and loved by as many people as possible.

Rating 9/10.
We chatted with Straylings’ Bahraini/Austrian songwriter Dana Zeera and ex Veils guitarist Oliver Drake in attempt to erm, lift the ‘veil’ of mystery

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VP:  Hello, congrats on the début album which is absolutely superb, before we discuss that how about a recap on how you both met and started to make music together. What’s the story?

DANA: Thank you… Well, we met around 2007, Oli had just finished playing with another band he was in and I’d recently finished studying…we were both meeting lots of people at the time and testing things out musically.

OLI: Yeah, it was a case where we sort of met by chance and got talking, and it clicked straight off really.  From that point we decided to develop some songs I had, and then started work on some recordings…

VP:  And the name ? Straylings ? It has a kind of timeless quality and perfectly encapsulates your sound. Who came up with it and does it have an special significance?

DANA:  Well there were quite a few name changes along the way…we sort of created the name together (although strictly speaking it is an existing word), it’s really just something that sounded right and seemed to reflect what we were trying to do musically…

VP: You got together in 2007 so it could be said your début album “Entertainment On Foreign Grounds” has been a long time coming . Why did it take so long and when did you first start writing it ?

OLI : Yes, a lot of the songs on the album were written throughout the 4 or so years we’ve been together as a band. We did put an EP out before this, but I think the delay came about just as a result of doing things independently, and in trying to find the best way to put the record out

VP:  The album was self funded and self released on your own label “Deadpan Records” Was the recording process enjoyable, was it done in stages? You’ve referred to it as a “summer of cabin fever” What sort of obstacles did you face as a band doing it all for themselves ?

OLI: Yes, there has definitely been a lot of trial and error in doing this ourselves. With the industry in constant change right now, trying to do what’s best as a band and a label can sometimes get a bit tricky… The recording process itself was great… We were lucky enough to be able to use a space with few constraints, which gave us a lot of time to experiment with sounds, and find what we were looking for.  I don’t think we ran into too many difficulties, other than perhaps scraping together funds and at some points in the editing process…deciding whether to include an overdub, or discard it etc.

VP: How much does the ability to access technology help a band like yourself, not just in terms of recording but also getting the word out?

 DANA: I think like with a lot of things, it can be invaluable for certain aspects if used in the right way…and really assist the creative process. The potential to connect and engage with people in such an immediate way can be really exciting… The flipside I suppose, is that there can be a lot of emphasis on it…which could sometimes mean less time devoted to developing a sound and just exploring and being playful…

VP: How does the writing process work, do you work together or separately and then discuss ideas, themes ?

OLI: Dana mostly writes the songs, then we’ll both bring in parts and ideas as to where it should go, and develop it together further in that way…

VP: What have you got planned for the album launch and indeed for the rest of 2012? Any plans to gig outside of London ?

DANA: Well, we have our album launch show in March at The HMV Garage…we’re then planning some more dates around the south to start off with – hopefully we’ll get further north and Scotland as well.  After that, some festivals in the summer, and we’ll also be starting work on the next record…really looking forward to getting in the studio again…

VP:  What sort of musicians/ bands have influenced you, both growing up and now?

OLI : We’ve both been influenced early on by artists like Love, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Joni Mitchell… and now bands such as Arcade Fire and Interpol

VP: What’s been the best gig you’ve been too?

OLI: Neil Young at Hyde Park was really incredible…his energy and conviction really comes across…

VP:  Five words to sum up “Entertainment On Foreign Grounds”

DANA: Visceral, Elegant, Surreal, Delicate, Lo-Fi, Heady…ok had to do six there, sorry…

 

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Andy Von Pip

ANDY VON PIP - Founder, editor, writer, reviewer, photographer and all-round good guy at the VPME.com. House photographer for The Academy Music Group, Zuma Press, Event Magazine and Rex Features worldwide. You can check out his photography at Andy Von Pip Photography Has been new music tipster on BBC6 Music, Amazing Radio, and DJ on Strangeways Radio (USA.) Can currently be heard on IWFM Radio. His radio work has been described as sounding like Ian McCulloch on ketamine fused with Ringo Starr. New music tipster on Amazing Radio, moderator for BBC 6 Music DJ Tom Robinson's Fresh on the Net, former member of "BBC's Sound Of" panel. Written and photographic work has appeared in The Quietus, Music Week, Record Of The Day, The Guardian, GIITV, The Sabotage Times, Bido Lito, The Skinny, Louder Than War. Media partner and curator for Liverpool Sound City.

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