- Kristen Black
The first thing frontman Eric Kegley utters before the Strangers’ set sounds like a warning to the average outsider. To the dozens of admirers waiting for their favorite songs to be played, the words are a beautiful invitation.
“We’re gonna get strange.”
Hoots and hollers, along with the sporadic chanting of “Bones!” from the crowd fills the cramped space of Boots Bakery & Lounge, quickly silenced by the opening guitar riff of the original tune “Learning and Nostalgia.”
It’s the Inlander’s Volume music festival, and the fans, who range from late teens to early 20s, are joined by other local music lovers. As the bluesy-jazz, indie-rock band plays on, the crowd dances wildly together. Drummer Char Smith, keyboardist Isaac Grubb and bassist John Haven yell out the lyrics to the song along with the veterans in the audience. They’re reunited at last.
Founded as just a high school pastime five years ago by Kegley, the reactions he received from listeners and fellow musicians quickly transformed the direction of the band. While bandmates came and went, Kegley kept pushing the project, continuously writing songs and teaching them over and over again to new members.
“The Strangers have had two drummers, a few keyboard players, and I think eight people on bass,” explains Smith, who has been with the group for three years. “The band we have now is the most stable we’ve ever had. For the first time ever, we have a future.”
Getting more serious, the Strangers began playing shows in little galleries, cafes and house parties, filling them with music-hungry kids just like themselves.
“The fact that people like what we’re doing pushes us forward with the group,” Haven notes. “Me being away at college for a little bit may have held the band back for a while, but we’re devoted to making this happen.”
Once just an excuse to play, the Strangers now focus on working.
After hauling all of their equipment to Crabwalk Studios, a custom-built production mecca owned and operated by Jared Crabb, they will spend hours upon hours recording the 10 tracks they have had since it all began.
“I’ve never heard anything like the Strangers,” says Crabb as he tweaks the latest recorded track. “In the end, they are a rock band, and we’re set on delivering an album that does them justice.”
Although stoked to be in the studio for the first time, Kegley, Haven, Smith and Grubb are a little weary of the process. Normally improvising the majority of their tunes, the Strangers have never had to have a concrete sound.
“When we play shows, we have fun. We goof around and make it enjoyable for the crowd,” adds Grubb, who joined the band last winter. “Recording is an intricate process. There is so much stress to get it perfect.”
The completion of their album, simply titled The Strangers, marks the beginning of a whole new journey for the group. After calling Spokane home since their infancy, they are planning a group departure to Seattle in the fall.
“We owe everything to Spokane,” Smith reflects. “We’ve been so blessed with the awesome people here, and if we could take everyone with us to the west side, we would.”
Through the unveiling of their album Saturday, they’re saying goodbye to their fans, who already know their music by heart, and the venues that supported them along the way.
“There are no amount of words for how thankful we are for the Spokane music scene,” says Haven. “We just hope to give back a little something before we say our farewells.”
The Strangers CD release party with Sun Stripe and Lilac Linguistics • Sat, Aug. 31 at 7 pm • Luxe • 1017 W. 1st Ave. • $4 • All-ages • 624-5514