Strange Americans Sparkle on new Album ‘That Kind of Luster

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|Bluebird Theater | September 20 – NOTE NEW DATE|

The STRANGE AMERICANS performance scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2014,

has been postponed to Saturday, September 20.

All tickets for the September 12 performance will be honored.

By Brian F. Johnson

It’s the kind of music that the Carhartt-wearing, hard-working, industrial beer-drinking, regular Americans would listen to — the ones who could end up on an episode of TV’s Dirty Jobs. It’s a little raw, a bit loud, unapologetic and honest. It’s blue collar rock and roll and it’s something that Denver’s Strange Americans are crafting with both brawn and finesse, like a hot rod mechanic bringing back an old barn find.

In a sense, Strange Americans are rescuing something from the rust pile — straight-forward, no frills rock and roll, and a matching aesthetic that is heavy on songwriting and storytelling, but presented with reverb-drenched punch and passion — the way The Band or Crazy Horse would have done it.

Strange Americans first began to take form in 2009 through a series of Craigslist ads and mutual acquaintances. The group, which released its much applauded debut full-length A Royal Battle in 2012, is releasing its sophomore album That Kind of Luster this month. The ten-song, 45-minute rocker which the group began working on in the summer of 2013, showcases a band that has dialed in an authentic, raucous live show and is somehow managing to convey that same energy in the studio as well.

A Royal Battle was a very planned-out album,” said guitarist/vocalist Trent Nelson during a recent long-distance interview. “We played those songs for a long time before we recorded them, but after the album those songs took on a new shape. The energy of our live shows started becoming larger and larger and the songs evolved from the album. We took that rawness and energy and the rock side of things and started putting that into these newer songs that have become That Kind of Luster.

Guitarist/vocalist Matt Hoffman, who together with Nelson splits the songwriting duties for the group, added, not surprisingly, that including that live energy in the studio resulted in a heavier album than their debut. “We ended up with more of a rocking record this time,” Hoffman said in a separate interview with The Marquee. “We cut out some of the more acousticy, twangy songs that we had and we kind of went for a straight up rock and roll feel on this one,” said Hoffman. “I wouldn’t say we’re set on being a full-on rock band like this forever, but we kind of had to get this out of our system.”

The album also serves as a passing of the baton from drummer Scott Gunshore (who now that he has a fourth child, couldn’t dedicate the time to Strange Americans) to Michael McKee, an instructor at Swallow Hill and member of several Denver bands. “We tracked a few songs on this session with Scott and that’s him on ‘Dirty Shakes’ but the rest is all Mike,” said Hoffman. “But the cool thing is that Scott is going to be around for the CD release to play some auxillary percussion.”

Nelson added, “Talk about a guy who could get on board quickly? We really lucked out getting Mike. He took all of our songs and learned them and dedicated himself entirely to the project. It was just perfect timing, too.”

For a band that paints such visual pictures with their music, it’s no wonder that the art behind the album was as carefully crafted as the songs. Strange Americans enlisted the help of art designer/photographer Scott McCormick, who went to great lengths to create the stunning album cover art.

The artwork features a close-up photo of a model farmhouse with an arching snap of lightning hitting a nearby telephone pole. McCormick   explained to The Marquee that the shot could have easily been taken and the lightning Photoshopped in  at the end, but instead McCormick teamed up with a friend and electrical engineer, Jeff Engelstadt, to string together two old computer monitors through a series of capacitors and resistors, which actually created a 450,000 volt shock that produced lightning in McCormick’s kitchen. “Voltage won’t stop your heart, but it will catch you on fire, and so we spent about 70 hours in my kitchen with our shirts off, stringing this equipment together,” McCormick said. In the end, they fired the contraption just once, and McCormick captured the arch with one frame of film.

The band is taking similar care for its stage set for the CD release. Instead of digitally printing a backdrop of the album cover, the band has coupled with INCITE Productions to have them hand paint a replica of McCormick’s cover shot. Incite’s Justin Hicks told The Marquee that the 15’ x 12’ backdrop will be hand-drawn with no tracing, which he said will give it more of a homemade feel that fits well with Strange Americans music. “It’s going to give it a warmth like vinyl, as opposed to listening to an mp3,” he said.

Ironically, when the album was just a few weeks away from release, both Hoffman and Nelson said that the band, which is almost entirely D.I.Y., is already looking forward to getting back into a studio to record their third album. “We recorded this a year ago now,” said Hoffman. “We’ve been playing and recently we’ve been focused on getting ready to release this and being away from the creative side for a bit now, we’re getting that itch again.”

 

|Bluebird Theater | September 20 – NOTE NEW DATE|

The STRANGE AMERICANS performance scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2014,

has been postponed to Saturday, September 20.

All tickets for the September 12 performance will be honored.

 

 

Recommended if you Like:

• Crazy Horse

• My Morning Jacket

• Wilco

 

 

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