At a time when artists are becoming increasingly transparent, accessible and outspoken, subtlety, mystery and detachment are powerful and often under-utilised tools to stoke the flames of intrigue. When you’re forced to dredge through a torrent of inane posts it can be easy to lose sight of the real band amongst the assault of marketing hype. In the end it all blurs into one incomprehensible bubble. Like, share, retweet and repeat.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why STRANGE COLLECTIVE eschew a life of online commercialism. Choosing instead to spend their time honing their craft, this shadowy quartet have stomped confidently into the Liverpool music scene unannounced, surprising all with their wild energy and tight-as-a-snare-skin shows. By existing almost exclusively in the live arena, the band have become something of an enigma outside of these performances. Besides a fairly innocuous Facebook page announcing upcoming gigs, they have virtually no online presence: no Twitter account to get into petty arguments with pre-teens; no Instagram to post pictures of grotesquely over-proportioned food; and no SoundCloud with which to spam every last corner of the internet. In today’s hyper-connected world, not just any band can rely on word of mouth. Then again, Strange Collective are not just any band.
Always threatening to implode in a whirlwind of their own making, Strange Collective’s manic performances are causing increasingly bigger ripples. Somehow the band refuse to relent in the freewheeling ferocity with which they approach every live show, even if it sometimes feels like you’ve walked in on a practice-room jam. Held together by the lynchpin of their metronomic rhythm section, the twin guitars and vocals are free to explore the peripheral edges of the band’s own musical cosmos. If this all sounds too much, it’s probably because you haven’t been lucky enough to catch them yet. Despite the band’s relative infancy and lack of headline shows, their intuition and verve during recent support slots has seen them grace the lips of many regular Liverpool gig goers, and they are fast becoming the city’s best kept secret (though it remains to be seen how long that secret will last). Where did they come from, how did they arrive in such remarkable form, and where are they going to next? All valid questions, but perhaps the wrong questions for this band: with a group as prodigious and full of intrigue as this we should be more than happy to let their music provide all the explanation needed. We should be focusing on what they are, here and now. After all, with their frenetic energy, fierce intensity and increasingly impressive live shows, here and now is right where Strange Collective want to be.
Having opened for Night Beats, Klaus Johann Grobe and King Kahn And The Shrines of late, it is perhaps unsurprising that the band are well known amongst those with a predilection for all things psych and garage, but to pin the band down to either would do their broad sonic palette a disservice. Their music, while definitely indulging in the more psychotropic ends of the spectrum, spans a breadth of influences from kraut to southern rock, in a thrilling melange that has echoes of Thee Oh Sees or the Black Lips’ wanton, sun-drenched riffery. Shedding the limitations of genre, the band feel free to explore their sound. By focusing on developing organically they are fast crafting their own sound, even if they’re not quite sure what that is. If this seems a little rudderless, it’s because it occasionally is, and that’s what makes it so fucking exciting, but when you see the band in action it all makes perfect sense. For music as visceral, threatening and loud as theirs, there really is no substitute to being assaulted with every last wattage of their amps, and having your bones rattled by the thunderous bass.
When a band is so intent on crafting a fierce on-stage persona, would we really benefit all that much by peering behind the mask? As a spectator it certainly is interesting to follow the realisation of these ideas, without quite knowing which way the compass is pointing. Each show sees them grow in confidence, the crowds get bigger, and the responses become more impressed. With plenty of gigs in the coming months, including the mouth-watering line-up of Growlers, Fat White Family and Wytches, the band look set to chart an ever-increasing upwards trajectory.
This spontaneous tendency has translated well into their live performances, where their cleverly formed songs often end in long, improvised noise sections. This is persistently one of the more interesting aspects of a Strange Collective show, and demonstrates not only the musical ability of the members, but also their symbiosis. Clearly they are a band who intuitively know how to play together. Though they are very much an act still in their infancy there seems to be a musical understanding between them, and this is evident from their mutual approach to both songwriting and performing.
Up until now Strange Collective have been unburdened by expectations, and that is how it will remain. Plans remain vague, boundaries unset, with the band seemingly intent on placing no limitations on their own development. They’re not so much following the Yellow Brick Road as paving it before each boot crashes down on to it. Whether the first thing they release is a live record or a studio album, it will surely be one that any music fan should be sure to keep an eye on. In the meantime, go and see these guys play. You won’t be disappointed.