The following ‘in conversation with’ interview is with the wonderful Kieran from Strange Boy. A duo consisting of delicate vocal lines that float over intricate electronic textures, Kieran and Matt released two EPs last year; ‘Brooding’ and ‘Annunciation’, both remarkable. In this interview we talk about Strange Boy’s beginnings, compositional process, inspirations and more.
Hi Kieran, how are things going? What is Strange Boy up to at the moment?
Hi! We are good thanks! We’re just gearing up to release our second bundle of songs, ’Suburbia EP’. We recorded them in New York in August and are excited to share them with everyone.
Tell us about how Strange Boy started, where and when did you meet each other?
Matt became best friends at university with a school friend of mine, James. We actually met at Glastonbury in 2011 and kept in touch. A few years later I decided I wanted to write songs with electronic textures and knew that Matt was doing that sort of thing, so I dropped him a line. He came over and I played him a couple of songs I’d been writing on a guitar, and we took it from there. The first song we made is actually coming out on this next EP!
And why ‘Strange Boy’?
This is quite funny actually. The name was actually born in that gross alleyway between The Harp pub and the London Coliseum. Our friend Nico was telling a story about a surreal time when he and Matt ended up crashing at Sam Amidon’s house… Matt was woken up by Sam’s kids, who made him go outside and play on their trampoline. Their mum, Beth, was apparently on Skype with her parents at the time and looked outside, saw Matt and said ‘Who is that strange boy in my garden?!’ The rest is history.
We’re really enjoying your EP Annunciation that you released last year, what’s the meaning behind this EP?
Thank you! It takes its name from the title track, which uses the poetry associated with the Annunciation (a moment in the bible) to describe a moment in a young person’s life. I liked the idea of this moment being a fixed point in time and space, around which someone’s own internal universe revolves. ‘Annunciation’ also seemed like a good title for a first EP, where we were basically saying ‘hi, this is who we are and what we do!’.
How is the writing process for you as a group? Do you work together throughout the whole process or do you tend to both do certain things individually and then bring your ideas together after?
The latter, really. 95% of the songs start with me; I spend months slowly building the lyrics and melodies in my head, before making a demo with a few basically textural ideas. I’ll then play them to Matt, he’ll do some work and then we’ll meet and bounce ideas back & forth until we have something ready to go and mix in the studio. I think we’re good at constructively arguing about where to take a song, production wise.
The best feeling for me is when Matt comes up with something which is totally different to what I had in mind for a song, but works perfectly. Those electronic jolts in the chorus of ‘Annunciation’ were exactly that.
Do you use Digital or Analog?
I’d say we’re 90% digital, but we’re keen to use more analogue synths. I spent some time working with Nils Frahm last year in Berlin, and quickly became addicted to the warm sounds he gets out of these old analogue instruments. I just love how tactile they are. We’re proud to have just welcomed two twins to our family – a pair of Korg Minilogues!
That said though, we are proud to make laptop music! I try to write songs which are heartfelt and personal, and I think there’s something special about shrouding these stories with digital soundscapes. I want them to be a sort-of metaphor for this age we live in, where people are forging powerful, meaningful and terrifying relationships via all sorts of technological media.
Hi-tech or Retro? And why?
Neither? I don’t see our music as particularly high-tech, and can’t quite stomach the idea of writing retro music… I think lots of musicians are stuck in a rut with that; I sort-of got over it when I’d had my fill of LCD Soundsystem, who I love.
Of course, all of my songs are infused with the music I’ve heard before, from folk music to renaissance choral music, Benjamin Britten, Leonard Cohen, Animal Collective, Kanye West… Personally I try to make sure that these influences spur me on to make something fresh and unique, rather than fetishise them with pastiche.
Moreover, I think this faux-nostalgia we see everywhere is becoming very unsettling, and I’m amazed at how something that was a fun moment in music and fashion etc. 10 years ago has snowballed into this ugly wave of political thought. Season 1 of Stranger Things was fun, but I got bored of season 2 and think it’s time to move on!
Is there anything unusual or unique to your compositional process? If so, what is it?
I’d love to say yes, but I’m not sure there is! I guess the main way we differ to many bands is that we mostly compose and arrange music on laptops and then figure out how the hell to play it live. There’s not much jamming to it!
What music are you currently inspired by? And why?
Lou Reed! I’m just properly discovering the post-Velvet Underground stuff, and think his storytelling is incredible. I’ve also been super stressed with other musical projects recently, and The Magnetic Fields continue to be a never-ending source of strength and compassion!
Finally, are there any Strange Boy releases or gigs we should be looking forward to in the near future?
We’re opening for Talos and Baths over the next couple of months, and will have a release party for our Suburbia EP sometime in June. Watch this space!!