From time to time I encounter baby bands that are taking their first steps towards what they hope is a career in popular music. I have a penchant for giving “up and coming” performers one their first reviews so I am going to beg your indulgence. I like to call these my “You heard them here first” reviews. These reviews have no particular schedule to their appearance they just occur when I would like to shine a light on a beginner band or performer worthy of attention. This go round I want to bring to your attention the rock duo called The Living Strange.
On October 2nd, the rock duo The Living Strange self released their debut EP “2 AM Freak Show”. They additionally self produced the release. The duo is an example of marvels of modern technology. This technology is enabling a growing number of bands to forego the tired record label drudgery of jumping though hoops to get signed and then release their material.
The Living Strange hales from sunny Los Angeles. The band is made up of vocalist, guitarist, bassist Elijah Sokolow, who is 16 years old, and his friend 21 year old Ben Shafrir, a drummer and percussionist. Don’t be misled by the ages of the duo, Elijah has been playing guitar since he was five and Ben has been drumming since he was 12. The two met in a music program for kids, and had played together in different groups but were more acquaintances than friends. Later when Elijah decided to form a band he put the word out, and the two reconnected. That reconnection led to the eventual birth of The Living Strange and a great friendship. The Living Strange was officially formed in the spring of 2014. The band gets its name from a misheard Libertines lyric; the duo heard “You’re the king of the living strange”, when in fact the lyric is,” you’re looking rough and living strange.” Whatever the lyric, the name stuck and as Elijah says, “The rest is rock n’ roll history.” The duo lists some of their biggest influences as; Jack White, St. Vincent, Boxed In, Radiohead, David Bowie and the Arctic Monkeys.
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The Living Strange is currently on an East Coast US club tour. In their relatively short touring experience they have already encountered their share of craziness. One of the strangest occurrences so far was the time on tour they were stranded in NJ. They ended up in a venue where a screamo band and a free jazz band were both playing simultaneously in the same room. Talk about the living strange!
The first impression the EP makes is that for such young men the subjects they approach are streetwise and beyond their years. The four song EP starts off with “Mannequin” which is a great off kilter rocker with amazing guitar work. There are hints of R&B flecked through a full frontal rock attack. The song captures your attention from the first notes and is energy laden and hooky. “If You Go” is a more poppy selection with the feel of Franz Ferdinand. It is an impressive tune showing the lads have a good ear for the catchy riff.
The duo hits their stride on “Afterglow” which starts off acoustic and then shape-shifts into a wonky rock out with a definite 70’s vibe. It is trippy and satisfying with an undertone of Lou Reed and Bowie in their glam rock days. The song is infiltrated with the sleazy underworld of the club scene. The final song on the too brief EP is the title song, “2AM Freak Show” which again channels Bowie and the glam rock Marc Bolan days with a trippy psychedelic rocker. It is a gritty song that casts light into the dark corners of late night LA; it is my favorite track on the disc.
This EP is an excellent calling card to introduce this gift pair of musicians to the record business and listening public at large. They show great potential and seem to have the tenacity for the rough climb to a music career. “2 am Freak Show” is pretty smooth for a self production setup. It makes me wonder what the guys could do in a full studio setup. The EP is available on Bandcamp, ITunes and Spotify. It is a very solid first outing, and is worthy of a listen.