Probably the most promising new band I saw at last year's CMJ festival was THE STRATFORD 4. They are a new group that formed in San Francisco in 1999. Chris Streng, guitarist/vocalist, used to play with a member of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Two of their members--Jake Hosek, guitarist, and Andrea Caturegli on drums--are from Seattle. Returning after many years in London, Sheetal Singh was the bassist they were looking for to complete the group. Their brand of psychedelic pop recalls the days of Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine. Their first album, The Revolt Against Tired Noises will be out the month. I heard an early version of it, and knew I had to meet these people. As a live group, I was impressed by their musicianship. They are a group to look out this year.
AL: You have played a lot of shows in San Francisco?
Sheetal: Yeah. Maybe everyone feels the same way about crowds and fans of music in their own city. Among bands in San Francisco, there is this sense that crowds there suck because people stand there with their arms folded. Nobody seems to get into the music at all. At Bottom of the Hill, everyone will be in the back patio smoking cigarettes while the bands are playing. You want to ask 'did you come to socialize or did you come to see music'?
Chris: I thought they came to see the show? They said the bands were great but it turns out that they weren't even there.
Jake: That was the best thing about the show last night at The Village Underground in New York City. The twenty-foot rule between you and the audience ended and everyone was into the show. They were very responsive.
Sheetal: We were stunned. This was our first show outside of California.
AL: There was that guy in the front with a baseball cap and a beer. He seemed to be loving it. Is that your fan base?
Chris: At every show there is always one guy who is too intense. It's good to get that immediate feedback. There was a speed freak in LA. He goes to all our shows. He corners you in the bar and talks you to death. He's looking at your equipment. That's going to end up in his car and sold for drugs.
Sheetal: That is what we do when
we go to shows. We stand up at the front so others think it's okay to
Jake: Andrea and I moved down from Seattle. We were determined to get something going. About four years ago, in 1997, we just walked around the city and put ads everywhere. We were in one pseudo-band with Sheetal. I was working at a record store and handed out some flyers there. We tried out some people. We met Chris through the guys in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Sheetal: Chris used to play with them.
AL: I just talked with BRMC on the phone. Was that the band Wave?
Chris: Did they mention it? I wasn't sure if it was a good thing to mention it. There are a lot of lost tapes. Pete actually left Wave to join Brian Jonestown Massacre for a while. He did Wave with me and Robert and the drummer. Then Robert, Pete, and Nick formed The Elements. Robert called me up and introduced me to Jake and Andrea. They needed a singer. I made this weird little tape that I passed on to them.
Sheetal: We actually met Chris at a Brian Jonestown Massacre/BRMC show.
AL: When you started the band did you have any idea what you wanted it to be like?
Jake: Our first goal was that it was split down the middle, 50/50, two girls and two guys. Whenever I was in a band with a bunch of guys, we ended up playing over each other. It was a battle of domination. Okay here is my solo. It was stupid. When you have girls in the band, they keep you in check.
AL: I saw the movie "Hedwig and The Angry Inch" the other day as part of the CMJ festival. The band Soulcracker was sitting right in front of me. They seem like a generic band. They seem like they are all about getting drunk and meeting girls. Are having girls in the band holding you back?
Sheetal: Our band is different. One half gets drunk and meet girls. The other half gets drunk and meet guys. It's equal opportunity.
AL: Much of the band's sound is identified by Chris' voice.
Jake: The Velvets influence us all. The Velvet Underground.
AL: I know who The Velvets are.
Jake: We also like Spiritualized. Those were two bands we listed among others on the flyer.
Chris: When I met up with these guys
I told them that I wanted to do a band that was somewhere between Belle
& Sebastian and Spiritualized. I felt that you could put those two
bands together. But now, as we have progressed as a band, I have been
thinking lately, what if My Bloody Valentine produced a Wilco album.
Chris: Also being in San Francisco
it's been good. We have got support and have met bands and have been able
to play in all the good clubs. I think that if we have been toiling in
obscurity for two years and nothing has happened, that might be deflating.
Sheetal: I think it is a goal to write the perfect pop song and then fuck it up beyond recognition. Things like that interest me. Having a core and then just destroying it.
Chris: We get a pretty good mix of
who writes songs. I usually can come up with a good chorus and verse,
and then I can't think of a bridge. So when we play it and then come to
it, we all think of the same thing at the same time. If you look at the
album, there's stuff that we all did, some jams, and then some songs that
Sheetal and Jake wrote. I think that instrumentals would be weird for
us because we are so used to putting words to songs.
Chris: They have all been good. I am looking forward to the first negative review, as long as it's well written.
AL: Are you planning a tour?
Sheetal: We are planning a tour for Spring 2002, to coincide with the release of the album. Maybe with BRMC?
Jake: You have to tour endlessly to break through, unless you are like Usher. If you are a good rock band, unlike Sugar Ray, it takes a long time for people to find you. Not many rock bands have become big in the last few years. You can hope that you can be picked up by MTV. I don't think we are going to be invited to TRL.
AL: With your music is it like "Getting high to make music to get high to?"
Sheetal: It's not a necessity. But the music itself can produce a drug like state. We are a horribly straight band.
Chris: Some friends of mine did some cocaine and came to see us. I asked them what was it like. They said "terrible." They were just looking at each other and going "What? What?" They couldn't hang with us. But I think we are psychedelic music.
AL: Are there any hobbies?
Jake: I just do music all the time.
Chris: I guess that I do a lot of shopping.
Andrea: I made a lot of cardboard boxes so you can put CDs into. I do yoga too.
Sheetal: I am the one who can be found at bars in San Francisco seven nights a week, Many bars stopped having live music and are just bars. I mean what else do we do? I am taking cello lessons. I just find it relaxing.
AL: How would you like it if some DJ remixed one of you songs?
Sheetal: Great. Actually there is a hip hop remix version of one of our songs. It's really cool.
AL: Are there any bands that you would like to tour with?
Chris: You mean like realistically? I would like to open for Elvis. Or maybe with Spiritualized. Or open for REM.
Sheetal: Personally I would not like
to open for someone big like U2 because I am not impressed with their
fan base. I would just rather play with a medium-sized band that has a
fan base that would be into what we are doing.