When someone asks you what you have achieved in the last year, there are all the regular answers – lost a phone, discovered mi goreng... Ask Strange Talk what they’ve been up to, and big moments sort of fade away. One year ago, the Melbourne band were a tiny, bubbling creative foetus in the minds of Stephen Docker and Gerard Sidhu. They’ve since performed at Parklife and Playground Weekend, featured on the most recent Kitsuné Maison compilation, supported The Rapture and a bevy of other big name acts, and recorded an EP with British producer extraordinaire Eliot James (Bloc Party, Two Door Cinema Club). Now, the band are about to embark on their first ever national headline tour – before another string of Aussie shows for Ben Sherman’s Big British Sound. Not bad at all.
Despite this speedy success, there are still plenty of unknowns when it comes to Strange Talk. Fortunately, classically-trained violinist and frontman Docker is more than happy to fill in the blanks. "Gerard, who was a DJ at the time in Melbourne, got me into the studio to put some string lines into some of his dance tunes and we sort of just hit it off from there - going from loop-based dance tracks to more song structured works."
Indeed, Flavorpill has described Strange Talk as a 'star-crossed marriage of Phoenix and Passion Pit'. "It was a natural progression," he laughs. While the duo are also involved in electro remix outfit Thieves Of Aon (who have done remixes for Naked And Famous), Docker says the pair are now honing in on Strange Talk, where their "… main focus is to establish our roots as a band over in our home country."
Originally a studio act, Docker and Sidhu were thrust into the live music scene after winning the Parklife Triple J Unearthed competition with their sparkly single Climbing Walls. Docker is the first to admit that the transition wasn't easy - and it made the band's rise to headline tour in under a year all the more miraculous. "We played a few shows [first] around Melbourne, which was good as we used that as a way to find out what was working and what needed to be improved in the live show. Come Parklife, we had more of a solid foundation.
"It was quite surreal being up there alongside really, really cool acts. It's quite an empowering feeling having your music blaring out at that kind of venue."
It's clear that Strange Talk's lack of experience on stage is compensated by their relentless enthusiasm and unwavering belief in their sound. When asked how he's dealt with musical comparisons like Cut Copy, Docker is unabashed in complimenting his band. "Those bands that we have been referenced to are definitely bands that we aspire to. We listen to a lot of their music, which I guess is reflected in our sound. It's a honourable thing," he considers. "The thing that we take out of it is that the bands we have been referenced to are very current. It shows our sound is quite a current sound… a very now sound."
If Docker seems confident in Strange Talk, he seems equally confident in the Australian music scene. "That's the exciting thing," he says. "Not a day goes by when you don't go, 'Whoa, I've never heard a band do that before!' It makes it all that much harder to break it as an upcoming band, because there is so much amazing talent, but I guess that's also the exciting thing!" The frontman goes to great lengths, however, to insist that Strange Talk are more than just the most recent Cut Copy wannabe. "My musical taste is quite diverse," he muses.
As for the future? If the past year is anything to go by, it looks pretty bright… although Docker admits that "you've never learnt everything." The band take each live show as a potential learning curve - especially when touring with established acts like Marina & The Diamonds. "The beauty of playing with really good bands is that you really pick up on the little things that they have in their set - things that really tighten it. We can then incorporate [those] into our set as well."
And the most important lesson they've learnt? "I think it came from The Rapture. They said 'when you're doing a tour the worst thing you can do is go out and keep getting smashed after each gig. It's better just to go straight to bed'." Still, it's got to be better than eating mi goreng…
STRANGE TALK play the BEN SHERMAN BIG SOUND extravaganza at The Corner Hotel on Wednesday May 11 with Ball Park Music, Boy In A Box and more. Tickets from cornerhotel.com, The Corner box office, and 9427 9198. Their EP launch happens this week though, at The Northcote Social Club this Friday May 6. Tickets from northcotesocialclub.com, 94861677 or The Corner box office. 'Strange Talk' is out now through Fine Time Records.
BY LIZ BROWN