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The Stranger Suite

What’s the band name and what do you do in the band? We’re known nowadays as The Stranger Suite. I’m the guitar player, occasional keyboardist and one of several composers within the group. My role within the group's compositions and overall sound became clear after watching the documentary about A Tribe Called Quest where Q-Tip talks about being blown away by certain phrases in tunes of jazz or funk artists upon first listen which he would then later sample. I thought to myself “I got to come up with stuff that would grab Tip’s attention.” 
 
What do you reckon people will say you sound like? I think it’s always hard to judge your music from the outside and be truly subjective about how you sound. Hopefully, it’s clear to listeners that we draw influences from 20th-century American hip hop groups and artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla, a hint of funk and somewhat tapping into neo-soul, which is a sound that very much resonates with the current contemporary Melbourne music scene. On top of that, I think our music has deep roots in jazz since many of us peruse that music in varying degrees outside of this group and we thoroughly enjoy making improvisation a feature of compositions. I’d like to believe that people hear us as maintaining and respecting the classic old-school hip hop sound while also morphing it into something more contemporary and producing music that is approachable but distinctly ours.
 
What do you love about making music? Music has a beautiful and powerful way of bringing people together, particularly live performances. In a time where society may not seem at its finest I think it allows people to unite and connect over the enjoyment of something quite primal but something, more importantly, that’s human. It can evoke the notion that despite our differences we can all be one if we can enjoy and appreciate music in each other’s company. I think people who come to shows or buy the music extract joy from the work that the artists put in to create the pieces and the performers get to witness that in total strangers which I think is quite special. Personally, I feel as though words cannot always be the best way to state what I want to convey but through music it seems the spectrum of messages and emotions that can be communicated is made much wider and that’s a great privilege.
 
What do you hate about the music industry? It seems that the general listener doesn’t appreciate music built by instrumentalists or the work and profession of musicians, particularly improvising musicians. Unfortunately, it’s become much more profitable and marketable for music to be purely electronic, which isn’t inherently negative and is music that we as a group can appreciate in the right circumstances, and simplistic without much musical depth or intricacy. I believe people have largely lost the ability to see value in musicians who strive to become knowledgeable on their instruments or the ability to understand the incalculable amount of harmonic, rhythmic and textural structures of music (I’m not saying that everyone musician who is worthy of praise should be creating complex masterpieces since there’s a great deal of value and beauty in the simplicity of some music when in is created with honesty and intention to serve the music). Most importantly, people too easily overlook how powerful it is to witness musicians who can cohesively and beautifully play together as a unit. With all that in mind, it probably comes as no surprise to hear that I find the superficial image-focused nature of some aspects of modern music culture incredibly frustrating.
 
If you could travel back in time and show one of your musical heroes your stuff, who would it be? I have to be careful here to represent the whole group and not just myself. I think we’d all be quite curious to see how J Dilla would respond to our work seeing as he had a great appreciation for jazz musicians and a fantastic ear for how to manipulate time, groove and instrumentation to create beats that are insanely unique and in a style that was previously unknown in his time. Hopefully, he could listen to our tunes and think “My work here is done” in the sense that we can create cohesive groove music with intention and honesty.
 
If you could assassinate one person or band from popular music, who would it be and why? I think we’d all agree that there are many to choose from in the current time. I really dislike hearing those pop tunes on the radio that revolve around relationships where to speak disrespectfully of women as overly sexualised objects is flattering, complimenting or, most tragically, acceptable. Not to mention the videos, personalities and images that go with this ‘music’. It doesn’t really promote the healthiest of morals and I think it’s really damaging to everyone. I’m not really sure who sings, produces or writes a lot of this stuff but when I hear it I always think that I’d love to give some of these people are strong talking to because it’s just so lame in my opinion. Wouldn’t kill anyone though that’s not really my style.
 
What can a punter expect from your live show? As a nine-piece band, we’re quite a spectacle. With three M.Cs matched with a three-piece horn section and a well-fitted rhythm section, we aim to put on a high-energy yet dynamic show that’ll hopefully get you dancing, singing along or at least tapping your foot.  
 
What’ve you got to sell CD-wise? We still have several physical CD copies of our EP from earlier this year that we’ll be selling on the gig and probably at other gigs in the future. The full EP is on Soundcloud and downloadable on Bandcamp.
 
Anything else to add? We’d like to extend our appreciation to The Worker’s Club for offering us the gig, Beat Magazine for this Q&A and anyone who comes down to the gigs, buys the records or just takes the time to listen – you make it all possible and worthwhile and we are extremely grateful.

The Stranger Suite will perform at The Workers Club on Saturday September 30 with Anthony Young & the Next Man Dead and Sinks.