By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Esperanza.
“My heart is on fire. In my madness, I roam the desert.” – Rumi
The land is sparse and prickles with stubborn sun burnt life. Cacti dance in the heat mirage of dawn. Towns exist on the edges of sand and vision–few and far between.
The desert can beat you down, but it’s also capable of elevation in ways that are hard to put into words. Braden Anderson tries to. He grew up in the badlands of New Mexico, in a state that he claims is certainly at the top of the bad lists and the bottom of the good in a lot of senses.
Anderson took root in one of the poorer places in the nation. It’s a socio-economic nuance that he doesn’t look back on lightly. That being said, he’s quick to acknowledge the power inherent in the land; palpable electricity that needs to be experienced in person to be understood.
The desert is more of a feeling than it is a place.
“Where we live is actually nicknamed the ‘Land of Enchantment’ and that certainly rings a bell,” he tells BTR.
“Spiritual is probably a great way to put it. It seems to have attached to the ground, the trees, and the land out here. People can feel it. When they come through town, they say, ‘Wow, there’s something I can feel about this place.’”
Anderson is the drummer for the New Mexico rock and rollers The Strange. With no specific watering hole to draw from over the years, the band has persevered through various incarnations and traveled many roads. The desert within, however, has been rekindled as of late: with their next record they’ve perfected a sound all their own. They call it “desert rock.”
All roads may lead to home, but The Strange seeds first took bloom with The Revolutionary No Water Blues Band. While the group certainly shared a similar dusty and rustic vibe to its latter offspring, the former was much more folksy.
The band earned its true grit, however, after the lead singer at the time fired everyone except for himself.
“Man, the lead singer… as the lead singer you can pretty much get away with anything,” Anderson laughs. “Of course, the repercussions of whatever decisions are made are always left to be seen.”
The musicians couldn’t ask for better repercussions. The Strange formed shortly thereafter–borrowing their name from earlier lyrics in a comical jab at their AWOL singer.
Stripping it all down to their sand-scorched essence, The Strange are a rag-tag outfit of seasoned and self-proclaimed musical outlaws. Anderson admits some the best stories illustrative of this no-holds nature could be a bit self-incriminating, but the adopted rebel tag really stems from a group of young and inexperienced rock and rollers taking to a professional recording studio for the first time.
One of the engineers during their early studio sessions branded them with the title. They were naive, and ripe with excitement to track the material they’d been so eagerly fleshing out (“perhaps a bit too eager,” Braden laughs).
Unprofessional, maybe, but The Strange excelled in spades for embracing their against-the-grain attitude and sticking to their guns throughout. In a land overrun with cover bands, Americana, and folk, the group maintained a desire to walk their own musical path–even at the expense of existing on the outskirts of genre definition and sonic styling.
As luck would have it, a musical haven awaited to foster their roots and provide creative shade from the sweltering overflow of New Mexico bands. Sitting high atop a hill, surveying Santa Fe like a lovelorn vulture, nests Frogville Studios.
“It’s much more of a community and a collective than it is just a space to record,” Anderson reflects.
Reverberations from days past have left quite an echo to follow. Aside from housing top-of-the-line facilities, Frogville also boasts an impressive resume of clients. Members from The Rockets (the beginnings of Neil Young’s backing band Crazy Horse) have graced the halls and even blues legends like Taj Mahal still drop by to pay their dues.
While we’re talking about strange, actor Val Kilmer even recorded a Christmas album there.
For their upcoming release, The Strange chose Frogville to spawn their most self-realized sound to date. It’s organic and ripping, capturing their live show lightning in a bottle. Members brought the desert into the studio to create a signature sand storm of blustering roots rock and roll.
All the while, a storm raged outside.
“There was a lot of thunder and rain throughout the recording process,” remembers Anderson. “So that kind of came out in the vibes of some of those songs. We’re still looking for a name, but it may have something to do with the weather.”
To hear the rest of our interview with The Strange, tune into this week’s Discovery Corner.
Or find your own way to interpret The Strange by clicking here.