Here is a live session we did of the song "Losing It" from the Home? EP
Here is a live session we did of the song "Losing It" from the Home? EP
The Living Strange was featured in Classic Rock Magazine
Since it’s become a “thing,” people associate rock with swagger. In some form or another, having an essence of cool is almost as necessary as the ability to strum a power chord in the rock world. Over the years, what defines cool has become more complicated and subjective - at least in terms of aesthetics, anyway. A Starbucks-loving hipster in a cardigan is “in” now, but the leather-clad Ramones would be baffled that this is today’s peak male fashion. In terms of tone and delivery, though, you can’t fake or “look” cool. It’s just there, as The Living Strange demonstrate in their latest EP, Home?.
Throughout their sophomore EP, the rock duo offer a funky, trippy sound that’s very much their own and honors their band name. It’s oddball rock, with some quirky instrumental choices (see the far off, spacey guitar and synth intro in track three, “Losing It”), but the spirit of rock is still there: these guys definitely own their sound and exude confidence that can only come from true blue musicians.
A lot of the credit goes to frontman Elijah Sokolow. Amazingly, he handles vocals, guitar, bass and keys. His guitars are punchy and bring some attitude, the bass is subtle but effective, and his key work adds some ambiance that keeps things weird. Track two, “1000 Pretty Girls And 3 Ugly 1s,” is his most ambitious offering instrumentally, coming full force with an assaulting guitar riff and ambient groove. Of course, drummer Ben Shafrirdoes a fine job as well, backing each instrument up and holding everything in place (seriously, drummers deserve more credit).
There’s still time for more down to earth rock tones, too. Opening track “Stumble” is full of pure guitar swagger from the jump, and Sokolow keeps the bass tone nice and deep while Shafrir’s drums are very pronounced.
It’s not all about the instrumentals, though. There are relatable and anthemic lyrical pieces, too. When Sokolow shouts, “I want to exercise/My right to be alive” in “1000 Pretty Girls And 3 Ugly 1s,” you almost want to explore a city and drink a few shitty beers just because. When things get more reflective in “Losing It,” Sokolow evokes a feeling of being lost and a walking contradiction when he sings “I think I’m losing it/And I can’t find out where it’s found.” While we may not all want to admit it, most of us have certainly been there.
It’s what you’d expect from a musician: lyrics that are ambiguous enough to apply to just about anyone, but riddled with sentiments that are all too familiar. It keeps the duo interesting, mysterious, and relatable all at once - plus, lyrical content and unconventional instrumentals are two major items that draw people to rock music in the first place.
The Living Strange have no time for artsy, “above it all” rock that poses philosophical questions every verse and is polished. Instead, they’re keeping it real, playing what they feel like, and dishing out some authentic words along the way. Isn’t keeping things strange and completely your own the whole goal of being an artist, anyway?
Reviewed by: Brooke Daly
The Living Strange’s sophomore extended play (EP), “Home?,” finds the rock duo in an electronic-heavy setting, even more so than their debut EP, “2 AM Freak Show.” Since first hearing them, their commitment to staying true to the rock ’n’ roll genre while also pushing forward to incorporating new sounds in the genre has been ubiquitous. “Home?” follows them along this path, making a bigger departure from the guitar rock on their debut. Instead of having guitar, vocal and drum tracks with synths and other electronics to beef up the production, The Living Strange move those elements to the forefront, creating songs that rely heavily on aspects other than things such as a catchy chord progression or a strong beat.
The change to this other sound—based in electronics as much as it is in traditional rock elements—is most present in the final track, “New Pet,” specifically the first half. Through layering a variety of synths, ethereal backing vocals, a drum machine and exposed lead vocals, The Living Strange show they can still maintain the general feel of their music—introspective, alive and innovative with hints of familiarity—while drawing from different palettes as well. It is fairly easy to hear their influences in both EPs, but the music is never near stale—it has powerful momentum with a sense of discovery as well as enjoyment the ability to express their thoughts through lyrics and music.
“Home?” is available via their Bandcamp, thelivingstrange.bandcamp.com, and streaming services. Elijah Strange, the guitarist, vocalist and front-man of the duo, will also put out a solo album track by track around spring, so be sure to follow the band’s Facebook and Bandcamp.
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."
"Los Angeles rock duo The Living Strange are bringing and old style back from the grave with a kiss of modern lips. Elijah Sokolow and Ben Shafrir are 16 and 21 years old, respectively and are merging the singing style of Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, with the lyrics of Bob Dylan and the ferocity of a factory fire.
Sokolow handles the singing, songwriting, guitars and basically any instrument heard on the band’s EP “2 AM Freak Show” that isn’t the drums, which are Shafrir’s department. The opener to the EP, “Mannequin” features reverberating guitars and crashing percussion on the chorus. Other distortions accompany the track to make the song feel like it’s literally bouncing around.
“If You Go” could be on an Arctic Monkeys album and be right at home. Guitars and drums play the same notes simultaneously and Shafrir shows he isn’t afraid to use his toms from his kit.
The third track “Afterglow” starts with Sokolow and an acoustic where he really channels Dylan’s songwriting skills with lyrics like “Life’s no destiny, just a destination” and “Everyone that’s anyone is everywhere all the time.” It’s a really interesting listen lyrically and the flow of the song works really well with the lyrics.
The EP’s closer, “2 AM Freak Show” sounds like something from the Doors or Zombies from the 60s with groovy, heavy bass lines and organ sounding keys. The bell being struck on the ride cymbal during the chorus is the icing on this retro-style cake. The longest track on the EP, it finishes with crashing cymbals and distorted guitars with strings that sound frayed by the end. The guitar solo makes the closer a hell of a finish and one that could leave you breathless"