At the beginning of December 2012 an eclectic group of strangers, Ellem, Justin Sandercoe, Tim Harries and Owen Thomas got together in a room and made their first record. Although they live in different parts of the world, they come together once a year to make music – all the band’s 3 records have been written and recorded from start to finish in two week intensive studio sessions. We’ll have more about what we can expect from We Came As Strangers in the next few weeks but right now, let’s introduce them to you.
EP: What’s the We Came As Stranger” story?
WCAS: We’re all professional musicians in one capacity or another. Justin brought us together pulling bassist Tim from his days playing with Katie Melua, producer Owen from a previous project and vocalist Ellem from a chance meeting in California. We got together for the first time at Conversion Studios in Dorset and made a record. Our only limitation was time, giving ourselves just 14 days to write and record the entire project from start to finish. We never know how it’s gonna turn out but it’s always an adventure.
EP: You’re up to your third album in this ambitious project – obviously it’s worked, but what was it like putting together a band that had never met before? Were there creative conflicts?
WCAS: We don’t enter the studio with any pre expectations other than to continue our journey from the last. I don’t think we have creative conflicts, we’re all quite different and have different strengths and I think that makes for a lovely blend. I love Ellem’s traditional roots, Owen’s sense of pop form and Tim’s avant garde vision. None of us are giantly precious but we can get fired up in the moment and are always game for a bit if studio banter.
EP: Talk us through ‘Eyedom’.
WCAS: Every record has been an evolution for us. This time, with ‘Eyedom’, the results are a little more atmospheric, experimenting with space, almost more cinematic in some ways than before. As with our previous 2 records we just get into a room and play. We’re all mic’d up to capture absolutely every jam, and so much of what you hear on our records are actually recordings and parts from the original jam. With Eyedom, we were allowing ourselves the freedom from the traditional song form, just letting the music breathe, and combining Ellem’s vocal as an additional layer rather than a prerequisite to the song form.
Similarly to our previous album ‘Shattered Matter’, we were keen to further explore the fusion of electronic scapes with acoustic recordings, and despite ‘Eyedom”s spacial simplicity to achieve the sonic intricacies we were striving for in a 14 day period was no mean feat. We would average an 18hr day; beginning everyday around 10am creating a new song from scratch, building its form and shaping its story throughout the day, and the ‘night’ sessions were the more ‘sonic explorations’. Playing with sounds, rooms spaces, various instruments.
When you break it down, creating an album of 10 songs in 14 days you basically have 1 day per song to completely write, record and fully produce. The only recording that occurred after this session was a live string section which took place in Ireland, and the mixing/mastering in Los Angeles.
EP: What’s your take on the state of the music industry at the moment?
WCAS: I think it’s a really exciting time for music as there are more platforms and tools available for independent musicians than ever before. Fundamentally I think it’s about creating great work, something different, something that hasn’t been said before. We as a band enjoy the freedom of being able to create what and how we want, and then engaging directly with our listeners. Also, with tools like crowd funding artists now have ways to offer unique exclusive experiences and reward their fans directly. We’ve been super lucky and are extremely grateful to our supporters who have helped fund all three of our albums and have been an integral part of our recording process.
EP: What advice do you have for people wanting to get into professional music?
WCAS: Well, you have to 100% wholeheartly be committed. It has to come from your core and it has to be honest. Don’t follow suit, create your own path. and be prepared to work, and work and work! If you start with that mindset then you have a better chance of people connecting with what you are sharing. If you want to be a performing artist, initially you’ll need to adopt many skills from other areas of the music profession, ie manage, promotion, self distribute etc. It’s not easy, but what worth while ever is? Oh, and read the Bukowski poem, “So You Want To Be A Writer”, and think about it.
EP: Collectively you’ve all worked with big names – has it been a big challenge to “come out of the shadows” as it were?
WCAS: Not so much, it just really nice to have the musical freedom to travel where the song takes you rather than conforming to certain restrictions.
EP: What’s in the future for We Came As Stranger”?
WCAS: More records. More fun. More exploring. Maybe try an acoustic instruments only album… and maybe make record in LA rather than the bleak English weather we’ve had during the last 3 albums 🙂
‘Eyedom’, the new album from We Came As Strangers, is out on August 31. You can buy their single ‘Still Life’ on iTunes now. We Came As Strangers can be found on their website, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.