September Feature Band: Strangers

Music Interviews

I can clearly recollect the first time I had any dealings with the Strangers. Actually it wasn’t the band but with Michael Paoli, lead singer, bassist and lyricist. I was watching the door at the Word the same night Strangers were playing over at Speedway. I guess something went wrong. I saw Michael coming up the ramp and I knew I would have to deal with him. I didn’t know anything about him, but he looked very intimidating when I told him it would cost him $3.00 to get in he just looked at me, smiled, opened the door and walked right past me. I thought for sure he was going to kick my ass, wreck the place and then leave. Consequently, he checked out the band for about five minutes, then left.

“Rock n’ roll should be a blue collar idiom—simple and understandable.”It wasn’t until about six months later that I met Mike under different circumstances and discovered he was really a nice guy. At this time, he spent about two hours telling me about his band. At that time the Strangers were not actually together, but were taking a break. I had never seen them play, but had heard from some of my buddies in AWOL how great the band was. I did get to hear a copy of their tape, the one that is going to be available to the public this month, but I still wanted to see them live. A few months ago I finally got to see the band play live. They were playing with Second Self, a band from California, at the Speedway. For some reason I couldn’t picture Mike singing for a band. Needless to say, I was both surprised and impressed with what I saw.

The name Strangers, has actually been kicking around for about 10 years since Mike moved back here from California. The band has survived over the years with several different musician changes but is now better than ever. The band is now a three-piece outfit with Mike playing bass and singing lead vocals, the rest of the band consists of Max Kaminski on drums, The Boy on guitar. The band wrote good portion of the music they are playing now, as a four piece, with Bruce “Duke” Paoli on bass. Now as a three piece the band’s sound is solid and light as ever.

The band didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the past, not that they were dismissing it in anyway, but have started fresh as they are now. They still play a lot of their older material but are now spending as much time as possible writing new music. I asked the band about their music. I was always under the impression they were a punk band, however, this isn’t necessarily true. They all have listened to it for years and it certainly influenced them but the music is just rock n roll. I got the usual answer when I asked them about influences, “We listen to just about everything from classical to punk rock.” If you have ever heard the Strangers play, this is quite evident. One minute their music will sound as though the band was formed in the 70s in urban America playing the hard-driving rock n’ roll, and then will move to a ska-sounding number which could have been influenced by The English Beat. This diversity keeps their music interesting.

Saying these guys don’t have something to say about life would be a lie. Because to Mike’s unique lyrical style, they have been called everything from militants to fascists. Let me say now, they are not. Mike uses satire and irony to make his point. If you don’t listen to the lyrics carefully it would be easy to get the wrong impression.

Musically, they are easily one of the most versatile and talented bands in town. The Boy has been playing guitar for a long time. He played with one of Salt Lake’s first punk bands, The Boards. Since that time he has played in several bands including The Informers, Shot in the Dark and several others he didn’t seem to want to talk about. His style is almost impossible to define, I guess there is no point trying to, let’s just say he easily carried the weight of a lead and a rhythm guitarist. Mark’s drumming is what gives Strangers the power that makes them one of the most solid bands in town. He gives the band their versatility, with a variety of different styles he has developed over the years. He also drummed with Paralax for a while. Mike used to be just the vocalist but when Bruce left the band, he picked up the bass. Now he is carrying the vocals and the bass.

Being a three piece has made music writing easier, but because of the different music ideas each member of the band has, writing can become a bit of a musical tug of war. This hasn’t been a disadvantage for the band. They are still writing songs that sound new from the other songs they still perform. The music hasn’t aged over the years, but is progressing in a way that will keep the band always moving forward in a positive direction.

The band plans on recording a new cassette after the one they will be releasing this month. After that, they hope to be recognized on a national level. The band has the experience and the talent to have a very large impact on our fair city and on music in general. The band is always looking for ways to improve their sound and make it new. They will be having a tape release party at the new Cromlech Temple of Fun (formerly the Word) on September 22nd, they will also be playing October 2nd at the Speedway with Social Distortion (who consequently asked them to play on the bill). If you haven’t experienced Strangers, it is about time you did. 

Here are some of the other 1990 SLUG feature bands:
Feature Band: Wondercrash
Feature Band: Truce