Strangelove Bring So Much to Love
Nearly two years have passed since Metro Music Hall was privileged with the presence of a musical project that never ceases to please. Depeche Mode uber-tribute act Strangelove will have graced our city thrice with their upcoming return on Friday, Jan. 21. It’s been a long, bleak 23 months missing their glorious setlists and bullseye band member characterizations. From whirling dervish frontman to random, banana-munching keyboardist, Strangelove warm the heart and thrill the spines of longtime Depeche Mode lovers and fair-weather fans alike.
I had the pleasure of conversations with Strangelove founder Brent Meyer in February 2020, weeks before COVID-19 began ripping through the states. It was nothing short of a “black celebration,” one that would mark many yet-unknown and dark forthcoming months. At the time, the sense that live music was in terrifying peril pervaded. In a heartening turn of the clock, two years later the band and I gathered to discuss their forthcoming and triumphant return to Salt Lake City. I had so many questions, and the boys had so many strange and beautiful things to reflect on after many months of challenges and change.
Meyer, James Evans, Julian Shah-Tayler and Leo Luganski all graced my Zoom from across the country, speaking to the ordeals of the past couple years and their capacity to not merely stay together as an act but to thrive. Shah-Tayler offered up live streams every week via his individual project, Evans acquiesced to a daytime side-gig to keep the lights on and Meyer took other music instruction side-endeavors.
“It’s wonderful to be in this project—a part of something bigger than its constituent parts, embodying a spectacular catalog of music.”
Strangelove are more than just survivors of the past two solar round-trips. Most recent victories for the foursome have included the E! Entertainment Channel’s Clash of the Cover Bands. At the judgment of Adam Lambert, Megan Trainor and company, Strangelove reigned supreme in episode seven. “It afforded us our proverbial fifteen-minutes. It aired worldwide and our socials exploded the week following,” says Meyer. The band seems to feel an overall gladness for having endeavored the project, yet still vastly prefer the hospitality of normal gigs and loving, local audiences. “The best thing about the appearance was that it served as a big ‘thank you’ to the people who come to see us already”, says Luganski. “We got to express our gratitude to Depeche Mode fans. We feel among family when we play to them,” says Shah-Tayler. Indeed, Strangelove brings an endearing adoration for their muse, as well as the fans that makes them a shining standout among not only tribute acts, but touring acts in the US in totality.
Strangelove is more than a nod to Depeche Mode’s three-plus decades of success. “It’s wonderful to be in this project—a part of something bigger than its constituent parts, embodying a spectacular catalog of music,” says Meyer. The band seem entirely aware of the tension of being a successful mimicry, and their musicianship and performance chops are inarguable. “We put our hearts and emotions into it … when it clicks with our audience it means something to us. It’s like group therapy—global yet intimate,” says Lugaksiy, a talented actor who clinches Depeche’s slithery frontman Dave Gahan with alarming deftness. “We even embody the mental and emotional state of the band,” says Luganskiy. For Evans, it’s been eight years, and he’s still here. “It’s well worth it,” he says. Evans is apparently the interpersonal “glue” of the group and a remarkable simulaid to oft-underappreciated Depeche member Andy “Fletch” Fletcher.
The band members have individual projects equally worth ingesting. Luganskiy recently produced a track with Martin Gore’s daughter, Ava Lee Gore, titled “Dancing in Hell” that will drop just before the Jan. 21 Metro show. Meyer will be releasing his first LP this year, with details still in the works. Shah-Tayler’s ongoing The Singularity project will also have new material this year. The band recently dropped a single that’s an atmospheric and lovely cover of “Sister of Night” from Depeche’s fraught and beautiful mid-’90s album Ultra. The single is part of a German-release compilation album—one of two—which will also include a live cover of “Useless.” In March, Strangelove will play an ’80s cruise in the Caribbean alongside electropop veterans The Human League and Flock of Seagulls.
“We got to express our gratitude to Depeche Mode fans. We feel among family when we play to them.”
Strangelove is anticipatory about their return to our territory, having received nothing but warm reception from the local audience in their previous two performance stops. “Audiences are particularly appreciative in Salt Lake. Depeche Mode is part of an essential underground there,” Meyer says. Indeed, my perception from the aforementioned early 2020 show was that the crowd was gleeful and immersed in Strangelove’s shockingly agile Depeche time capsule. “Salt Lake is one of the most welcoming crowds. There is a complete embrace. Depeche Mode fans are family to us,” says Shah-Tayler.
I could happily attend Strangelove’s many performances indefinitely and never be anything less than joyful and impressed. The band’s gladsome return to Metro Music Hall will be something unmissable, even as the pandemic simmers on. “We have something totally new—we are happy to surprise,” says Luganskiy as his bandmates insinuate that his trousers will be ever snugger this time. Meyer chimes in. “We have all approached this project with a renewed sense of gratitude. We were finally cresting success before the pandemic hit, and it was wonderful. Then it rolled back down the hill and crushed everyone. We are so grateful to be back,” he says. “We don’t take a second of it for granted.”
Strangelove: the Depeche Mode experience will play Metro Music Hall on Friday, Jan. 21. If you’re a lover of Depeche Mode, an appreciator of electronic and alternative music or merely a fan of one hell of a gig, you’ll be glad you came. Masks and proof of vaccine or recent negative COVID test are required at the venue.