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7/3/2008

Media

OFF THE MARGIN
Local psych band Strangers at forefront of Orlando's psychedelic awakening.
Photo by Carlos Amoedo

 

You could call Orlando psychedelic rock band Strangers lucky. They formed less than a year ago and their first club performance was in February, yet they’re already one of the most wagged-about acts in the city’s indie scene. The band – singer Ates Isildak, bassist Scott Seltzer, guitarists Rick Seltzer and Fred Mullins, Mike Cardone on keys and drummer Justin Sardinha – just happens to be surfacing at a time when psychedelic culture is making a pronounced comeback in the underground.

The ripples of this resurgence on the local landscape have no doubt primed things for a band like Strangers to be embraced.

“We were just surprised how fast it happened, because there are so many little scenes around here,” says Isildak. “I would’ve said [it wouldn’t happen] last year.”

For Strangers, psychedelia isn’t just a sound. These guys are true believers, with all the LSD romanticizing that implies. But before you dismiss their ethos as shallowly hedonistic, pro-drug blather, consider Isildak’s sober and analytical perspective on the mind-expanding qualities of acid.

“It’s a catalyst, especially for white Westerners,” he says. “I don’t think a lot of people need that kind of shock to reality as a lot of kids living in suburban America. It draws you to Eastern religion and it draws you to experimental bands and experimental art, things that a lot of people are OK with ignoring. Unless you have a great tragedy in your life, sometimes you need something like a hallucinogen to kick-start that.”

Musically, the band cites natural influences like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3 and 13th Floor Elevators. But what has catapulted their star in the Central Florida scene is their young, vibrant approach to an old idea. They have an expansive rock sound that’s feverish, heavy and aggressive. Like a soundtrack to a vision quest, the thick swirls of their music paint a transporting, chaotic canvas that’s at once complex and primitive.

Their ideology has driven Strangers to ally themselves with other prominent neo-psychedelic voices. Locally, they’ve built strong ties with like-minded multimedia band the Future on Films in Space, even sharing a member in scene veteran Fred Mullins. Regionally, the band is affiliated with acts like Tampa’s Vera Violets and Gainesville’s Spinnaker, whose debut album was the first release on Lo-Fi Records, the label founded by Strangers bassist Seltzer and future home to Strangers’ upcoming debut.

Upon emerging from the house-party circuit, their first public performance was a pivotal opening slot for D.C. psych paragon Dead Meadow. Later this month, they’re playing a high-profile show with the Black Angels, from Austin, Texas, and L.A.’s Warlocks, two of the psych subculture’s most decorated color-bearers.

“It’s intimidating,” Isildak says of the upcoming gig.

“We wanna associate ourselves with bands like Warlocks, Black Angels, Dead Meadow,” says Seltzer. “Those bands are a rising scene. That’s how you rise, through a scene rather than just through any one band.”

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