PopWrapped recently got a chance to chat with Kira Leyden Andrea and Jeff Andrea, lead vocalist and guitarist, respectively, of pop/rock group The Strange Familiar.
PW: Why did you decide to name yourselves The Strange Familiar?
KIRA: Well, Jeff and I had been in a band for years together, the same people since grade school, and right around the time of that band breaking up, that was when we decided to start The Strange Familiar, and we were searching for a name. It kinda just fit; it was a phrase I heard in an anthropology class, saying to study other cultures was to ‘render the strange familiar and the familiar strange’ so I kinda liked that and it’s just a really cool phrase. It also fit our situation, because it was such a weird time for us, but at the same time we were doing what we love and it was familiar, but it was also uncharted territory.
JEFF: We were coming out of a band we were in for ten years, into this new project and it was kind of like she said, like ‘uncharted territory’. It was very strange, but we’d done it before, so we had no clue it was gonna last this long. The Strange Familiar has been going on for six, seven years now. We thought it was just gonna be another side project, but it actually turned into something really great. We’re lucky.
PW: When did each of you realize you wanted to go into music?
JEFF: Well, mine was when I was 12 years old, rocking out in front of my mirror with my guitar on, thinking I was a rock star.
KIRA: I guess right around the same age. I started taking piano when I was 8 years old, and I liked it, but I started singing when I was maybe more like 12. I sang a commercial, and my mom was like, ‘You can actually sing!’ and I was like, ‘Really?’ Yeah, I would say around the age of 12, and then we realized that we wanted to do it for our life. We were young when we made a commitment to music.
PW: How has your sound evolved from This Is Gravity to The Day The Light Went Out?
KIRA: I’d say…a little more energy is going on, and I think This Is Gravity
was really kind of an organic record. We kind of added a lot more intensity in the music, and with the addition of new sounds, and a little more programming is going on now. Bigger harmonies, things like that. I think the content of the music has changed a lot and evolved; This Is Gravity
was a love-story kind of record, and now we’re moving into deeper themes. I think this record is deeper than we’ve ever really gone, with feelings of grief and loss, and pain, and dealing with struggle in your life, and surviving through that.
PW: How long have you been writing for The Day The Light Went Out?
KIRA: We did it in two parts. We’ve kinda done this with every record so far, which is crazy. It was because I was pregnant, so it was hard to get the whole thing done at once in one trip to L.A. So we had been writing that record for over a year, and it wasn’t even necessarily that we were writing for this album, it was more we were writing songs and the stuff that we love ended up on the album. And then the second half we were writing in between. We had recorded the first half—5 songs—and then we had a baby right in the middle, and then we went back and recorded the rest. We wrote the rest of it in the middle of all that, so it was kind of crazy.
PW: What do you want your fans to take away from this album?
KIRA: I mean, I’m hoping that they can relate to these themes, because I feel like everybody goes through hard times. Everybody is going to experience suffering in their lives, whether they want to or not; it comes to all of us. I’m hoping that they take away something positive from it, and that’s why it’s called The Day The Light Went Out
. It’s about maybe going through your darkest times, and coming out of that and triumphing over that, and surviving, living on, going on, and going forward. Some of the greatest things can happen out of the worst experiences, and that’s what the whole album is about.
PW: What would you say sets The Strange Familiar apart from other bands out right now?
KIRA: I think musically what separates us is that our music is—I hate to keep saying ‘deeper themes’, but that’s kinda where we are—and it’s almost like we’re a humanitarian band. Music is such a big deal that it’s not ever a frivolous thing for us. It’s never, you know, we’re writing a song for people to just have fun and dance to. I think the most frivolous we’ve ever been was with “Being Me”
, our last record, and that was sort of even an anthem in itself about not feeling pressured to fit in with the crowd and it’s okay to be yourself. Our music is all about the heart, it’s all from the heart, and it’s all about coping with life and bigger issues than maybe just a love song. I think we started there, but we’ve ended up here.
JEFF: With those themes in mind, I think that’s why we get such great placements on TV shows like Pretty Little Liars
. There’s always a really intense, dramatic scene and when our song comes on, it just feels like it meshes so well. We love writing dramatic types of music like that.
PW: Do you have any plans to tour after the album is released?
KIRA: We do hope that we can either jump on tour with a band that we would fit well with or, well, we’re definitely gonna play more shows for sure. I don’t know about the hardcore touring with the baby; that makes it a little tougher. We’re hoping that we’ll get out there more. I feel like we belong in different kinds of venues—we should be playing schools and benefits, and things like that.
PW: What are your goals for this year as a band?
KIRA: Getting the music out there in a live setting is really important to do.
JEFF: I just wanna keep doing what we’re doing. It’s been such a struggle getting this record done, and having a child, and our drummer is graduating as a jazz major. Our bassist went to Harvard for a year, and somehow we still managed to stay together. So my goal is always just to stay together.
KIRA: Yeah. Stay together, keep writing music, keep writing better music, and getting it out there to the fans.
PW: What is your favorite song you’ve ever written and why?
KIRA: That’s so hard. It’s funny because we’re the kind of writers that are so precious about our writing, so particular about everything we do. Especially me; I’m the filter that everything goes through, and if I don’t like it, it doesn’t make it onto the record. If I had to pick one, even though they’re all like my babies, right now I would pick “Surrender”, because I feel like it tapped into a whole different side that we’ve never really gone into before; it’s empowering and it’s powerful and I love it.
JEFF: Yeah, I love that too. For me, personally, I think it would be on our last record, this bluesy ballad called “Where I Belong”. We wrote it as we had boxes piled up to our ceiling in California, and we were trying to move out of our apartment and we were going back to Ohio. We had no clue where we were going; we just knew we were going back to where we belonged. We wrote it in like two seconds. I love playing it. It’s just, like, my little baby live when I play it, it’s great. It’s totally not like anything else that we do, kind of a departure, which is why we stuck it at the end of the last album. I think it’s really fun, the crowd loves it, and it showcases Kira’s voice.
PW: What’s your favorite song to perform?
KIRA: I think it would be “Surrender” too, because every time we get to that, I get really excited. There’s an energy with that one live too, and even before we recorded that song, we had written it and played it live. From the very beginning, there was just this magic energy and I could see when we played the song, everyone just stopped in the audience. If they weren’t paying attention before, then all of a sudden they were. It’s between that and “This Is Gravity”, I love that song. It’s a totally different feel.
PW: What artists influence you the most right now?
KIRA: I think recently, Coldplay’s been a big influence. I like the emotion of what they do. And also Mumford & Sons is really kinda big right now, for me.
JEFF: We were listening to a lot of Imagine Dragons stuff when we were recording. We were getting a little inspired by what they do on their record.
KIRA: Some of the Avicii stuff, too.
JEFF: Yeah, we were listening to a lot of DJ stuff for some reason, which is what helped amp up the energy on the record.
The Strange Familiar’s new single “Rain” is on iTunes now. Check out their acoustic version below!
Look out for their album The Day The Light Went Out
For more information, check out their official website
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