It was Friday, I wasn’t in love (sorry Robert Smith, and readers for squeezing in an unnecessary reference to The Cure), but I was excited to see STRANGE CAGES live again at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. I’ve seen Charlie, Ellis, and Ben play live in their hometown of Brighton and in London before, and each time I’ve been left fired up and temporarily deaf by their twisted, fuzzy, devious rock tunes.
I met the band in the early evening, but they’d been at the venue most of the day sound-checking with Rain Maze and Tail Feather, and missing out on the complimentary beer (much to Charlie’s disappointment). We spent a bit of time in their dressing room laughing at the graffiti littering the walls (there’s an eclectic mix of band names, incorrect Lord Of The Rings analogies, and a few choice comments about the current conservative government) before talking about demented dreams, their debut EP ‘Ego Killer’, and the importance of good trousers…
Hello STRANGE CAGES, you’re playing at The Old Blue Last with Rain Maze and Tail Feather tonight (21st). How are you feeling about tonight’s gig?
Charlie: It should be a very nice gig for all of us.
Ellis: I’m feeling adventurous.
Charlie: I’m feeling a bit mysterious.
Why adventurous? Why mysterious?
Ellis: Well, it’s Friday. It’s quite an adventurous day? (laughs)
That’s true, it is the last day of the week. Anything could happen. You’re also supporting Public Access TV on the 24th of October at The Hope & Ruin. Are you excited for that too?
C: We’re feeling slightly less mysterious about that…
E: Yeah, because it’s in Brighton.
C: They sound a bit like The Strokes and they’re from New York. It should be a good gig too. We’re looking forward to it.
You’ve recently released your debut EP Ego Killer. To each of you, what’s your favourite track from the EP and why?
E: There’s only three songs, so we could pick a song each? (laughs)
I did not think this question through…
C: My favourite is ‘If You’re Leaving Me Cold’, which is the last song. It’s a bit more laid back, not so crazy and heavy. It’s a good one because people often say “oh you’re really raw”, so it was good to get that one on there too. What about you Ellis?
E: I was going to say that one (laughs). I’ll go for ‘Bam Bam Boom’. When we were filimg the video for it we had a green-screen up in our lounge, and some builders came in to measure our windows. We didn’t know they were coming and they had no idea what was going on. Our girlfriends were there in their dressing gowns, and they just thought it was something really seedy. We had to keep explaining that it was a music video.
C: I got a phone call from the landlord saying “I hear you’re making a video and there’s lots of stuff in the way, what’s going on?” which I suppose does sound quite weird…
But at least you had actual video proof afterwards, to show that you weren’t all crazy?
C: True. There is video proof!
Ben: I guess I’ll have to choose ‘Ego Killer’ (laughs).
Okay, why is that your favourite track?
B: The middle bit’s pretty cool… (Charlie & Ellis laugh)
That is also true. The artwork for the EP is equally as cool as the record. Who designed it?
C: A Gentleman called Elliot Lane. We found him because he does the artwork for a band called Crows.
I missed Crows at The Great Escape Festival this year!
C: We actually put them on during The Great Escape, and we met Elliot there and we got talking and he asked if we were looking for some artwork and we said yes, so he sorted that for us. It was good to finally get some artwork, we didn’t really have anything before that.
You’ve already spoken about the video shoot for ‘Bam Bam Boom’, and the video was directed by Todd McConnochie, who’s Charlie’s brother. How important is it for you to have people you know and trust involved in the things you do?
E: Oh, we don’t trust Todd. (Charlie & Ben laugh)
I’ve made a bit of a bold assumption there assuming that you like and trust your brother…
C: No we do, he’s a great guy, but you know…I grew up with him, we’ve got the same Mum & Dad, and sisters… (we all continue to laugh). No, in all seriousness he’d just started making videos so he made a video for us for his media project. It was just like “get in a room and shoot us” for his project. Wait, not like that! Weapons were not involved (everyone laughs). He was really excited about it and we got involved and he’s done really well.
Brighton has a thriving music scene, what do you think it takes for bands to stand out from the crowd?
C: That’s an interesting question.
E: Yeah, that’s a tough one.
C: Wear good trousers?
Is that all it takes?
C: Oh no, that was the start of a list… (we all laugh). Good trousers, good shoes, not having boring songs, having a bit of fun, I think?
E: Yeah, I think most bands take themselves too seriously. There are a lot of BIMM bands (British & Irish Modern Music Institute) that sort of turn up and they look so intense before they go on. They look really serious. I feel like it’s probably not that fun if they’re that worried about how they sound.
C: It can be very annoying if you’re more worried about what your hair looks like rather than what your songs sound like. We don’t like shit, boring gigs where you just stand there and everyone just stands there. So yeah, good trousers, good shoes, not having boring songs…
Good advice! You regularly put on your Dead Beat Disco nights at The Globe in Brighton. What inspired you to do that, is it the same kind of thing?
C: Bad trousers, bad shoes, bad songs… (everyone laughs). We wanted to start a night in a really small venue where you can just push everyone in to the band and let everyone actually have fun. And we wanted to find more good bands in Brighton.
Does that include SKiNNY MiLK who recently played for you?
C: Yeah, we’ve had them play for us twice. They’re really good. Huge sound and good guys.
I read in another interview you gave with Brighton’s Finest about some of the inspiration that might be going in to your next record. Charlie said he had a dream where he saw his girlfriend digging her own grave before “screaming lasers of joy” at him. Please elaborate…
C: Lyrically it’s an inspiration for me, as well as the soundscape you could provide.
It’s limitless really?
C: Yeah. The sky was sort of pink and it definitely wasn’t Earth, I can tell you that. She was digging her own grave and I was a bit worried so I asked “are you alright?” and she looked at me, pierced my soul with her eyes and screamed lasers. She was really high, I could tell. But that was just a dream, that didn’t actually happen (everyone laughs).
But you’re going to get some songs out of that?
C: Yeah I reckon so. It’s good to be inspired by the little things that happen in your life (laughs)
That’s true. Finally, are there any upcoming tour dates, new releases or side projects you’re able to tell us about?
E: We’ve got a few London dates coming up on the 4th (Amersham Arms) and the 6th (The Old Blue Last) of November.
C: We’re playing The Lock Tavern on the 5th too, lots of London gigs so that’s cool. We’re gonna record next month and we’re planning to release new stuff next year, and have more dreams about things…hopefully.
Photo Credit: Kelly Chard