By Rick Perez
With the release of their latest single ‘Bad’, two music videos, and a full-length album in the works, Brooklyn’s Stroamata have been having a exciting 2016 so far and still have so much to look forward to. Amidst the group’s hectic schedule, BoC’s Rick Perez had the opportunity to spend some time with this hard working band.
On a freezing January morning in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I met with Alex Markowitz (drums/vocals), Akil Marshall (bass), Rob Morrison (lead guitar/vocals) and Dara Eagle (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) of the band Stroamata. We ordered breakfast at the Windsor Cafe, with everyone asking for the usual egg inspired plate and a coffee. Akil unapologetically orders a glass of wine with his breakfast at 11am. So sets the tone of the band itself, with the type of musicians who don’t care about fitting in a mold and just play the music they want. Over coffee and wine, Stroamata shared their journey as a band together, uprooting themselves from the cookie cutter scenes of Boston to the melting pot of New York City. “There wasn’t much going on in Boston at the time,” explains Alex Markowitz, drummer, “The bands here (New York City) are on another level, which encouraged us to be better.” Their determination brought them to New York, creating new influences but also new challenges, as said by Alex “The people out here are a lot more fickle and harder to get out.” Stroamata embraces these types of challenges head on, continuing to discover new ways to
stand out in the saturated yet thriving music scene of New York City.
Check out Rick’s interview with Stroamata, where they gave us insight on the joys and struggles of being in New York City, the Stroamata Single Series, and their upcoming album.
Who is STROAMATA and what is your music all about?
Alex: We don’t have easy times with this one because we have always been really shitty about defining ourselves as being one thing ever. We are terrible at making those decisions.
Akil: It might be easier to talk about the lyrical content or what our songs are about.
Dara: We write about stuff that is for our generation or that everyone in our generation is going through: transitions in life, or things that are happening to you that a 12 year old or a 60 year old may not necessarily be gong through.
Rob: It’s a lot of personal songs having to do with conflict and change in life and overcoming certain indecision.
Dara: Not to be lame but kinda growing up. Staying young but being responsible.
Akil: It’s very relevant to the generation we are in. There are so many of us that are past our youth but are not quit yet adults. The way our parents’ lives were like was definitely more structured and that structure doesn’t really exist anymore. There is this weird middle ground where we are trying to figure it out ‘Do I want to go to
college? Do I want to find a job? Do I want to get married? or do I just want to live?’ Our music expresses what that is about.
Why did you move from Boston to NYC?
Alex: There wasn’t much going on in Boston at the time (2008) but I don’t think that’s not true anymore. When we are finding new bands it actually says ‘Boston’ and we’re like ‘Oh! Cool! At the time when we were trying to do that it wasn’t even on the radar’. But anyways we decided to move here a together because this is the center media, the word, and all that.
Also, the bands here are just on another level, which encouraged us to be even better. In general, when we went to shows here, we were very very VERY impressed by what we were seeing. They had their shit together.
Rob: There’s banter between the songs, people dress up, people act like their performers. They make a spectacle of themselves in a good way.
Akil: The standard is much higher. It’s just as much saturated here as it was in Boston, actually even more so here, but as Alex was saying, the competition drives you to do better. It gives you more inspiration because you have more people to compare yourself to.
Alex: In Boston you could get by with being mediocre. Here, you can’t be mediocre.
Dara: There are also more options with bands to either perform or collaborate with. I find myself going out to more shows here.
Alex: There were so many reggae and jams bands in Boston
Dara: Pop bands too. There was a little indie scene in Cambridge but not so much hard rock. I find that our sound is hard for people, or even for us, to describe. There are a lot of bands here that are kind of mixing and meshing styles and inventing their own styles and bringing back old styles. It’s truly a melting pot.
So you feel more at home here?
Akil: (In Boston) it got to the point to where we were the odd duck on the bill. What we were dong was not this pigeon holed thing. People dug it, but didn’t know where we fit in the scene back then. So we decided to try something else, go to where there’s a lot of holes in the desk and find a corner where we can fit in.
Alex: There’s also a great irony to the whole thing. The audience here (New York City) is probably more fickle and harder to get out. Perhaps because there is so much to do at any given night. When we have played at smaller cities there was more of a built in audience because there is nothing else to do.
Dara: And also here there’s so many bars slash venues, with a bar in the front and the venue is in the back. You can get there confused and think ‘is this the place?’ In other places in other states the music is IN the bar.
Tell me about the STROAMATA Single Series…
Alex: When we started it we had just done an album and EP, After that we wanted to have a way to constantly show fans what we’re working on. The best way to do that was to release the songs one at a time, specifically every month as a challenge to ourselves. It gives people new content, new things to look forward to at our shows,
basically new refreshers.
Can you give us any insight on your upcoming album?
Dara: You can definitely look forward to our album release show which is coming up next month! We’ll keep you posted about the date.
Alex: The album name is still in discussion, but what we can tell you that it will be a cohesive presentation of what we were doing with the Single Series. Instead of just single shots that aren’t necessarily related to one another, this album glues them all together. The hard part of the album, like the recording and first phase of the mixing, is all done. Now we are waiting to get it back from the powers at be. It’s going to have a real mood, a real sound. I actually think it’s going to be good I’m looking forward to it.
What is your latest single, BAD, about? Who wrote it?
Alex: I wrote that song. I try not be super auto biographical with my writing but the way I see it and the way I saw it when I was writing it and then way we edited it, it’s just like a more modern adult relationship. It comes with baggage of previous relationships and is also openly and happily sexual. Sexual in a way that’s comfortable, not like when you are in high school. Unfortunately 90% of the love songs we hear are about high school or college days that are very simplified. Granted at the time those experiences meant everything to me and I couldn’t figure them out and now that we are older you can actually figure these things out.
So if you go over the whole thing it’s about this particular relationship that this person is in at the moment. It may not be ideal but there’s nothing wrong with it. And even with it there’s mention of ghosts of the past that are still there and will never go away.
Dara: Most love songs are either just about sex or just about love and this is a compatible symbiotic relationship that we are in as adults right now and it’s working for both of us and we are being honest about it.
Akil: You never hear the committed relationship song.
Dara: Ya, you always hear the ‘I miss you’ or ‘I love you forever’ or ‘I hate you now that you’re gone’ song but never the ‘I know you are not the one for me but we are doing this right now and it works for us and its hot’.
Has your inspirations changed over the past few years?
Rob: We have changed the line up a little bit over the years and in turn changes the instruments we use to write. I use to pay the
keyboard, now I play lead guitar.
Dara: I play rhythm guitar in addition to singing.
Rob: Ya and our surroundings have changed so now we are influenced by Brooklyn
Akil: Moving here took us out of our comfort zone. Gong out and seeing things. Instead of being in our heads we started paying music that was fun for us.
Rob: Harder, faster, louder is the best change we have made
What is each member’s go-to karaoke song?
Alex: I have never done karaoke in my life. I don’t even know what I would do to be honest. Maybe if I was in a car I would sing any Beatles song or Pink Floyd for sure.
Akil: I’m in the Alex camp, karaoke makes me want to punch babies. I’ve done it once in my life and the song was Isaac Hayes’ ‘Salty
Chocolate Balls’. I guess if I could choose one it would be ‘Humpty Dance’ by Digital Underground.
Rob: I usually go with ‘Let’s get it on’ by Marvin Gaye. If I haven’t warmed up my voice it would be ‘Proud Mary’.
Dara: I guess I would go to my fall back old 90s rocker tunes like ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt or something.
Does Stroamata have a favorite venue to play at in NYC?
Alex: I think we are still trying to figure out our home. For me, I haven’t found any place I absolutely loved. Nowhere I hated, but nothing I loved yet.
Akil: It’s chasing the dragon. You can really like a place but you are always wondering what else is out there
Rob: I really like Rush and Matchless. We’ve played Matchless a dozen times, we really like the elevated stage, the sound guy, etc.
Rob: I miss playing the DIY kinda scene. People who go into that situation are just more into the music.
Dara: Haven’t really found that much here. There were some cool things in Boston that were DIY. We would love to do something like
that here, make our own venue and bring artists and performers and musicians together.
Alex: It’s crazy cause Brooklyn, and in particular Williamsburg, was so famous for the DIY scene but in ratio terms there’s so much more in Philly or Boston. But here a DIY spot is down the block from Vice Magazine so they get talked about more.
What’s next for STROAMATA?
Dara: We have a music video coming out for ‘Social’ and we are working on another one for ‘Just Go’. We also have a couple smaller acoustic videos we are working on.
Rob: We are always writing and coming up with new stuff. You can’t turn off the faucet. It’s easy to always make music; what would be hard is not to.