No Stops: Interview with Stray Monroe
Written and Photographed by Rick Perez
San Diego, California
Fresh out of the studio, San Diego indie rockers Stray Monroe are gearing up to release their new EP, Momentary Vertigo. Made up of members Blake, Brett, and Colin, Stray Monroe met with BoC to discuss the joys and frustrations of recording, the evolution of the their live set, and how they stand apart from other San Diego based bands.
Who is Stray Monroe and what is your music all about?
Blake: Vocals and guitar, Brett: Bass, Colin: Drums
Brett– Be yourself. Here in the San Diego music scene, a lot of groups are heavily surf rock-influenced. We’re more of an indie sound that was cool ten years ago, but we’re just doing our own thing and don’t care what anyone else thinks
Blake– Since I internalize a lot things, I tend to write lyrics about the things I see and experience in my everyday life. It’s like looking into the life of 20-something young adult who is just trying to make sense of what’s happening around them. I feel a lot of people can relate to those similar experiences. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously as people, but we take our music very seriously. That’s the theme of our band.
Colin- Our music is all about having fun, having a good time. It will take us where it takes us.
Brett- Blake always calls it ‘music for the people’.
Blake- “band of the people’
What was the first concert you ever played as a group?
Blake- It was in May of 2016 at The Go Lounge in La Mesa. Total dive bar, no PA system. We played on the floor, invited all of our friends and packed the place. You had people standing in front of us it was so packed. We couldn’t hear vocals and the sound was fucking abysmal but it was so fun. We were riding a high off of that for like a week. Up to that point, it was probably the best moment of our lives.
Colin- We were under a different name at that time, we called ourselves “The Hype”
Blake- We had just written a few songs and only been a band for like a few months and were ready to play a show. I think every band remembers their first show, and this was definitely a memorable one.
How have you guys evolved since then, performance wise?
Brett- We try and incorporate jams and no stops at all during the set.
Colin- We work really hard to make the transitions as seamless as possible. Make everything just one, continuously flowing set.
Blake- We like throw a cover or two in between songs. It’s like the audience is on this path, and then all of the sudden, we’ll weave in a cover and totally turn that path. We want to keep the audience engaged with the music.
Colin- We want to keep people on their toes.
Blake- A lot of our inspiration comes from watching Portugal. The Man live. The goal of a show isn’t always to push your material out there, but to make it memorable. Then the audience will check out your music and even come back for another show. There are some bands that only do their originals, and I respect that, but there’s a balance we like to have.
You guys just finished recording the new EP. What was it like? Who did you record with?
Blake- Recorded with Peter Duff at The Grey Brick Recording Studio in Lemon Grove. He’s a really easy guy to work with. He takes an idea and helps you run with it. It’s a really healthy process to have someone work with you and not against you.
Does the EP have a general theme?
Blake- The EP is called ‘Momentary Vertigo’. All the songs are about how you can feel uneasy about a moment in time.. Sort of like you get tunnel vision and its hard to see outside that moment. Like I said before, I internalize a lot, and these songs are about the times we internalize things and make sense of it all… Writing the lyrics was sort of my way of “un-internalizing” these events. I think each of us in the can relate to the themes of this EP.
Brett- Side note, you are the first person we told the name of the EP to. But to answer your question, we have a lot more maturity and our own sound on this EP. We spent a lot of time writing and went through a lot of changes as a band and it reflects that. We’re really proud of it.
Colin- It’ll be out in mid-March, there’s going to be 6 songs on the EP, 3 different singles, two of which are out right now: Forever After and Happy Accidents
Blake- There’s a lot of variety in the songs. We didn’t want to make a record that sounds the same throughout. We wanted to show our diversity and how we are growing as musicians.
Colin- There’s definitely a continuity, but a wide variety of influences and sounds and styles of music throughout the EP.
Blake- We didn’t want being a three-piece to limit us. I think the craziest thing we did was when our Producer and Engineer, Peter, mic’d up a Red Bull can and played it as auxilary percussion on a track… I’ll leave it to the listeners to find out which track that was. There’s little surprises throughout. I think it’s different than what a lot of San Diego bands, and indie bands in general, are doing at the moment.
What was the most frustrating part of recording? Most fun?
Blake- Brett and I were finishing up finals, playing shows, and recording all at the same time. We stretched ourselves way too thin. Finding the time to reach our deadlines was the most difficult part. But honestly, through that, we pushed ourselves to do things we didn’t think we were capable of.
Colin- Even though we scheduled times in the studio with Peter months in advance, we had ideas for songs that weren’t complete yet, even a few weeks before our scheduled time. We didn’t have much time to practice so getting all the parts together before going into the studio was stressful, but in a good way. It pushed us to make even better music.
Brett- My favorite moment in the studio: After spending 20 hours on our next single, ‘Hold the Line’, hearing the results of that song was such a crazy moment. Blake has this killer 2 minute guitar solo, and there’s strings and mallets and an organ. We wanted to do something we never done before, something inspired by The Beatles. It is probably the most epic song we have ever done. It brought tears to all of our eyes. We are all really happy with how that turned out and can’t wait until it comes out.
Blake- The most fun of this EP is growing as a band and finding our sound
What is the San Diego music scene like?
Blake- It’s a pretty tight-knit scene here, not in a bad way. The bands here are very talented, but you have to work harder than every single other band to get noticed. It’s hard for a young, talented band to find opportunities. I think you see a lot of the same bands playing the same shows. When we first started, we were looking up to these bands, wondering how they played at these venues and got to be on the radio all the time. It was really who you know. That being said, there are a lot of great support networks here. We’re really thankful for folks like Tim Pyles, SoundDiego, RockToc, Pure Nowhere, and many more for giving us exposure.
Colin- With the style of music we play, we are such an outlier from the other bands. It’s refreshing in some way because we get a lot of people coming up to us saying that they haven’t heard anyone who sounds like us and they like it. It’s also polarized in a way where people dislike it and don’t want to hear it at all.
Blake- Early on, we had to figure out what works and what doesn’t here in San Diego. None of us are from here, none of us grew up in this scene. That gave us the opportunity to sound different.
Colin- We definitely stand from the crowd.
Blake- A goal we have is to create a better community with up and coming bands.
Which San Diego bands are you listening to right now?
Brett- Grove, Sights and Sages, Pockethole, Creature Canyon, Hard to Hit
Blake- There’s a lot of good bands I hope we don’t forget any. Those five we are friends with and like a lot.
Any tours coming up?
Blake- We are playing some shows in Mexico this month, Mexicali and Tijuana. We want to check out San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Chicago and New York would be great. A big goal of ours is to find a way to get to the UK. I feel like our music would be really receptive in Europe and South America. We want to go everywhere, whoever will have us.
What’s next for Stray Monroe?
Blake- We want to keep writing, playing shows, and push the limits of what we are capable of. On the immediate horizon is releasing our EP, Momentary Vertigo, as well as a few music videos. Also looking to add to our live set and getting out of San Diego. One goal is mine is to be making money off our music by April 11th. It’s a random date, but if we can find a way to live off our music, that’s what we want.
Brett- We want to take music as far as we can and meet as many people as we can. We have met so many great people that have become close friends of ours because of music. We are going to do whatever it takes to reach the next level.