Friday as I was standing with our talented photographer Victoria Smith near the bar waiting for local opener The Hundred Days to finish their rocking set, I noticed a couple of guys trying to pay for drinks and a bartender that looked throughly unimpressed with their Australian chip-based cards. On closer inspection it was lead vocalist Stephen Docker and guitarist Gillan Gregory from headliner Strange Talk. If you have ever traveled overseas, you know what a cluster fuck it is to use a U.S. card over there or a pin and chip card here. I felt compelled to help them out, and bought their round so they could hurry back stage and get ready for their set.
I’d like to think it was my drink purchase that put them in the perfect zone to absolutely slay the packed venue with their set. Docker and Gregory were joined on stage by bassist Gerard Sidhu and drummer Travis Constable, and the foursome puts out a surprising force of sound of synth pop, but with a definite rock edge. They recently released their first album Cast Away and treated the crowd to a set filled with new music.
When describing the Australian synth pop/electro scene, everything is compared to Cut Copy, but in this case I don’t think that you can use the established synth group as a real analogy for what Strange Talk is doing. While Cut Copy builds their songs into amazing vortices of synthesizers, samples and guitar rhythms, Strange Talk will often push a song to the next level with guitar solos, and a driving rock aesthetic.
I find it interesting that at this point it appears that the song “Young Hearts” will be their biggest breakout from the album. Not in small part due to a popular messaging app, Snapchat, using the single in a recent promo video. On stage, the guys joked they are now being called “that Snapchat band.”
But in many ways “Young Hearts” is like a ballad. Not that it’s not a good song, it just feels like its less representative of what makes the band’s sound so great. They opened the set with “Is It Real?” which just plain blew me away with its fast pace and guitar solo. Songs “Falling in Love” and “Eskimo Boy” were other personal favorites and exemplify the dynamic quality of their music. The crowd was loving it throughout the set and as Popscene tends to do, the whole venue became a big dance party. Docker even had to say, “I know everyone always says this, but you guys are the best fucking crowd.”
I first discovered Strange Talk through the song “Cast Away” about a year ago while listening to artists similar to Aussie DJs/ producers, Bag Raiders (check them out if you aren’t in the know). While I still like the song, I think similar to “Young Hearts” it feels a little one dimensional once you hear everything these guys are capable of. I think if they keep putting out quality tracks they can become one of Australia’s top exports.
-All photographs by Victoria Smith
I would feel remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the openers The Hundred Days and Cub Sport. The Hundred Days play awesome indie rock, are local and if you like Arcade Fire I bet you will love them. I would highly suggest you check out their high energy set at a venue here in the city soon.
Cub Sport was another great opener. Like Strange Talk they are touring from Australia and there is some obvious talent in this group, especially on the keys and vocals. They have a Destiny’s Child Medley that absolutely killed, and were able to get the crowd going more than I have seen an early opener do in quite awhile. Victoria described them as a mix of synth pop and 80s calypso music, which oddly fits.