Based out of Salt Lake City, UT comes the synth-pop duo of Strange Familia. Made up of Garret Williams and Brecken Jones, the two collaborators met in 2014 and promptly released a debut single “Odes” to much acclaim in 2015.
Last year, their self-titled debut album – produced by Scott Wiley who is credited to projects with Neon Trees and The Moth & The Flame – released, but rich with inspiration, Stange Familia has a new stand-alone single premiering exclusively below and out everywhere tomorrow.
For many artists, creating is a cathartic experience. Such is true for Garret Williams of Strange Familia who began writing a song to process the tragic loss of his mother, which had occurred years earlier in a sudden car accident. Months after he initially put pen to paper and had a few lines for “Nightlight” jotted down, the song took on a whole new meaning – his four-year-old daughter Lila met the same fate as his mother and was taken too soon in a fatal car accident, as well.
“I’ve spent the last year trying to put the pieces of my life back together,” shares Williams. “It’s hard not to feel lost when the biggest thing that’s been guiding you is taken away. That’s what “Nightlight” is about. The first lyrics were inspired by my mom but those words have weighed heavier with the loss of Lila. “Nightlight” is about losing the ones who inspire you, give you direction and life.”
“Nightlight” explores the feelings evoked by both monumental losses, with relatable lyrics inviting listeners to sing-a-long. Synth-drenched throughout, rather than jumping straight into the song’s climax after the bridge, Stange Familia has crafted a minimalist sonic soundscape which dieters off and induces a state of inquisitive searching – as though the song is searching for those lost – before ultimately building into one last major chorus.
Stream “Nightlight” and read on for an exclusive interview with the band below.
Hi Strange Familia, congrats on your new single. Very powerful. Can you tell us a little more on who you are and how you first got into making music?
Thank you. We’re a two piece based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. We met back in 2014 and have been chasing this dream ever since. Brecken was a band class kid. He’s been playing since childhood. I didn’t start playing music until my early 20s but have enjoyed a healthy obsession as a listener from childhood on up.
What’s your songwriting process generally like?
Garret: Songs always come in different ways but typically Brecken writes the production and I write the lyric and melody.
Brecken: Most songs generally start with an urge that happens even before we are in the studio. We get an itch to make something when we are doing other things that don’t directly pertain to music. That itch then turns into a synth chord, guitar lick, bass line, drum beat etc. From there the “creative guys” take hold trying to stay away from the “self critical guys” and let the ideas flow freely without thinking too much about how to arrange everything. Once there seems to be plenty of creative mind juice on the track then we turn to our critical selves to clean up the mess. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as I’ve outlined above but that is all a part of the process.
The backstory behind “Nightlight” is heartwrenching. Can you tell us a little bit more about the inspiration and how you channeled such unfortunate events into a beautiful song?
Garret: When I was a junior in high school my mom was killed in a car accident. In grieving I’d written a couple of songs about her but as the years passed they’d become difficult to revisit because the lyrical content was so heavy. I wanted to write something I would be able to play for my four-year-old daughter without crying. Something I could use to tell her the stories about the grandma that she had never met. Life had different plans. Two months after I had written the first handful of lines for the new song, my daughter was killed in a car accident. That was last October.
I don’t know how many songs we wrote after the accident I just know I wasn’t connecting with them in the ways that I used to. I was really struggling. It wasn’t until I returned to the song I had started writing about my mom that things started to get better. As I rewrote most of the original lyrics it became apparent that the more honest I could be about what I was going through, the better it would be for me both mentally and emotionally. I had spent the better half of a year trying so hard to be “okay,” it wasn’t until I was finally able to admit that I wasn’t okay that things started to feel like they could get better. But, honestly, I’m lost. I’m still trying to find the direction and drive she gave me but opening up to write this song has shown me how important vulnerability and honesty will be in my recovery.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. To pivot slightly and get our readers a little bit better acquainted with you, who are some of your biggest influences/favorite artists?
Brecken: I am influenced a lot by country music, specifically acts like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and a few others in that realm. Lots of pop stuff like Bleachers or Christine and the Queens. EDM, in my opinion, has the best mixing around. Rufus Du Sol is delicious, basically, ear candy. Some other mentions include Father John Misty, KOAN Sound, Still Woozy, Goldensuns, Khalid, Flight of the Conchords. (Judas Priest’s new album Firepower is bad ass, too.)
Garret: The Presets, Telekinesis, The Drums, Eldren, Frank Ocean, Leisure, Modest Mouse, Michael Jackson.
Any new artists/venues/purveyors of the arts you could turn our readers onto?
Garret: Definitely! Check out Ugly Boys, Panther Milk, Mojave Nomads, Madge, Child Ivory, Pinguin Mofex, Choir Boy, and Quiet Oaks!
Brecken: I’d add Goldmyth, Mr. Tape, Brother., Martian Cult, Luco, S2_Cool, and Wheatus.
Where can we follow you and where can our readers catch you live next?
Our next show is November 10th at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo Utah. We’re playing with two of the bands we just mentioned – Brother. and Ugly Boys. After that, we’re doing a run of west coast dates the first couple weeks of December. Our website (strangefamilia.net) will take you to all the other goodies.
Any parting thoughts?
“Nightlight” wouldn’t have been possible without some major contributions from our friend and co-collaborator Nate Bramhall. Keep an eye out for his upcoming project YA ANML.