Sex With Strangers is killer. I can’t wait until my schedule lets me dance like there’s ass in my pants at one of their shows at long last. Their new record is a blast, and they’re some super nice guys. I had almost an hour and a half of interview here and it was a tough time cutting it down into a paltry 600 words. Always a good sign. Bandcamp embeds are tricky for me, so listen to this while you read.
There was a shift, somewhere. Disco died and rock decided that candy pop and Britney Spears were not going to have the a new monopoly on the dance floor. All of a sudden, boy bands were washed up and guitars were marshaling parties all over again. LCD Soundsystem was hitting big and the airwaves were saturated with House of Jealous Lovers. On the west coast, that torch is borne in a big way by Sex With Strangers, and their mission to get you dancing and thinking about….robots.
“I’m a pretty shallow person,” says Hatch Benedict, Sex With Strangers’ vocalist and frontman. Coming off a trilogy of records ending with 2009’s Tokyo Steel, Sex With Strangers puts to bed one narrative arc involving sexy robot ninjas and start something new. “I’ve always been kind of uncomfortable doing songs about me and my life, my friend here and his life, and stuff like that. I’ve always been fascinated by telling stories.”
Their new record, Frontier Justice, covers some new, familiar ground, a sort of Road Warrior story set in the Pacific Northwest. “These kinda two tribes that are battling each other for possession of the land or whatever. In between these two lovers, a man and woman with these mysterious powers and they’re basically going to these villages, driving up and down the coast and when they come to a village, bad things happen. Then these two tribes sort of realize ‘Okay, I know we’re battling but these two people are doing something crazy.'”
It sounds eclectic, but you shouldn’t think too hard about it. Hatch isn’t. “When we’re writing songs, I don’t take the the lyrics seriously. So I put together kind of sketches and ideas of songs and I’ll come back with all the words and say ‘Alright, here’s ten songs with lyrics, now make a story out of that.’ So it’s kind of a reverse thing. So I won’t go necessarily in there with a story. I’m always like ‘Oh shit, I need to come up with a story.'”
The lyrics don’t seem to matter to the man who writes them, but they matter on the dance floor. That lyrical quality that cuts through the fog of sweat and cologne, that pushes through and stands between you and whoever or whatever you’re grinding up against is present throughout Frontier Justice and the entire Sex With Strangers discography. It’s the “All My Friends” effect: the heat of the moment might wash out the context, but nuggets slice through and elevate the proceedings. Not that the musical base needs it, but it’s welcome.
Co-founder Mangus Magnum talks about the production of the new record. “This album we tried to get a more raw feel. We increased the focus on bass. This is our first album with live drums. There’s no real master plan.” No plan. Not taking it seriously, but serious music coming out. So what’s the secret? Benedict and Magnum answer simultaneously.