Their debut album Entertainment on Foreign Grounds didn’t make the earth-shattering, bone snapping, tide changing entrance it called for, but Straylings’ Dana Zeera and Oliver Drake have a good excuse – their project is completely DIY, driven solely by the two musicians and backed by whatever money they can personally raise.
The result of their hardship is a record they can call their own – totally. As they explain, there was no creative compromise in the studio, and that’s probably why Entertainment... is so damn good. It's become the blogging community's phoenix; rising from the oversaturated ashes of BandCamp and SoundCloud to be pushed at readers as often as is deemed socially acceptable.
Fresh from their performance at Bristol Ladyfest and already in the studio recording their as-of-yet-untitled follow up, DrunkenWerewolf’s Tiffany Daniels speaks to the band about going it alone, retaining control and breaking the North.
Your album Entertainment on Foreign Grounds is still fresh off the press but you’re already recording a follow up! Are you usually this prolific?!
It took a while to put the album out; there was a fairly spread out post production phase and then the long process of promoting it as best [as we could]. So I think starting work on our second album is a reaction to that process really, in that we want to get as much written and recorded while the songs are still fresh.
What’s propelled you back into the studio so quickly?
Impatience mostly! There’s always such a reward with developing new material, you're always looking forward, considering something’s potential, which really helps keep up a kind of creative momentum.
You formed in 2007. How long did it take you to come up with Entertainment...? Were the songs established by the time you recorded them, or new?
Some were established - songs that were written before or around the time we met, and some were written as we were recording the album. So it’s quite spread out... and encapsulates that time for us really. It took quite a while to complete the record, and to get it to what we were hoping for. We really wanted the record to be true to our intentions for it - as much as it's possible to, as there is so much you're not able to control.
Do Straylings feel a sense of urgency to ‘move on’?
Yes, definitely. The things that happen after you put an album out, the work that goes into making sure it’s heard and promoted properly, is such a different beast to the creative process of making something. In our case, we are just really keen to immerse ourselves in the creative process again, as we tend to feel most at home there.
How is this new album shaping up so far? Do you have a name?
Well, it's very early days really, but we have a handful of songs we're really excited to develop. No name yet, it seems too defining at this stage somehow. I think we'll probably see what direction the recording process goes in, and let the nature of the record unfold gradually...
You funded the recording of Entertainment... yourself and released it through your own label. Will you continue to operate like that?
Yes, I think for now, it seems to work well for us. There are some obvious downsides to self-releasing, you don’t have access to the same contacts, budgets, etc that say an indie label might have, but then again, at the time we're in now we wouldn't have wished for our record to have come out any other way. We can really say that this is an album where no compromises have been made artistically, and that is something we have always been very passionate about.
Do you prefer working for yourself, or if given the chance would you sign to a label?
It would really depend on the kind of label it is, the kind of relationship they have with their artists. At this moment, we are happy being able to do things on our own terms. With the music industry being where it is, I think it’s important that artists are able to be themselves, be creatively unselfconscious, and find new ways to move forward. But of course if someone who was on the same page was interested in working with us, we'd be very open to it.
In terms of musical direction and style, what influences you the most and has this changed over time?
Artists like Neil Young, Rodriguez and Townes Van Zandt are big ones for us. Artists that have a kind of pioneering spirit and a restless drive, and obviously write lovely songs too. I think we've always been very appreciative of the intentions people bring to their music, and I think the way art is approached and produced has always been a priority in terms of our musical direction.
Dana, your personal heritage is well documented and reviewers have picked up on it through your music, too. Will Austria continue to influence your song writing and the themes you sing about?
I'm half Bahraini and half Austrian, but I grew up in Bahrain. The Middle East does influence my writing, especially at the moment with how the situation is there politically. You can't help but be affected when there are such radical changes happening and so much suffering. It’s a very uncertain time for a lot of people...
Oliver I know you previously performed with The Veils, but what other bands lurk in your histories and how different are they to Straylings?
Yes I guess I've always played in bands really... through school & college some instrumental and bluesy things, but The Veils was really the first serious band I was invloved in... I had done some playing for other acts prior to meeting Dana as well - Emiliana Torrini was one that was a lot of fun.
We know you played a few shows in the South, but did you manage to fully promote Entertainment... on the road?
Although there have been some budget restraints doing this on our own, yes we'd definitely like the opportunity to promote it further! We're hoping to do more shows out of London soon, and get to more places around the UK.
Do you intend to tour more throughout the year?
We would love to... we do have one or two shows up North being arranged, so we're looking forward to that. Hopefully we can get a good balance with the touring and recording, there's a lot we're quite excited to get stuck into.