Punk & Hardcore

Strange Wilds Is Not Nirvana but Doesn't Mind the Comparison

Strange Wilds are coming through town on October 3 to support their new record, Subjective Concepts, and if their familiar, yet totally rockin’, sound is any indication, the show is going to be pretty special. We caught up with one member of the Olympia, Washington-based three-piece, lead singer and guitar player, Steven Serna, to talk about their live show, the inevitable comparisons, and a few other nifty things. Serna will be joined by his band mates, drummer Allen Trainer, and bass player Sean Blomgren when they hit the Time Out Lounge in Tempe, and while they not mind sharing some similarities with one particularly famous band from their home state, they seem to be ready to play some serious rock 'n' roll.

New Times: So I'm sitting here right now listening to Subjective Concepts. Every song I hear a different influence, but one that is prevailing for me is '80s west coast punk. I think it's a lot of the vocals, or maybe how the vocals interact with guitar. How do you guys describe your sound?

That's definitely an influence. Bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks are what I grew up on. I don't usually describe us as sounding like that, but it's there. Usually we just say we sound like Nirvana, because we do.

Yeah, I get that… Being on Sub Pop, from the Northwest, you are going to get the inevitable Nirvana comparison. How do you react when people say, "You guys sound just like....."?

We agree. They were the main influence of this band.0 I grew up listening to Nirvana and have always wanted to start a band that was grungy. Of course, we by no means rip them off, we just all like that sound and wanted to do something similar. Some people love that we have a similar sound and some people think we're "unoriginal." There was a paper here in the Northwest that actually said we were like the “most unoriginal band from Olympia” and said Sub Pop “should have signed these other bands from Olympia” and then listed those bands. Thing is, those bands sound just like other older bands too, but not everyone has heard of the Stooges or Discharge or other '80's hardcore punks bands but of course, everyone has heard Nirvana. I think that was the only time something like that irked me, otherwise we don't really care. We make music like this because we like playing music like this.

There is great energy to your music. What, if anything, do you guys do to prepare for your live shows? Ironing clothes, maybe, or a rousing game of Parcheesi?

Not a whole lot actually. Just the thought of performing usually amps me up enough to get out and play. I have been trying to warm up my voice more though, to keep it from going out.

What excites you most about playing the Time Out Lounge in Tempe?

I'm not sure what to expect, excited to play a venue we've never played at before. I really like the desert so I'm excited to see some cacti in Arizona.

Most annoying thing about being trapped in a van with your band mates? Don't worry, I won't show them your answers until after you've got the first gold record...

Not a whole lot, we all really enjoy touring. I guess feeling restless can be the most annoying thing but we try to keep ourselves well entertained while driving between cities.

Who would win a three-on-three basketball game, Strange Wilds or [label mates] Sleater-Kinney? If you played to 10, what would be the score?

I don't know about basketball but we'd definitely whoop them at a game of soccer. 10 to nothing, definitely.

Any favorite show moment so far in 2015?

Our friend Ryan [Beitz] runs this thing called The World Speed Project, which is basically him collecting every copy of the movie Speed. Well, when we played in L.A. last time, he brought two tubs full of VHS copies of Speed and dumped them out in front of us while we played our set. So we got to play among a big pile of Speed VHS tapes, and that was an experience.

Goals for 2016? These could be band related, or if you're feeling frisky, they could be related to the UFC.

We want to tour a lot as a band. I want to try and make some movies between tours.

Oh nice. Do you have a favorite all-time movie?

For me personally and maybe for all of us it's Star Wars.

What is it about Star Wars?

Always been my favorite for how good it is, or was, I guess, and how awesome of a universe it created. Really stoked for the new one this December.

What would you like to add? Don't say Glockenspiel.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon