It takes a lot to make a stew, but it takes even more to make a memorable salsa. For garage punk/rock n’ roll band Room Full of Strangers, their ingredients are four distinct personalities that come together to make tasty music. I spoke with The Strangers at their practice space, a storage unit morphed into a black box of fuzz, where I got to know this pack of roughens: Mick Mcluan (Vocalist), Erik Bundy (Bassist, Keyboardist, Back-up Vocalist), Austin Wulff (Back-up Vocalist, Drummer), and Nik Sidella (Guitarist). Karina was behind her camera; the band was behind their gear, and I was trying to not get in the way. Enjoy.
Room Full of Strangers is playing at Will’s Pub this Saturday with Danny Feedback, Luscious Lisa, Witch Kings, and Twigs. Come out. Shit is bound to get fucked up.
MATT: Alright, so how did this motley crew of guys come together?
MICK : Whew! Deep Breathe. Well… it started on a wheat grass farm. We used to record and rehearse in a place called The Red Room… The caretaker of the property was a wheat grass farmer/meth-addict, an insane person. Erik and I met there. I had taken almost a decade sabbatical from doing anything artistic. And uh, I had a bout with corporate America and I was done with it.
When I moved to Central Florida for a jobby-job, I didn’t know fuckin’ anybody. And so I was a fucking Stranger, man. So, I met Erik and just kinda built brick-by-brick from, from that. And he didn’t know anybody either. He was from New Orleans. You know, he’s kind of a fuckin’ outcast like me.
This current line-up though… *belch*
NIK: Bless you.
MICK: After… thank you.
After going through a number of musicians, very much who like Black Flag, who would eat up their musicians… we just tour ’em up.
MATT: So out of the gate you guys were like, we’re going to be touring all over.
MICK: No, out of the gate it was a bit of a goof. We used to perform in ski masks and do punk covers. We were just kinda drunk and out to lunch all the time. And our first gig, I can remember, Bull & Bush. Heidi was her name, Irish girl. We were in ski masks, [and] she said, “I like you lads, but you remind me of the IRA.”
After that, I guess our first big touring experience was we got an official showcase with the CMJ music marathon. That was, I think, when the band was like, “Okay. We’re a real touring band, doing our thing.” The problem was, we had a couple of brothers in the band, really cool young cats, we actually had one lose his virginity, I think.
MATT: [Erik], looks like this is news to you.
ERIK: No, no. I don’t think so… That’s his business not mine. *laughs*
MICK: [So] the brothers, they fell out, and that’s when Austin came along. And then shortly after that, Nik came on. It was a difficult formation. We’ve managed to kind of continually stick together and evolve and grow and develop and get our, our gospel out to the world.
MATT: There’s a lot of bands that lack that kind of motivation. They’re not 100% dedicated to making [the band] work and living this lifestyle of touring.
ERIK: Well I think it’s just a matter of how badly you want it. Like, what is your goal in life? Are you trying to play in a band, but you’re really studying to be a radiologist? I mean there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a matter of, what do you want to do?
MICK: But, why? Why are you doing that?
AUSTIN: Most musicians are fuck-ups. So it’s kind of hard to keep them around and keep them motivated. They just kind of lose their way. Or their really successful career people who don’t have time to be in a band.
MICK: Or [they get signed] and either they’re not selling records, or they’re like, “This is not what I wanted to sign up for.” And then there is people like me, coming from The Rust Belt and being a creative person, you don’t have much of a choice other than to go for it. There is no silver spoon in this mouth. And Eric, I think just by blood is a creative person. And Austin’s a Stranger. And Nik’s a Stranger.
ERIK: Even when we’re busting our ass, there’s something really relaxing about being on the road, being on tour. Even if you haven’t slept in 32 hours.
NIK: Like you’re apart of something.
MATT: Like you’ve said, “We’re all Strangers here.” It seems like that’s kind of the thing that brought you all together. That what makes it worth it for you guys; it’s your identity.
MICK:… it’s who you are. It’s what you do. You know? We’ve always been Strangers and we’ve always been creative people. So… *snap* here we are.
MATT: It’s gettin’ deep. It’s gettin’ Dr. Phil in here. We’re all going to start holding hands and crying soon.
MATT: If it happens, it happens. So, I remember you guys were saying that you don’t get to spend a lot of time in the Orlando scene because you’re out touring, but you’re trying to bring it back… Where do you guys see yourselves fitting into the Orlando music community?
ERIK: I think it goes back to what we were talking about before [the interview], there really is no scene. There’s plenty of bands to see around town, there’s plenty of stuff to do on any given night, but there really isn’t any unity. And if a scene is defined by unity, then I guess you could say there is no real scene here, but there are music lovers and fans.
NIK: I think it’s growing though. I’m friends with Kyle Harms (Me Chinese), RJ (The Welzeins, Witch Kings), and that kind of group. I feel like there’s a momentum there. I’ve only lived up here for the past three years… but I feel like there’s more familiar faces.
MATT: What do you think the community needs to push it forward? I mean, what would you like to see happen?
MICK: I think something that the bands could do is look beyond their “friend-base” and say, “How about turning some people on that may have never listened to this kind of music, or would never be exposed to it?”
MATT: What have you guys been listening to lately?
AUSTIN: I’ve been listening to a lot of like, Top 40’s pop music actually.
ERIK: If I had to pick a favorite modern artist, it would have to be Jay Reatard.
AUSTIN: I’ve got a lot of respect for JT.
MICK: We got compared to him on last.fm…
MATT: Justin Timberlake?!
AUSTIN: A lotta times, I like to listen to salsa music when I’m driving around. I just enjoy it because a salsa band is just like seven drummers, one piano player, and one guitar player.
ERIK: I like to eat salsa.
MATT: Have you ever had mango salsa? My mom makes a mean salsa.
ERIK: Dude, it’s easy. It’s just tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and throw in some hot sauce.
MICK: We’re getting ingredients for the interview.
MATT: Yeah, I’m going to title the interview, “Making Salsa with Room Full of Strangers.”
– AND I DID –
If you liked this interview, feel free to check out last months interview/photo shoot titled, “Bellows: Linear Abstraction & Christmas Sweaters” with Orlando experimental rock three-piece, Bellows.
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