By Zach Collier
It was 10PM on a Tuesday night. I pulled my car up to the curb in front of a small two story home in Orem, Utah. Immediately in front of me, Karl Strange stepped out of the drivers’ side of his parked car, sunglasses on. It was dark. A streetlight up above us illuminated his breath in the cold.
“Hey there,” he said, giving me his hand for a handshake. “Good to see you again. Right this way. Everyone should be here in just a minute.” Karl walked me to the door of the house, engaging me in polite conversation on the way up the steps. The thing about Karl Strange is that he is disarmingly genuine. The pacing of his speech is relaxed and slow – very thoughtful. In a world full of instant gratification – texts, tweets, pocket buzzes and flashing lights – it takes some getting used to. But this is a guy that thinks deep thoughts, and if you let yourself recalibrate and listen, you come away feeling edified.
The rest of the band isn’t much different. I was welcomed into the house by Chad Reynolds. Initially quiet, he had a ready smile and made for a good host. Within seconds I had a glass of water in my hand and a comfortable seat on the sofa. Russell Carroll was the most outspoken – at least in this interview – and was always on hand for a good natured quip. He sat on the floor, his back against the wall, having given the remaining seats in the room to friends who were there with the band. Devin Powell makes for a good foil for Carroll. Quiet, shy, and as Karl pointed out, always on time. “He was the only one who showed up on time to our photo shoot on Saturday. I was 12 minutes late. I showed up second,” Karl said. There was a good vibe there. You could tell the band didn’t just play music together; they enjoyed each others’ company.
Seated in the living room, I had the pleasure of getting to know The Love§trange. See what they had to say about their relationship as a band, the hype surrounding the release of their first album, and their nomination for Best Rock Artist and Album of the Year for Salt Lake City Weekly’s Best of Utah Music Awards.
To start things off, tell me a little bit about yourselves. What are your names and what instruments do you play?
Chad Reynolds: My name is Chad Reynolds. I play bass and do some backup vocals.
Russell Carroll: Russell Carroll on drums – and some backup vocals.
Karl Strange: That’s right. I’m Karl Strange. Frontman. Guitar and keys.
Devin Powell: My name is Devin and I play guitar and sing a little bit.
Karl Strange: And mandolin.
Karl Strange: [Laughs] Yeah.
Nice. So how did The Love§trange get its start? How did you all meet each other and get together?
Chad Reynolds: Well, I was meeting up with Corey Fox, the Velour owner, and talking to him about some things and he was suggesting that I should meet up with Karl because they were looking for a bass player. So it was really Corey that hooked me up with Karl.
Devin Powell: I was recording some music with Nate Pyfer, and he said that he was going to record an album with Karl. He thought I’d be a good fit for the vibe of the music. So I went to a jam, and things just felt right. I half learned the songs and then played on the album and joined the band.
Karl Strange: Yeah, I mean, Matt Blunt and I sort of co-founded the band. I had the idea for the band name, just because we felt we were a little bit odd, and we felt that it would be a cool band name. The band came together around some of the ideas that have to do with flaws and acceptance and the idea that love is strange – there’s a song that came out of that that has several examples that are open to interpretation. But all of those things were happening back in 2012-2013. So Matt Blunt and I got this band together. We did need a bass player. Corey hooked us up with Chad. And then Matt left the band and we needed a drummer, so we got Russell Carroll and Cole Maxwell played drums with us, too, for a few gigs before we got Russell, and Russell has actually traded off with Chad playing bass. But he’s now our designated drummer, so that’s how the band got formed.
I remember I was walking down 800 north in Provo and I just saw all of this Love§trange chalk art everywhere. That was my first contact with The Love§trange. So it seems like when you hit the Provo music scene you hit it pretty hard – with a pretty big marketing campaign. There were posters everywhere. How did you come up with that, and how did you implement it?
Karl Strange: Man, we didn’t have anything to do with the posters or the chalk. It just kind of spontaneously happened. People just did it on their own.
Russell Carroll: [Laughs] It was manifested. Just started happening spontaneously.
Karl Strange: Yeah, people came in from out of town to do that. No. What was the question again? I’m sorry. [Laughs]
Russell Carroll: Chad did a lot of the street work for some of that. It was around the time I joined. Chad does a lot of chalk art.
Karl Strange: The best chalk art we’ve ever had has been Chad’s.
Chad Reynolds: [Laughs]
Karl Strange: And Mary Webb’s daughter.
Chad Reynolds: We came up with those ideas just chilling, jamming. Brainstorming.
Devin Powell: Yeah, it was pretty genius. Let’s do something no band has ever thought of and hang up posters.
So did you see a pretty positive response from that outreach?
Devin Powell: It’s hard to say. But then there are times like at the rooftop tribute concert when Karl got a pretty outrageous applause. And you have to wonder where that’s coming from. You see his face everywhere in Provo.
Russell Carroll: It seemed to me like the band was blessed with this momentum from the get-go. I joined kind of half way through so when I was looking into joining I was like, “Oh my gosh, these guys are already selling out Velour. Yeah I want to join!” But the music was awesome, too.
Karl Strange: We had a lot of hype that I’m not sure we deserved, but we were very grateful for it. Actually, these guys added to a lot of hype when they joined, I mean, everyone knew Chad before I even talked to him. He was the front person for Return To Sender – this iconic band that Corey Fox talks about as if they were Nirvana from Seattle. The Nirvana of Provo. Not musically style wise but as far as respect that other musicians had for the band. But that band had been gone for a long time. So when Chad joined our band, even people in the band were kind of freaking out and were slightly intimidated.
Russell Carroll: I was.
Russell Carroll: I was like, Chad’s in that band? Crap. How did I get here?
Karl Strange: And then Russell, he mentioned, “Well yeah, I can also play a little bass,” (he’s actually a fantastic bass player) but he’s a drummer. The first show that Russell played with us on drums was the battle of the bands finals. The battle of the bands preliminaries we had Cole Maxwell helping us, but Cole Maxwell wasn’t available for the finals but Russell was. So we made the finals, and when we played the finals, so many people, including the judges, were saying, “Oh my gosh. Russell Carroll plays the drums. You guys are so together. You guys are so tight. It gets the bass player excited.” Then everyone told us, including Corey Fox, that it was the best show we ever played and they were talking about Russell.
Russell Carroll: We didn’t win that show by the way.
Karl Strange: Amber Lynn won and she was fantastic.
So Chad, you were in Return to Sender. You guys performed last week at Velour, right? For a reunion show?
Chad Reynolds: Yeah. We just played last Saturday.
How’d that go? Was it good to get everyone back together?
Chad Reynolds: It was awesome. It was totally such a really good time.
Karl Strange: Corey was sitting there – I know this because I was standing right by him – he had the closest thing to a broad smile I’ve ever seen from him during the Return to Sender show. So yeah, Chad brought all of that reputation and legend to the band. So everyone was like, “Oh my gosh, Chad Reynolds is in this band” and so they’d come to see us. But that first show, our debut show, it was so weird because it was our album release and it was the first time we’d ever played live. It was so intimidating because the hype was building up, and I was sitting there going: if you’re ever going to play a bad show, when’s it going to be? Your first show right? When you’ve never played a show? So we rehearsed and rehearsed, and we did get good reviews. But we’ve all been in bands. Has anybody played a bad show? I have. I’ve played plenty of bad shows.
Russell Carroll: A very high percentage of shows I’ve played I would consider to be bad shows.
Karl Strange: Another thing about Russell is he played with Swimm, he played with Toy Bombs, he played with Eyes Lips Eyes – or rather sat in with them. He’s known as an incredible live player and session musician. So when I met Russell and found out about all that, I was pretty intimidated. So I very much doubt he’s played very many bad shows. We’ve all played some bad shows and of course your first shows are gonna be your worst shows, and so I was so nervous. There’s all this hype. So we’re gonna show up to our debut show, everyone’s so excited, a lot of really iconic local musicians were there, there was more hype than we deserved…
Chad Reynolds: Yeah. We sold out.
Karl Strange: We got to play with Coral Bones, we got to play with Seve Vs. Evan. I mean in so many ways I don’t know if we’ll ever top that show just because how many times is your first show your album release show and you’ve got all this hype? Fortunately, we rehearsed well enough.
Chad Reynolds: I don’t know. I think we already topped that show. We topped that show a while ago.
So what was the show topper?
Chad Reynolds: We’ve just gotten way better as a band. I mean, when Russell Joined the band – he’s one of the best drummers you’re ever gonna see.
Russell Carroll: Edit that out in post.
Chad Reynolds: And we’ve been recording for our second album and just spending a lot of time practicing together. We’ve got a really good chemistry, and everybody really likes everyone in the band. I mean – everybody in the band likes each other. [Laughs]
Russell Carroll: We’ve had a busy winter. We’ve had opportunities to practice a lot. Even nights or weeks where we didn’t have to practice, we did it anyway. So we got really comfortable and used to what everyone was doing at practice, and we made the show solid. So we’ve definitely topped that show.
Chad Reynolds: There’s a lot more energy than there used to be. I think we started out a little bit frigid and a little bit stiff.
Karl Strange: That’s definitely true. Some people were telling us our January 16th show was great. The one everyone keeps comparing it to was that battle of the bands finals show.
Russell Caroll: Well, and the long drives up to South Jordan for practice with all the band members, you just really get to know each other. The chemistry just sets in.
Karl Strange: I did that on purpose. I moved to South Jordan on purpose so the two of you would have to get to know each other.
Karl Strange: We rehearse in South Jordan, but everyone except me lives down here.
So do you guys have a practice space at your house?
Karl Strange: I have a home studio space that we practice in. We’ve talked about moving [practice] down here to make the commute a little easier.
Russell Carroll: Sometimes we’ll do a swap. You know, do a few at my pad just to keep it fair.
So did you guys do a lot of your recording at your home studio for I Liked It, No I Didn’t?
Karl Strange: We recorded demos there, but we recorded our first album and now our second album at June Audio. Nate Pyfer is our producer. We record demos at my place and then send them over to him.
Russell Carroll: We’ve gotten like, instant approval on them almost.
Karl Strange: Well, instant approval on the ones you guys wrote. I’ve sent Nate some demos that he wasn’t really thrilled about.
Karl Strange: I’m hit and miss in my songwriting.
What’s the deal with the new album? What lessons have you learned from the last one? What’s going to change and what’s going to stay the same?
Russell Carroll: I think the purposefully unpolished garage feel to the band – the retro vibe – is gonna be on the second album again. The second album has a lot of rockin’ songs I will say. A little more dirty.
Chad Reynolds: It’s got some, I dunno what you’d call them, ballads? Space rock? I dunno.
Karl Strange: We’ve gotten better at self criticism, which is hard to do. Chad and I had a conversation and we were talking about the new record and he said, “I think we should make a rule that the songs on the second album should be better than the songs on the first album. So we shouldn’t have any songs on the second album that don’t exceed that.” So we actually threw away a few songs that we’d already recorded and then we wrote more songs.
That’s always really hard because you get attached to songs.
Chad Reynolds: Yeah.
Russell Carroll: And Nate’s that type of producer. He will tell you – not what to do – but he’s got an eye –
Karl Strange: Or an ear.
Russell Carroll: He’s good at his job. So he knows what the song needs, or whether or not your song is good or not.
Karl Strange: He’s pretty awesome.
So Salt Lake City Weekly has nominated you for a couple awards…
Karl Strange: Oh… yeah.
Russell Carroll: Album of the year and… best rock band?
Karl Strange: Best rock artist and album of the year, yeah. We’re pretty stoked to hear about that.
So how did that happen?
Karl Strange: We don’t know. Okay, there’s part of this that I haven’t told these guys yet because I didn’t want them to get mad at me but I’ll tell them now.
Russell Carroll: You know, because we’re being recorded.
Karl Strange: I was so busy and I’ve been going through some stuff. I got a phone call from City Weekly on my way back to work, and they said, “Hey, you’ve been nominated for two Best of Utah Music Awards. I sent you an email four days ago and told you that I needed to hear from you yesterday and I haven’t heard from you.” But I didn’t screw it up, guys!
Karl Strange: So that’s what happened. I have no idea how. I just got a phone call.
Russell Carroll: I would say our publicist, Mary Webb, does a lot of that stuff. Just footwork that a lot of bands don’t even think about when they’re trying to start out. She’s awesome.
Karl Strange: That’s a good comment. Our publicity coordinator, Mary Webb, has been fantastic. She’s introduced the band to the media and puts ideas out there. Her daughter actually did a great chalk drawing for the band that rivaled Chad’s.
So I know that mystery and intrigue are part of The Love§trange image…
Russell Carroll: Karl. That’s all Karl. Karl’s the mystery man.
Did Karl come up with that idea?
Chad Reynolds: It’s just the way that it is, I guess.
Karl Strange: I dunno. That’s a good question. I think that is… something.
[Long, awkward silence]
Russell Carroll: Whoa. That’s mysterious. Stay tuned for the next album, man!
You guys played with The Moth & The Flame recently. It seems like you guys have been playing with increasingly bigger names. Is it cool to be on the same bill with some bigger bands?
Chad Reynolds: Yes.
Karl Strange: Yes.
Russell Carroll: Yes. Especially Moth. I’ve known Moth for a long time, too, so it was a pleasure. It was actually a really fun time. Playing with Moth was awesome. Playing for their fans and having their fans watch us, it was a pleasure.
Devin Powell: We’ve been lucky to play the shows with the bands we’ve played with. It makes it fun to be a fan of the bands we play alongside.
Are you guys planning on doing any extensive touring?
Karl Strange: Yes. We’re gonna ramp up to that. There’s tentative plans to go around regionally here in the next few months. We’re definitely going to do some regional touring. We want to go into Idaho, Washington, and then to San Francisco and down. We actually met a writer in San Francisco. There’s a blog called Popdose Music and he covered our debut album. So, yes is the short answer. I just gave you the long answer.
Russell Carroll: We have contacts in LA and Las Vegas, actually, that would love to have us. The west coast leg is what we would chip away at first.
Two more questions. Number one is: if you could describe The Love§trange in one or two sentences, how would you describe what you’re about?
Karl Strange: Flaws and acceptance, not judgment. We have a mantra on our website: life is strange, love is life, and love is gonna find you. We have songs with those words in the title. Those are my two sentences. How ‘bout you guys?
Chad Reynolds: For me, it’s a ticket or a gateway to getting emotional. It’s a good time. I usually have something rough that’s going on in my life and I’ll come around to practice and it’s always like a good vibe.
Russell Carroll: Yeah, just being in the band, it’s a little bit of a natural anti-depressant. Anti-anxiety. I mean I’ll have the worst day of my life at work or whatever and go to band practice and it’s just a nice decompression period with like these four homies that I kind of just met. Love is ever-seeking and you never understand it, and when you do think you understand it you’ll find that it’s just strange. It’s a strange thing.
Karl Strange: So true, man. Love is both wonderful and just plain strange. Emphasis on strange.
Russell Carroll: And miserable.
Good answers. So last question: Where will you guys be playing next? How can people support you and your music?
Karl Strange: We want to finish the record so we’ve declined some performance opportunities. We did play Velour’s 10th Anniversary Show – that was a bucket list thing. We were stoked to play for Corey Fox on January 16. But we’ve been trying not to book a lot of shows so we can finish the record. But we’ll probably end up playing some shows in the near future. I know that’s a vague answer…
It’s part of the mystery.
Chad Reynolds: Follow us on Facebook. If you haven’t liked us on Facebook, you should. Make sure you’re getting our posts and we’ll let you know when we have shows.
Karl Strange: Thanks for the interview. It was cool.
Make sure to like the Love§trange on Facebook. You can also check out their debut album, I Liked It, No I Didn’t on Spotify here. If you’re a fan of The Love§trange or like what you’ve heard, you can vote for them to win Best Rock Artist or Album of the Year. Watch the music video for “Hey Now, People” below.