Strange Cages are a psych rock band from Brighton, England.
A conversation about brexit, songwriting and the state of pop music
You already released a couple of EPs that are all very, very good. But is there an album coming out anytime soon?
Charlie: Sure, we’re just finishing writing an album, hopefully for release this year. We play some songs on this tour that will be on the album. We’re very excited!
You’ve been on tour for quite a few days now. With Brexit coming up, do you think touring will become harder for bands?
Ellis: yeah, definitely. It’ll be a lot harder. Maybe not so much for bands who have already played in Europe, but bands that are starting out and looking to get their first gigs out here, for them it’s just going to become a nightmare.
Charlie: For us, because we’ve been touring here already, it might be alright.
Ellis: That’s what we’re always saying at the moment, „it might be alright.“ That’s the consensus in England. Maybe it will be alright, if we just ignore it.
Joe: I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on at the moment. As soon as the British government actually decide what they’re doing then we will be up to make a plan.
Your videos are all pretty cool and fun to watch; are the visuals important to your music, like the videos, stage performances etc.?
Ellis: yeah! We do all the videos with Charlie’s brother, Todd. We’re always really happy with what comes out. It’s really important for bands to have good videos, because online is where you find most of the music, on YouTube and such. So if you have a good video, it’s a huge bonus to keep people interested.
Charlie: Yeah, the visuals are very important. Hopefully we’re doing something with smell soon. That’s the plan!
Ellis: Maybe taste in a couple of years.
Joe: We might have to shower more.
Charlie: Soon we’re going project the music from our minds into your minds.
Ellis: Just insert the album into your temporal lobe!
Charlie: It’d be dangerous though, very dangerous…
Where did your desire to make music and music related art come from? Was there something that sparked it, or did you grow up with music?
Joe: We were all growing up with music.
Ellis: Yeah, the desire has always been there I think.
Joe: It’s also a social scene. You meet people through talking about music and then you get to play in a band and… we’re just one big happy family. (everyone laughs)
Charlie: yeah, we’re a big happy family and that’s what we wanted. Everyone can relate to music very well, it’s a good way to project what you want to project in life, to express what you want to express.
Why is everyone in band in England? Why has rock music such a high value there, much more so than in other countries?
Charlie: It’s got a big history, I guess. You grow up and it’s immediately in your culture when you’re a teenager. It’s right there. Maybe not so much these days, in this generation…
Ellis: No, I think even more so in this generation!
Ellis: yeah, for sure! Music is everywhere, quite literally. You can’t go anywhere without hearing music, it’s everywhere. And as well with the music schools that pop up, being able to study music a lot more freely as a university subject. It opens up music for far more people than ever before
Charlie: And there is this big history of punk in England as well. Punk is something that makes music accessible, so you got that ingrained into your culture. You grow up thinking you can do it, whatever happens.
Yes, that’s definitely a thing in England. There are so many music venues as well and everyone plays in a band or at least knows someone who does. This kind of appreciation, we don’t really have that here.
Ellis: There seems to be a lot of appreciation of music, though? I mean, I don’t know, I guess we only ever come to music venues (laughs)
Joe: We only know the way that we grew up with, with music. Where we’re from – Brighton – there are gigs every night, which is great. So when we play in venues in Europe where that is not the case, where there’s less gigs, it makes it more special. So I think there’s even more appreciation that stems from that.
How does your songwriting work? Do you retreat when you write songs or do you need influences from the outside world?
Charlie: When I’m writing songs I try to listen to stuff that’s not smiliar to our music at all. I don’t want to listen to Ty Segall 24/7. I try to make the influences as varied as possible .
Ellis: Yeah, our music tastes are not very smiliar to what we play. But that’s good for getting better, ‚cause we have a much broader spectrum.
Charlies: We listen to the trees and the grass and the blood flowing through our bodies. That’s the main influence of our band!
So, what are your favourite bands?
Ellis: I’ve been listening to Can a lot, recently. I absolutely adore them. It’s so interesting to listen to so many layers and textures emerging.
Charlie: I’ve been listening to „The Idiot“ by Iggy Pop at the moment, „Station to Station“ by David Bowie and Echo & the Bunnymen nonstop.
What is the best thing about music, what’s special about music?
Ellis: The primal feeling that you get from playing a gig. It’s indescribable, but the way that you can lose yourself and imagine that you’re not playing to anyone, but at the same time you are sort of bearing your soul to the crowd.
Charlie: Giving out energy to a crowd of people and then one person comes up to you and says something very specific about what you gave to them.
Ellis: You always need to go with your instinct. You should go with what you feel, what feels natural without having to talk about it.
Are there aspects of music business that scare you or is it all just a fun ride to you?
Charlie: I’m absolutely not scared of it, they should be scared of us!
Ellis: I’m terrified! Music keeps me up at night, I can’t sleep, it’s haunting.
Charlie: I mean there’s loads of terrible bullshit in the music industry. A lot of people don’t make music for the sake of creatively expressing and you can see that when you go to their gig. You can tell it’s not about the music for them, it’s about trying to be something. And that’s because of the music industry, I guess.
Ellis: Yeah, I feel like there’s a sense of feeling that you have to perform in a certain way to get somewhere. If you try to please your audience more than you try to please yourselves, then you ‚re not –
Joe: yeah, well the audiences keep bands alive. It’s about the community surrounding music that keeps a band alive, so if they can see that what you’re singing about is not genuine, then they probably won’t invest their energy as well.
Do you have some sort of stage fright though?
Ellis: Sometimes everyone gets stage fright in a sense, but it’s about the way you deal with it. There is always a feeling of slight nervousness, especially if you’re playing a busy gig. You have to turn that nervousness into excitement.
Charlie: If something’s going right, just scream at people a bit more and scare them a bit more.
How do you think music business has changed over the years? When people say ‚music was better in the 60s‘, what do you think of that?
Charlie: I don’t think there is any point in wishing you were in the 60s. It’s up to us to make music that is good for now. It’s weird, there is no genre that defines our time, it’s more of a post-modern mish mash of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Tame Impala. But there’s plenty of good stuff out there.
The only thing that maybe became worse is pop music, or charts music rather.
Ellis: 50 years of pop music is a long time. They just reached a limit and it has gotten downhill considerably.
Charlie: But there is good pop music that is not necessarily in the charts.
Ellis: I think charts has become its own genre. Pop is actually very different to what they call charts music. The new pop is charts.
Charlie: Pop is dead, we declare it!
Joe: Today was the day that pop died!
Charlie: God is dead and pop is dead!