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Rocking N Rolling with The Strums

The Strums

The Strums first popped up on our radar in 2011 when the catastrophic Queensland floods destroyed their home, inspiring Jai Sparks (vocals/guitar) and Eric Mewborn (lead guitar) to write and release their hit single 'Oh River'.

This year the boys are backing it up with the launch of their awesome second EP 'We Are A Fucking Rock N Roll Band'. This record is pure rock and roll earning the boys a spot amongst the great Aussie rock bands like Angel, Rose Tattoo and Baby Animals. We caught up with Jai Sparks to chat about the bands interesting journey and the upcoming tour...

Congratulations on the launch of the new EP We Are A Fucking Rock N Roll Band, how does it feel?

Thank you! Its very exciting to have it out 'cause we recorded it in a way that we've wanted to record since we were kids I guess. Everything is live and we're all in a room together jamming out which is how we write music so it's great to have something out that's authentic to what we are. 

How long were you guys working on this EP?

Well we were in pre-production for 3-6 months just learning how to record live without over dubbing anything, which is tricky but worth it! I think it helped us as a live band as well and helped us become tighter by learning all these little tricks from producer Caleb James. It was challenging though, we did a maximum of three takes per song so if we didn't get the song in three takes, we'd drop it. So we ended up losing one song which we kind of expected going in, we wanted continuity. 

Would you say there is a theme to We Are A Fucking Rock N Roll Band?

Yeah well we set out always wanting to be a real positive rock and roll band because to us there isn't a lot of that around that says, hey life isn't fucked, it's actually really good. For example the first single 'Rock n' Roll' is about pursuing passions and uncertainties (even if they make you broke and ruin your life) while you're young because why the fuck not? Like for us its about getting on a plane and trying to have someone on the other side of the world giving two shits about us, like that's the dream and I think it's relatable to all kinds of people and things. Fuckin' dream big and go and do it!

It was sad circumstances though that brought you together, tell me about how The Strums started off?

Yeah well what happened was that Eric and I were playing in a band called Dead Riot which was going okay but then it split and Eric and I just kind of stayed together jamming but it was the first time in my life since I was 14 that I wasn't playing in a band and doing gigs so it was a weird time. Then our house was just completely ruined in the floods and I wrote this really soft song called 'Oh River' in an attempt to turn a negative into a positive and it brought us back together so we started the band. I love The Strums, its the best group of dudes I've ever played with.

Tell me about your relationship with music, did you always want to play?

I've always really liked music but I'm the only person in my direct family that plays anything, so I wasn't surrounded by instruments or anything growing up but my parents did play a lot of music. My mum buys three albums a week and chooses them entirely based on their cover without knowing what genre of music they are. Once she bought an Eminem album by mistake! But back to your question, it was my cousin Dave who actually got me into live music. He took me to go see The Living End and it pretty much changed my life, the next day I started a band, I didn't even know how to play the guitar I just knew I wanted to. 

What is your creative process?

Its different for every song. I'm constantly writing like 2 or 3 songs a week, so i bring them to the band and see what they think. I actually have a way of testing if a song is good or not by waiting till everyone is setting up and just fucking around and then I'll start playing what I'm working on, like a riff or something, and if I get any attention its probably a good riff but if no one notices it I'll throw that one out. If you can't get the attention of your immediate friends, you're not going to pull it off! So yeah I do most of the writing of lyrics and riffs but it never really works without Eric's input, he's actually quite the musical genius and a highly trained guitarist, whereas I'm the complete opposite and am self taught but I think that balance and mutual respect makes us work really well.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard it before?

I think now we are definitely an Australian rock and roll band, and we don't really want to be anything other than that. 

So you think your sound has evolved since you started?

I think people didn't know what the fuck we were when we started! Because indie was such a big thing at the time I think people were really confused. At the beginning we read a review where someone compared us to Vampire Weekend, which is just not us at all! It was really weird. But we've definitely gone down the Aussie rock and roll road with this EP, we're embracing that because we love bands like Angels and Rose Tattoo and Baby Animals.

You guys have a few shows coming up, you must be excited? 

Yeah we have this rock and roll party coming up in a couple of weeks at The Hideaway to warm things up! We have this entire new set which we are super excited about because we like to approach our live shows as an actual show and make it entertaining. So we've completely scrapped everything from last year and just plan on coming out blazing and being completely different. Then we have this tour with Baby Animals which we are just so fucking excited about, it should be great!

Whats the craziest thing to ever happen on tour?

Once we were playing this gig at Wollongong and we came to set up and it was at this tiny cafe, we were like... are you sure this is it? Anyway we had chosen these two young local acts to play with us and we wanted to really show them how it was done so I asked our sound guy (who happened to be a rock climber) if I would die if I jumped off the roof and he said because I skated a lot I should be fine. So anyway long story short I ended up jumping out the window and running off the roof while we were playing. It was so dark no one could see me or knew what had happened and then I just came running back in with my mike and this crazy long lead like a mad man. 

Do you have a pre gig ritual?

Funnily enough we kind of do. On the very first day of our very first tour we saw Warwick Capper (!!!) at the airport and he was wearing this tie die t-shirt it was amazing. It was a really stressful day with planes being delayed and we were stressing about not getting there on time and then bloody Warwick Capper turned up out of no where and made everything better. Now we do the Mighty Ducks thing where we go, 'quack, quack, quack' but it finishes with a giant WARWICK CAPPER every time. If you listen at a show you will always here us out the back, that's what we do.

So what else can we expect from The Strums in 2014?

So this year with the Baby Animals thing we are doing a 7 inch and its like a double a side called Rock n Roll Fuck Yeah. So after that we are maybe looking at doing a little New Zealand tour which would be epic with some new bands we've met recently. There will be a national tour around the EP but I dare say we'll be heading to New Zealand as well We just plan to tour as much as we possibly can!


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