Interview: Estrangers leader talks new Sunmelt EP
The first time I heard Winston-Salem’s Estrangers, I was immediately struck by their savvy pop-rock approach. I also couldn’t help thinking of another ramshackle, heartbroken N.C. outfit. Black Ballroom, Estrangers’ 2011 LP debut, swells with reverb-drenched guitar squall and crescendos on furious throw-back rhythms – much like the two LPs already credited to Raleigh’s Love Language. But a young outfit is easily forgiven for emulating their peers, and with the new Sunmelt EP, leader Philip Pledger proves he is no copycat. Available for free download on the ensemble’s Bandcamp page, Sunmelt is a bright and blissed-out psych pop experiment where elements bleed and contort in sun-soaked bliss. Utilizing a more adventurous sonic palate while maintaining his knack for polished pop hooks, these four gems are Pledger’s most promising songs to date. Shuffle’s Jordan Lawrence caught up with Pledger to ask him about the record and check in on Estrangers’ progress.
Shuffle: It’s only been a few months since Black Ballroom. Why did you feel you needed another release?
Philip Pledger: I tend to get kind of antsy and down about things if I’m not working on any new music. Black Ballroom was released in November, but even by December I was trying to stay active in writing new material, so this EP was kind of just a product of the past couple months of writing and messing around in Garageband.
Shuffle: As is indicated by the title, these tracks have a sun-baked psychedelic vibe that’s different from the LP. Why did you want to explore that?
PP: Recording Black Ballroom to analog tape was a lot of fun and a totally new experience, and the limitations of 8-track helped focus that recording process, but it’s been fun exploring the editing options digital recording can offer. Recently I’ve been more interested in keyboards (even though I can’t play them well at all), and on these songs it was fun to explore some of the dreamier keyboard sounds, which made it fun when it was time to record guitar. Recording in your house/practice space is also more relaxed, even on a subconscious level. Once we had a decent digital mix, we mixed it down to cassette tape which helped give it that warm psychedelic vibe. Really I just wanted to get a little weirder with how it sounded, even if they’re still basically straight up pop songs.
Shuffle: The descriptions says these are demos. Planning to re-record them?
PP: I’d like to give at least a couple of these a proper recording, though it would be cool to still preserve the overall warm vibe of the demo versions.
Shuffle: Is this EP indicative of a new direction, or is it a left-field experiment?
PP: Pat (Sheehan)’s a really good drummer, so in the future I’d like to make sure people can hear the details of what he’s doing. But I think future recordings will probably be more expansive sound-wise, along the lines of this EP but with more fidelity. I’ll always be a guitarist, but I’d like to incorporate synthesizers and keys more. Who knows, maybe we’ll get into writing some more aggressive songs.
Shuffle: Do you have any other releases in the works?
PP: There are a couple more hazy synth-driven songs I’d like to release as digital singles this summer, and we’ll be recording a song for the next Krankies compilation due in August as well. Then I guess it will be time to do a full-length. I’ve never had a song get put on vinyl before, so that would be cool to do at some point too.