NXNE: Ten Questions with La Strada

We were lucky enough to have La Strada play the Rancho Relaxo recently, and Torontonians were foolish enough to not come out in droves. The band just got some love from i(heart)music, and they’re playing NXNE later this month, so hopefully that soon changes. But as they told us themselves — and as you can read about below — La Strada’s relationship with Canada has been developing for a while now.

1. Which bands are you looking forward to catching at NXNE?

Zeus Zeus Zeus. Some of us saw them live at SXSW and were really really impressed. Can’t wait to see those fellas again.2. Tell us a bit about your most recent album?

Thirteen tracks. A live feel. Not too produced. The album is comprised of basically our best songs within a two-year period. We recorded it in Philadelphia and Queens. We got to sleep downstairs and record upstairs. I was so short on cash that I ate our producer’s Lara Bars when he was at the restaurant. That part kind of sucked but it made for a good album. I sent him a box once I made some money.

3. I see that you played your album release show in Brooklyn with some Canadian bands, Yukon Blonde and Cuff the Duke how did that get arranged?

Well, we’re friends with Cuff the Duke — they were awesome enough to invite us to their CD release at the Horseshoe last October. We had a great time and insisted they play with us in Brooklyn. It was awesome. In fact, I’m seeing them in Manhattan tonight open up for Blue Rodeo. Looking forward to hearing Blue Rodeo too, I’ve heard a lot of great things about those guys. Yukon Blonde was coming through town and managers got in touch. That was a real treat as they are a fantastic sounding band.

4. In fact, you have toured eastern Canada with Hey Rosetta! — did you notice any Canadian quirks in your travels?

Quirks…hmmmmm…some of the road signs threw us off; like there was this one with a question mark and arrows. And this whole thing about how people use the word shit in the way Americans use fuck. That was a thought. And the blizzard in Halifax stranded us for a few days — but that was awesome. No lasting quirks — just very refreshing differences: the space, the silence, and less ads and media coming at you.

5. What made you choose to spend so much time in Canada?

We’ve get a lot of love up here. It just makes sense playing up here. Our music seems to resonate with people. So we’re just running with that. We also love leaving the country and touring in new environments; it’s really really fun. So we’re running with it!

6. There has been a recent movement away from the traditional rock band set-up, as demonstrated by bands like Beirut or Yeasayer. How does your band fit into that landscape?

Well, the fact that we have a cello, a violin, an accordion answers your question there. We’ve always wanted more than what the four-piece can offer. Six is a minimum for us. That’s just how it is.

7. What is the recording process like for your band? I read in your blog that you hired an orchestra and then chose not to use it?

Well the recording process changes with each album. For New Home, we wanted to keep it simple. So we kept the strings to a trio, and occasionally added trumpet and trombone. Other than that, we recorded in groups — drums, bass and guitar together, background vocals tracked together, strings tracked together. We had been playing those songs for a long time so we knocked it out in 10 days. Provided the size of the album, we felt like that was a quickie.

8. Your songs are very lyrically interesting; can you tell me about some of your literary influences?

Well, I don’t know if this translates but stream of conscious writing has always been very influential — Joyce and Woolf for one. So has simple modernist prose — like Steinback and Hemingway. But that’s just me. As the music goes, I was inspired by the power of images and symbols in Greek myths in the earlier songs. The later ones…well it all just jumbles together. It’s hard to figure out influences with the latest tunes, but I’d say I’ve been influenced by modern music more — catch phrases, that sort of thing.

9. Brooklyn is, of course, becoming well-known for its music scene — what was it like growing up as a band in Brooklyn? Are you still strongly connected to the scene there?

Brooklyn is integral to who we are as a band. We all met here. Some of us are neighbors. We walk past the Dominicans, the Orthodox Jews, the African American enclaves to get to our little apartments and rehearsal space. This is a big influence on who we are as a band — the wild, cosmopolitan nature of Brooklyn, of Williamsburg; it’s fresh in that way — so many different cultures all rubbing elbows. There’s nothing stagnant about it in any way. As music goes…yeah…many many many bands. A sea of countless bands that you get when you want to. Like I can go see Gypsy Brass and African Pop and sweet-ass music from Zanzibar whenever I want. We’ve befriended a lot of like-minded Indie bands and have enjoyed that. As our sound goes I don’t think we’re consciously part of any multi-group effort to push or develop a sound, but I hope we are. It’s always fun being part of something unconsciously.

10. You draw your band name from the title of a Fellini film — what made you choose that name?

Well we were struggling with a name. Like one guy would come up with something he liked and all but one would like it. So it would get canceled out and we’d keep searching. Daniel and I were facing off in a cafe once, just spouting out names. It was a naming battle, but a casuality-heavy draw. Then Devon hit on some Fellini names. Like Cabiria, which was already taken. But that had enticed us to Fellini. And then we found La Strada. It had a great ring to it, and was fun to shout and the movie was awesome and besides, it just means The Road which is pretty cool. So we said YES!

La Strada are playing at the Drake Hotel Underground on Friday June 18 at 10PM for NXNE.

Photo by Terri Coles

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