Ten years ago, Portland band STRFKR broke into the mainstream with their debut album “Starfucker,” featuring the massive single “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second.” Since, STRFKR has released four albums full of indie-rock, electro-dance, neo-psychedelia bops.
In 2017, they released the “Vault series,” a collection of unreleased material spanning three albums. The band originally began as a solo project by Josh Hodges who still writes all the songs. I was able to speak to Hodges in the days before launching their nation-wide tour, including a stop in Reno on Jan. 21.
How do you feel to be starting this tour?
Excited. I think it will be fun. We’re doing a bunch of songs we haven’t played before.
What new songs are you playing?
We’re playing some we’ve just never recorded, some songs from the vault that we’ve never played live since the very beginning when I first started playing. Some songs from “Miracle Mile” we’ve never really played live until this tour. Some stuff people have asked us to play before but we didn’t really know how to play … but this time, we had enough time off between these tours that we kind of made ourselves do it.
I’ve always wondered what goes into an artist choosing a setlist for a tour.
We usually try to do a balance of all the albums or new songs we feel like we have to play that people really want to hear. We also try to think about just creating a good live show. We’ll have a slow section and then have a dance section … Also part of it is we just have a pretty big catalogue to choose from now. Some of it is just changing it up for ourselves, so we’re not just playing the same set for a long time.
Do you prefer recording or performing live?
I definitely prefer recording. It’s the fun part for me. Sitting in a room and just creating something and messing around with instruments.
So you don’t have fun performing?
I do have fun performing but not the same kind of fun. All that stuff has already been written. It’s fun to show it to people I guess in that way but it’s a totally different thing than creating something new.
What’s your favorite part about touring?
I don’t know. Getting to see new places I guess. We just went to Asia not that long ago. It was really stressful and exhausting but there was some really amazing parts too. We had a day off at the very end of the tour in Thailand which was really amazing to kind of decompress for one day there. It’s all the people too. Seeing a new place is half of what’s cool about it, it’s also meeting all the new people. That’s probably why that trip was good; we met some really nice and interesting people.
What’s your least favorite part about touring?
Being away from people. When I first started touring a lot, all of my friendships kind of suffered and they still have. I’m not away from home nearly as much anymore but I used to be gone half the year and I’m not good at keeping up on social media with people and texting and stuff. So not being able to see people as much as I used to. It’s not a very healthy lifestyle either: not sleeping enough, always being around drinking, not being in control of what food is available to you and all that kind of shit.
What sort of preparation goes into tours like this?
A lot of stuff. Before the holidays, we were at our practice space every day learning all the new songs and getting everything ready. Then also we have a pretty elaborate light show. So we have to design all that and then program all it ourselves. It was a lot of work. These couple days that we’re in right now is our time to relax a little bit, but we have to start getting ready in the next couple days.
Can you talk about the production value you put into your live shows?
Keil, the drummer, he had this idea to have an LED ball made and then we had friends in Portland design it and put it together. It kind of looks like a light bright and it has different panels and it’s made out of greenhouse siding and LED runs through it. It’s run on the computer on a program they designed … And also we have a projector we use sometimes and we use DMX lights that sync up. So we just bring our own actual lights and then they can sync them to everything. It’s pretty cool. Keil does most of that, and he showed Shawn how to help with some of that programming. It’s nice because for a while we just relied on whoever the venue light person was. It’s much better to have control over it yourself. Instead of telling them “hey how about this song be dark” and they don’t even know our set. They’re not going to get it right.
How did you pick Reptaliens as your opener?
We toured with them before. And Cole, one of the two main people in that band … we’ve known for a while. Cole used to be in another band we played with in Portland. They’re roommates with some of the guys in our crew. And they’re really great people. It’s always good to really like the people you’re touring with just as people in addition to the music. It’s pretty important for us, we always try to keep the vibe good. We never have people on the tour who are going to be assholes or be weird.
Have you ever toured with any unpleasant people?
Yes. Definitely. But probably way more early on and we just dealt with that really quickly. Just learned from it and tried not to do it again.
Can you explain the process of the vault volumes?
That computer … God, it’s crazy, it’s so old, I was just reading an old interview I did years ago for another solo project and I used that same computer to record it. It was just old, someone had donated it to me when I was super poor back in the day. It was dying … I didn’t even know all the songs were on there I just started listening through and I was like “man, these are all my demos that would maybe turn into songs someday … I’m never going to turn them into songs and I’m pretty sure this computer is going to stop turning on so I’ll just get them all off here and figure out what to do with them.” So I just thought it would be better to release them even if just a few fans liked that stuff rather than just let them all die.
When do you think we’ll get a new album?
I don’t know. The last one just came out last year so I’ll probably wait a little while until at least the end of this year or maybe next year. We’re planning on recording some of our shows on the tour and doing a live album. And we recorded some of our live stuff just in a studio and we’re planning on releasing one or both of those this year. I’ve been working on this other stuff too. I haven’t thought about starting any new stuff for the record.
What other stuff are you working on?
I’m working on an R&B album. I probably won’t release that as STRFKR though.
What’s your songwriting process like?
Just sit in a little room and dick around with stuff until I find something I like.
Are there any artists or producers you want to collaborate with?
I rarely collaborate. I would just like to collaborate more in general, just more of a personal challenge because it’s uncomfortable for me. So I think it’s a good thing to do. I’m already planning on doing some of that this year. Just not my natural style but I think it would be good for me.
What music have you been listening to lately?
I like the new Wand album. I think the Reptaliens albums is good. The Bitchin’ Bajas have a new album. That John Maus album is good. That new Sharon Jones album from last year is good. The new King Krule is really good.
How do you relax?
I play board games with my friends. I play basketball. I’m going to go see some stand-up comedy tonight.
What kind of board games do you like?
We try all kinds of stuff. Codenames was one that was fun recently. Telestrations. It depends on the group. You can play longer, strategy-based game in a small group then there are games for bigger groups, like Taboo. I prefer the longer games, like Settlers of Catan.
How do you feel about Reno?
It’s a pretty city. We’ve played there a few times. I have friends who are from there. I really like mountains near there, it’s really pretty … It’s nice: high desert, cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
How was your New Year’s show in Portland?
It was fun. I’m from Portland. It was nice for me because it feels like home. We did two shows there. It was cool because they were both full of friends and family and so many people I love. It was a good feeling.
How does it make you feel that STRFKR is a decade old?
It makes me feel lucky that I’ve been able to do this for so long. One thing we’re planning on doing is later this year a ten-year-anniversary mini tour just of the cities that were really supportive in the beginning and play the first album all the way through.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
I usually look forward to seeing my cat when I’m coming home from tour. It’ll be really nice to see him.
What’s your cats name?
Tickets for the STRFKR Reno show are available on the Cargo Concert Hall website.