Get To Know: 10 Questions with Phillip Strange of Evilyn Strange
Evilyn Strange was a name that was unfamiliar to me, as it likely is to most of you, before founder and frontman Phillip Strange started following my site, contacted me and sent me a track from his band. Since that time we have had a few conversations and I can say that he is a genuinely nice guy that loves music and just want to share his passion with the world.
In our talks he mentioned the difficulty of trying to get the band and their music out there to a broader audience with not being a signed band. Having just recently done an interview with another up-and-comer in the same situation I spoke with Phillip about doing another Get To Know interview. He kindly agreed and the following interview transpired.
MMR: Phillip, thank you for taking this time with me. So, you have a band, Evilyn Strange. Tell us a bit about you guys? Where you are from, when you started, etc.
PS: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about our music David. We’re an Anglo/Swedish trio. We first got together in 1996 during the Hard Rock backlash, when even the so called rock press mocked bands with long hair and guitar solos. Mike was based in London and my bro Al and I were in South Yorkshire. We self funded our debut album in ’97 and immediately got picked up by an indie label. Unfortunately things turned a bit sour and we eventually parted on mutual terms two years later, having not released anything. That whole period was almost the end of us. We soldiered on for a few years but Mike returned home to Sweden in 2002. We recorded with other players, and I even took on guitar duties, but it petered out around 2005. In 2009 I came up with a guitar riff that became ‘The Ballad Of Evilyn Strange’, which kickstarted us out of retirement!
MMR: Well congratulations to you guys for soldiering on through all of the crap and finally getting your music out! That alone is to be applauded.
Now you have one full length album, ‘Mourning Phoebe’, and one EP, ‘Evilution’. Tell us a bit about these releases and what one can expect from them.
PS: ‘Mourning Phoebe’ is my brother’s final statement as a writer. I co-wrote all the songs with him over a two year period, rehearsing for a solid six months (I originally intended to record the guitars myself). I even recorded rhythm guitar tracks which Mike later replaced. Once he was onboard I concentrated on bass guitar and vocals.
The album took a year to record as we wanted it to be as perfect as our limited finances could afford. Also, we could only really do weekends here and there as we have jobs and families. So a year sounds a long time but it wasn’t all that long if you count the days we actually spent in the studio. We used Oscillate Studios up in Manchester, owned by Chris Hughes. We’d worked with Chris before so it was pretty smooth from that point of view.
‘Mourning Phoebe’ is the last album to feature my brother’s backing vocals too. For twenty odd years this was a large part of our sound so it was the end of an era for me as a writer and performer. As a listener you can expect rock and metal influences spanning from the 60’s to the early 90’s. The 80’s were a massive influence as that was the decade of our teen years.
‘Evilution’ is a different beast altogether. Mike and I decided to plough ahead, inspired by ‘Mourning Phoebe’. All five songs on the EP were written by Mike and myself, with The Ghost handling drums and keyboards. This gives the band a new personality; but there’s still a link between our two releases because of my input and Mike’s wonderful guitar playing. I would say we have a heavier sound on ‘Evilution’, although tracks such as ‘Stay’ or ‘Never’, could easily sit on the ‘Mourning Phoebe’ album.
MMR: Yeah, I can definitely hear a heavier vibe with ‘Evilution’ but, as you pointed out, it is still very much in line with the songs from ‘Mourning Phoebe’.
So how long have you been performing music?
PS: I’ve been doing this since 1993. The other lads have been at it longer though, so I’m the baby of the group in that respect.
MMR: Who are your musical influences and more specifically in regards to your music?
PS: I was brought up on The Beatles, Slade, Queen and Foreigner. The Eighties saw me discovering a whole host of music including Dio, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Whitesnake, Badlands, Ozzy, Bon Jovi, Heart, TNT and House Of Lords. I would say the eighties have had a massive influence on me melodically. The 90’s were pretty barren for me although Hardline, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden all had wonderful vocalists.
MMR: Well you know I am a huge fan of the 80’s so many of those bands certainly resonate with me! Not a shabby collection of influences at all.
So what would you say are the challenges you face as an unsigned, relatively unknown band?
PS: The challenges for us are getting people to know we exist. This has been made a little more complicated by the fact Mike is based in Sweden. We can’t just do a gig at short notice. The loss of my brother has been a challenge but one we have risen to. When I mention the loss of my brother I mean loss of his input, he isn’t dead!
MMR: Well good news on your brother still being with you! And yes, I have heard many times that getting music out to the world is the hard part. Something I am trying to help bands and artists like you out with as much as I am able. It is easier these days what with the internet and all, but quite frankly, if people don’t know you then 90% of the time they won’t bother clicking on that link to hear the song on YouTube or some such web vehicle.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
PS: First and foremost I just want people to enjoy what we do. I hope our music affects people in a positive way.
MMR: Now you are currently working on a new record, if I am not mistaken. What can we expect from this new album?
PS: This will be the first full album written and produced by myself and Mike. I haven’t played bass on this one as Mike has kindly taken on all guitars. Keyboards and drums are handled by The Ghost, a man who wants no recognition and shuns all publicity. I guess that’s the strange side of this band catered for!
Style wise there are a whole host of hard rock and metal styles. You have to remember that our main motivation is to make music we enjoy. We don’t want fame or a record deal which gives us total freedom to create music we like. When we set out to do this we were so ‘uncool’ it was ridiculous. Nothing has changed in that respect so we don’t waste time worrying about it.
MMR: Well at the end of the day if you are not making the music that you want and love then what is the point? Whether you are a nobody in the music world or a huge rockstar, the day you sell out and try to make what you think other people want to hear instead of what you want to write will be the day that you stop enjoying what you are doing.
If you had to give one song that represented your band and their sound the best which track would that be and why?
PS: I would say ‘The Ballad Of Evilyn Strange’. It has nice mix of heavy riffage under melodic vocals. Without that song I wouldn’t even be answering these questions.
MMR: What inspires your music and writing and what is that writing process like for you?
PS: For me it’s the day to day joys and challenges of life. I’m also inspired by the plight or achievements of others. Anything and everything really can trigger a lyric or theme. It’s my way of making sense of this crazy world we live in. Everyone needs to have an outlet and singing/writing songs is mine.
MMR: So once again, thank you for your time, Phillip and I wish you the absolute best of luck with your music! Last question, you have one full length album out, an EP out and another record on the way. You have a full time job, a family and are not signed to a record label. What keeps you making music through all of the hardships and expenses that come with trying to make music these days, especially as a little known band?
PS: Well, our original goal was quite naive as we wanted to save the hard rock genre, ha, ha! We were so annoyed that nobody was making the music we loved anymore. All the rockers were cutting their hair and listening to Britpop or grunge; clubs and pubs stopped playing hard rock. We went the other way as we were stubborn buggers.
In hindsight we could’ve made a bit of money by contriving our music, but what’s the point? Our sole driving force has been a love of the music that inspired us as youngsters. To this day, I can put on the Whitesnake ’87 album or The Cult’s ‘Sonic Temple’ and still get a buzz. The day I stop enjoying it is the day I will stop. Until then I’ll keep polluting the internet with my voice, ha, ha!
Click here to see the audio video for the song ‘Invisible Man’ off of the ‘Evilution’ EP.
To follow the band click here to find their Facebook page.