It’s been an odd road to success for STRFKR. Started as a solo project for now-frontman Joshua Hodges, the band was never aiming for a hit. In fact, as Hodges put it, STRFKR was designed in direct opposition to the music scene as a whole.
“I started this other band for a while. and it was just really boring,” Hodges recalled via phone from his Portland home. “I just quit and kind of gave up on music, and that’s why I started STRFKR; I was thinking it wouldn’t be anything serious and that I would never tour. It was kind of just to entertain myself.”
Fittingly, the anti-establishment music maker struck a chord with his Portland cohorts, and quickly moved from solo house shows to full-blown band status. Armed with an arsenal of synths, an over-the-top stage show, and a penchant for earwormy hooks, Hodges’s STRFKR quickly became PDX’s “one to watch.” A few disagreements about namesakes—and abandoned name changes—later, and the quartet is riding high, signed to one of the more notable indie labels in the country, Polyvinyl Record Co., and touting an infectious sophomore release, Reptilians.
On album number two, STRFKR appear to have come into their own, graciously taking their place among the Passion Pits and MGMTs of the world at times and separating themselves entirely at others. Jubilant keyboard lines and buoyant guitar tones run rampant, but they come paired with spacey samples, psychedelic undertones, and a few well-placed Alan Watts recordings, all clustered under an album title born of sci-fi curiosity.
“There’s this whole conspiracy theory about reptilians, that they’re this ruling invisible collective alien race,” laughed Hodges. “[It says] that basically all of the world leaders are somehow related to that, or something.” In particular, though, it’s Hodges’s moody, oftentimes dark lyricism that sets Reptilians apart (sample song titles include “Bury Us Alive” and “Death as a Fetish”), making it the ultimate dichotomy of upbeat and sinister songwriting.
“It’s always kind of been my intention to do that with STRFKR, to make music that can be fun live and listenable in the way pop songs are, but also have the lyrics be about stuff that’s interesting to me, like the end of the world and death,” Hodges explained. “For Reptilians, my grandmother died not long before I started writing that stuff, and my grandfather just died. I think watching him and getting closer to death—there’s a song specifically about that on this album.”
Of course, the albums are but part of the STRFKR backstory. As anyone that’s seen them live will attest, this is a band best caught in the act. Fueled by Hodges’s house-party–bound start, the band has become known for its energetic sets—as well as its fair share of onstage antics. “We used to wear drag, which we don’t really do anymore,” laughed Hodges. “For this tour, we’re putting together some video stuff, and we have some new musicians. It’s fun to do that, to try things in different ways. … One of the bands I think of as being influential is Spiritualized because they just didn’t move at all. They looked like statues for the whole show, and it was just, like, totally amazing to me. I think if people are being genuine and having fun doing whatever it is that they do, it becomes contagious—or I appreciate it, at least.”
It’s a theory Hodges holds tightly to, and it seems to be working. STRFKR heads out on their second national tour this year in just less than a week. (Their first stop is SOhO on Wednesday, August 10.) And, according to folks in the know, it’s likely to be the dance party of the summer.
STRFKR plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Wednesday, August 10, at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets.