EverBank America’s Winter Opening begins Dec. 1 with Strange Americans concert
BEAVER CREEK — “There needs to be a third understanding of ‘classic rock,’ one that describes rock music made today that has a classic sound. Perhaps we could call it ‘neo-classic rock.’ Denver’s Strange Americans would fit comfortably under this label.”
These words from the Denver Post describe a band that’s carved out a niche in the Denver music scene, having been named Denver’s Best Rock-Roots Band by Westword magazine in 2013 by playing “the kind of music that the Carhartt-wearing, hard-working, industrial beer-drinking, regular Americans would listen to” (Marquee Magazine).
The Strange Americans bring that sound to the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Thursday, Dec. 1, as part of the EverBank America’s Winter Opening celebration. The Vail Daily chatted with Matt Hoffman, songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar, to learn more about the band’s origins and evolution.
VAIL DAILY: How did the Strange Americans come to be?
MATT HOFFMAN: It pretty much came together over Craigslist here in Denver, and that was around 2009. I had been looking for some people to play music with and play some of my songs with. I put out an ad and went through a lot of people and eventually met Trent Nelson.
VD: What does that sort of Craigslist ad look like?
HOFFMAN: “Here are a couple of my songs. I’m looking for a guitar player or a co-writer. Let’s meet up and chat.” What we normally do is get a beer first and make sure you can be in the same room with that person for a little bit and then kind of go from there, do a jam session and see if it clicks.
VD: How would you describe your sound? What influences it, and what sets it apart from the current mainstream radio fare?
HOFFMAN: I think we listen to a lot of different music and we would probably consider ourselves rock ’n’ roll Americana with a pretty open mind to being experimental and trying different things. When people listen to our music and it gets reviewed, it comes out as blue-collar rock ’n’ roll or Americana rock ’n’ roll.
I think there are a number of bands kind of doing this type of stuff right now. I think just like any band, your background and your influences show up in the music you’re playing, so we have a unique stamp in that way, in as far as having these five guys and a project together. It’s a unique combination.
VD: How did that sound evolve through your first two releases, “A Royal Battle” (2012) and “That Kind of Luster” (2014), and into your newest project, the yet-to-be completed “Borrow You, Brother”?
HOFFMAN: It’s definitely changed. On the one hand, there’s probably a certain experience that we’d like to think that we’re continually getting as we go through the motions of writing, arranging, recording, playing live, running the business side and all of this stuff. We started out a little less consistent in our sound, and we sort of know more what we want. We know when a song idea is going to work for us and when it’s not.
The first EP we released was probably inconsistent. There might be a real Americana, folksy-sounding song, and the next one might be weird or synth-y and the next one might not be like either of those. We’ve weaved all those elements together and it’s a little bit more controlled. …
It’s hard to say one thing about how the music’s changed. I think each record has had it’s own kind of vibe. Our 2012 release, “A Royal Battle,” was a more acoustic-driven Americana sound. “That Kind of Luster” was kind of the opposite of that, very electric, loud guitars, loud amps. The one that’s unfinished right now is “Borrow You, Brother.” It’s a little bit more delicate than “That Kind of Luster,” but it’s maturing into a sound that’s going to be more consistent as we go along, in terms of instrumentation and things like that.
VD: Tell me about “Borrow You, Brother.” What’s the timeline like for that release?
HOFFMAN: The timeline is pretty rough right now. It’ll probably be late spring or early summer 2017 for that one. We know one of the singles is going to be the first track on the album, which is called “No Punches,” and we’re still kind of deliberating on a second emphasis track.
VD: What’s the album like lyrically? How did these various themes emerge?
HOFFMAN: There are a few themes that unify the new record. A lot of the lyrics have to do with things like income and wealth and equality — that’s probably the biggest theme throughout the record. There’s also a money piece and a debt and borrowing, a materialism piece to it, as well.
For me — and I didn’t write all of the lyrics on this record, but I wrote a good percentage of them — I’ve been to college and grad school and I’ve kind of taken on debt and tried to be homeowner, and now trying to start a family, I had some challenges along the way, and some of theme were financial, monetary, some were cultural, social, trying to live the most honest and authentic life that you can. In the last handful of years, those have been things I’ve worked on in my own life and figured out how to deal with them head on and take the path that I need to take.
There are a couple of tracks that are maybe a little bit more lighthearted, but a good part of them are really calling into question some materialism and wealth and inequality and things like that.
VD: What are you looking forward to about the show in Beaver Creek?
HOFFMAN: We’ve seen the theater and it looked amazing. We’re exited to pay the venue, and it seems like a great celebration, seems like a lot of cool events going on, a lot of cool other music, a lot of other activities like beer drinking that we’re excited about. Too bad the races are canceled, with the snow, but we’re hoping it will still be a pretty fun time up there.