We had the chance to talk to Kieran Strange about the new album that is about to drop tomorrow actually entitled Last Hero Standing. Kieran is a anime, comic con loving person that creates some really amazing music. Kieran’s music will have you bopping around the house while you do some house cleaning and will defiantly have you singing along. Its catchy, its poppy with just enough “grit” to not be totally polished. We loved listening to the EP over and over again and so will you. Go buy it now!!!! First though read the interview!
-First off I want to say I really love your music. Its poppy punk style music is one of my guilty pleasures and you sound just phenomenal. It has that slick pop punk sound but your voice has just enough grit in it that you really sense the emotion in the lyrics.
Aww, thank you!!! That really actually means a lot to me. I’ve worked with a lot of producers and songwriters over the years (and my vocal coach – discovering your “own voice” and not “trying to sound like someone else” is ridiculously tough!), and I feel like I’m finally starting to uncover my own personal style, so I’m glad you like it!
-How and when did you decide that music was the passion you wanted to pursue?
I’ve always loved music and performing. I had my first “band” when I was three with the neighbours’ kid; my parents always encouraged our creativity so we had little toy drums and guitars and stuff, and we wrote our own songs and made our parents sit on the lawn in my garden so we could perform for them. I was never without a “band” or “singing group” when I was little, until I hit thirteen and all of the anxieties and BS of being a teenager hit me. I decided it was a pipe dream and I needed to focus on my studies (I was an all-A student, so there was a lot of pressure to go to college and university and embark on a big fancy career), so I dropped it. Then when I visited some friends in Canada before I moved out here, we went to a My Chemical Romance gig (when they were just starting the Black Parade circuit) and everything I loved about music and performing and the stage just came rushing back to me. I remember turning to my friends in the pit and just saying, “Guys, I wanna do this. Somebody stop me from making a stupid decision.” And nobody did.
-You have a new EP coming out “Last Hero Standing” What was some of the inspiration behind the songs on this EP?
I wrote most of the EP with Steve Kravac in California, and he really focused on digging deep into my soul and getting the truth out. I’d previously worked with a couple of people in the industry who were focused on everything from a marketing perspective, but Steve just wanted me to write what was in my heart. Reckless was about some of the drama and idiocy I was dealing with back home at the time; that song has been a bittersweet pill since I wrote it, I like to blast it and sing along every time I need a reminder that we don’t need to take people’s crap. It’s one of my favourite songs on the EP because I wrote it at that point in my life where I realized I didn’t have to put up with being a doormat anymore. Teeth was probably the hardest one to write and record, mostly because of the emotion attached to it; it’s about no longer being afraid to speak out and be honest about who you love, rather than hiding your relationship to protect someone. I wrote it with the LGBTQ+ community strongly in mind, and the first time we played it back and I got to hear it all put together, I sobbed the entire way through from about the first chorus.
-Do you find you write better songs when you are in a good place or a bad place in your life?
It really depends. Most of the time when I go on what I call a “writing binge” (where I just sit with my phone, laptop, or notebook and churn out tonnes of phrases and words that relate to how I feel nonstop for hours), it’s because I’m in pain and it’s my method of letting it out and putting into words how I feel. I’m awful with communicating my emotions and feelings, but music and lyrics are able to give me that voice. Recklessstarted off being an angrier, more negative song, and then as I got ahold of myself and was able to pull myself out of the depression, it became more empowering. I like pulling a lot of inspiration from movies and my roleplaying games/characters too, so even if I’m in a really good place, there’s lots of emotion there to inspire me.
-Who are some of your heroes and what in your opinion makes a hero?
A hero, in my opinion, is someone who puts others first and jeopardizes their own safety to help others with no regard for personal gain. Someone who is willing and able to fight and pave the way for others, even if they don’t have much strength. Someone who has pulled through all of the crap life throws at them, and come out on top powerful and undefeated. Anyone can be a hero! There are so many people I look up to in life as my own personal heroes, like people who are making or have made a difference socially (Emma Watson, Martin Luther King Jr., Patrick Stewart, J. K. Rowling), to people in my life I see constantly fighting their way upward regardless of the opposition. So many of my #Strangers are my heroes.
-What was it like working with Ben Kaplan (Mother Mother, Hedley, Gallows, Ten Second Epic)? Did he push you in any unexpected/unexplored directions musically?
One thing I loved about Ben was that he was really open to suggestions. If there was something I wasn’t happy or comfortable with, he was willing and able to tweak it until it sounded more “like me”. He definitely brought a grungier, more guitar-driven aspect to the EP, which was what I’d been feeling in my gut when I wrote the songs, and I was really happy with how my emotion was translated into the music.
-With people like Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! coming out as a transgendered person, do you think it’s important to bring awareness and understanding through your music? One of the best examples is your video Tear Down The Wall.
Oh, thank you! And definitely. Transgenderism is still something that a lot of people are ignorant about, quite often through no fault of their own. People like Laura Jane Grace and Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender brings to the mainstream media a very real issue people are suffering through all over the world, and honestly I commend them on their bravery. Coming out as trans in this day and age seems even scarier and harder than coming out as gay, especially with MTF women because “a man dressing as/trying to be a woman” is shamed and looked down upon so much in society, because feminizing yourself “makes you weak”. I have a lot of transgender friends who aren’t ready to come out publicly yet because, quite frankly, they’re absolutely terrified of the way their friends and family will react to it. I was lucky enough growing up that I had incredibly understanding parents, and whenever I confided in them, they did their best to support me and not to judge me in any way, so I never had that fear that my family wouldn’t accept me. It’s a privilege I didn’t even realize I had until I met people whose family weren’t quite so understanding and accepting. The fact that it’s the twenty-first century and we still have people who think “being gay is a sin” and “transexuals are just mentally twisted/sick” is absolutely horrifying to me, and as a musician (like actors and authors and other people in the public eye) I have a small amount of power that I can use to let people know there’s a weird British chick out there who supports them wholeheartedly, even if their family or friends don’t. I would rather put my arse on the line and receive all the criticism and hate, but know that there might be someone out there who hears the message and receives some comfort from knowing that they aren’t alone.
-Music being obviously a huge passion you also have another huge passion cosplay and anime. You love to go to comic cons around the world right?
Yes!! Comic cons and anime cons are some of the gigs I really, really look forward to all year. There’s something intoxicating about being around other nerds who all share the same passions as you do, in a safe space where you won’t be shamed or humiliated for being a dork. The community has a fairly firm no tolerance policy for bullying, body shaming, racism, violence, anti-LGBTQ*, and other things we face in our daily lives, and its members have taken to standing up for one another when they see this bullying happening, which is a beautiful thing.
-What are some of your favourites and why?
I’ve gotten to go to some really incredible conventions over the past few years, I couldn’t even name them all. But some of the ones that have really stood out for me are San Japan (San Antonio, TX), Otafest (Calgary, AB), Youmacon (Detroit, MI), and Kumoricon (Vancouver, WA). I get to go to some really big ones this year, such as ACen in Chicago and New York Comic Con, so I’m both stupidly excited and terrified for those!
-Also what got you into that whole world and how do you let it if at all influence your music?
Ever since I was first allowed to play Sonic 2 on my friend’s Mega Drive system (Genesis to you North Americans) when I was five years old, I’ve been into gaming and other “nerdy” passtimes. I spend so much time with my brother gaming as a kid that my mum imposed a “no video games on Mondays or Thursdays” rule so that we could actually see each other, ha ha. I wrote a lot of fantasy/supernatural fiction and drew a lot of fan art, and then when I was in my early teens I started cosplaying by putting together things from my closet or thrift stores, or attempting to hand-sew things out of bedsheets. When I first started on my musical journey, I was really afraid of being judged for all of that, so I removed my cosplays from the Internet and hoped no one would ever find them. Then I realized that I was hiding a huge part of who I was, and stopped being afraid. I figured that anyone who was going to judge me for the things I’m a fan of and how I choose to express my creativity wasn’t worth having in my life. Because life’s not about hiding and living in fear!
-You moved to Canada from the UK when you were very young. What was the biggest adjustment to your life when you made the move? What (if any) are some of the things you miss about the UK?
You wouldn’t think there’s a huge culture shock moving from one English-speaking country to another, but there really is. All I can really compare it to is it was like walking into the world of movies or television; all of those little oddities that seem so “American” to a Brit (such as your pancakes, huge roads, metres upon metres of snow, palm trees and cacti, “dollars”, ketchup chips, driving on the other side of the road, and OMG the awesome accents!) really threw me for a loop. It was the things I’d only ever seen in movies before, really small things but things that totally make you go, “Wait, people actually HAVE those!?” Like fire hydrants and those very mailbox-looking mailboxes. The language was (and still is) a rather hilarious roadblock at times, I’ll say something or use a word or phrase that people here have no idea what it means, and vice versa. One time I spilled a glass of red wine on my carpet, and I was freaking out at my friend who was in my kitchen to “BRING ME SOME KITCHEN ROLL, QUICK!” and they stood in the doorway of the kitchen and had no idea what I was talking about. On a less hilarious note, I get a lot of homesickness and I’ve missed out on a lot of things back home, such as births, deaths, weddings, and other milestones in my family, which can be really hard to deal with. As for the things I miss? The television and the snack food, especially crisps and chocolate. Ungh… I want Hula Hoops right now.
-I have read that you say you are gender fluid. When did you first kind of realize that about yourself? What does it mean to you to be gender neutral?
I’ve always sort of known that I have a very masculine side and a very feminine side. Growing up in the 90s and 00s, there wasn’t really a huge spread of resources or information available for a child who was confused about gender or sexuality, so I just bonded with tomboyish cartoon or video game characters and dressed very much like a boy to try and find out who I was. There was definitely a period where I thought I might be “a boy”, but I had a lot of feminine/female traits that I embraced about myself too, so it was all very confusing to me. I didn’t even realize genderfluidity was a thing until I was on-set for the Tear Down The Wall video with the cast of The Switch, and we would talk between takes and during breaks, and they really helped me discover a lot about who I was and that it was “okay” to feel stretched between male and female. I firmly believe that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing binary ideals; some people might be 20% female and 80% male, some might be (like me) more 50/50. But the world is starting to realize that gender binary is an old ideology people are clinging to because differentiating between male and female, and being able to categorize people by one of those two labels, makes us feel safe and secure. People have a fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar, and androgyny can really upset the balance. We’re programmed to wonder as soon as we meet someone what their gender is, I find myself doing it too, and I mentally shake myself out of it because it’s a social programming I want to undo in my own brain. We can do it, it will just take time and effort!
-I read your daily confession on facebook that you feel self conscious on camera. Being in the music industry its one of the necessary evils of the industry (videos, interviews) When you do have to be in front of the camera how do you prepare yourself?
There’s that old saying “the camera adds ten pounds”, and being, you know, a woman, I’m immediately judged by my weight and looks the instant I put up a photo or video of myself. Like a lot of other people of all genders (not just women!), weight has always been a difficult aspect of my life which I’ve had to come to terms with, for my own mental and physical health. I’m never going to be a size zero because that’s not my body type, and I’m not going to skinny shame or tell you that “bigger is beautiful”, because quite honestly all body types and sizes and colours are beautiful. Society and the media just have a very shallow, limited idea of what they WANT us to think is beautiful, but we are starting to change that now. There are actresses out there like Jennifer Lawrence who refuse to starve themselves for roles, and are creating a generation of more “normal-looking” female role models for young girls. Every time I’m terrified of looking “fat” or “lumpy” or “not the right shape” on camera or film, I repeat to myself that I would rather look imperfect and add another few pounds to the weight behind the gigantic social movement that is body positivity. I don’t want girls to starve themselves because “they want to look as thin as Kieran”, I want girls to realize that you don’t have to weigh ninety pounds to be confident in your body and be “worthy” of the camera’s attention.
-You refer to your fans as #Strangers. What was the inspiration behind this?
A few years back I had a couple fans try and figure out what they would be called, and this is what they came up with! I like it! I feel like it suits us, because a lot of my fanmily are strangers to society and even to one another, and yet they have this bond where they’ll stand up for each other and support each other both online and off. I love them to death.
-What do you think makes Kieran Strange strange?
I think everyone’s a little strange, you just need to embrace it. 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with being imperfect, odd, or quirky. It’s those imperfections and quirks that make you a unique, beautiful person with your own talents and strengths and shortcomings.
-What are 5 things about Kieran Strange we don’t know that we should?
- I’m actually both introverted and extroverted, which confuses people because they see me on stage and assume I’m super extroverted. So if you talk to me at a show and I seem awkward or shy, it’s not you, I promise! Ha ha.
- I’m always down to say hi and meet people! I have a lot of people tweet or Tumble me that they were stood behind me and wanted to say hello but were too nervous, and I’m always like, dude, next time say hi! 😀 I’m not scary! I think…?
- I’m absolutely a crazy cat lady. They’re my furbabies and I love them. I post way too many pictures of them on my Instagram. I’m sorry.
- I have a mailing list! 😀 And y’all should join it! You can find it at http://tiny.cc/strangemail<3
- Coke > Pepsi. Marvel > DC. Summer > Winter. Slytherin House!!!
-Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Do you have any nuggets of wisdom you would like to impart on us before we go?
Stay strange, don’t ever change, and don’t ever give up on your dreams! <3 Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, I really appreciate it! ^_^