Interview: Joseph Whitehead of Alabama band, Strange Waves

Strange Waves is an experimental rock band that formed in Florence/Muscle Shoals, AL back in 2012. They released their debut album, Walls, February of this year (2015). I had the opportunity to ask the band about how they came together, the ups and downs they experienced, their influences and much more. Strange Waves is singers/guitarists/songwriters Jackson Gillreath and Jeremy Couch, bassist/singer Joseph Whitehead, drummer, Evan Sandy. Joseph took them time to answer all of my questions about the band. Read on!


MFL: How and when did the four of you fellas find each other?

Strange Waves (Joseph Whitehead): Jackson and I met when I (Joseph) was about 14 and Jackson was 15. We started playing together in his basement and we eventually started a little band. We weren’t very good, but this lead to meeting new musicians. I met Jeremy and Evan when I was around 18. Jeremy and I played in a metal band for a few years while Jackson played in a few projects as well. After the metal phase me, Jeremy, and Jackson began writing our own songs together in the style we had always wanted to do. We all knew Evan was an amazing drummer so eventually Jackson asked him if he wanted to jam and he was down. We all met in his basement and that is really where it all started. That was in 2012 and we practiced for a whole year before playing our first show.


MFL: What is the songwriting process like for you guys and what are your sources of lyrical material?

 SW: We have various methods of song writing and it has really evolved over time. Early on either Jackson or Jeremy would come in with an exoskeleton of a song and we would just piece the song together from there. Usually whoever wrote the instrumental to the song would come up with the vocal melody and lyrics with other members contributing input as well. Now we are a little more focused. We come in with ideas and we break down each measure and really see what we can do with the music. We put a lot more care into melodies and lyrics as well. As far as sources for the lyrics it depends on who is writing the lyrics. All of us are writers and this band was really created for all of us to explore our creative abilities. The sources reach from philosophy, to the pains of everyday life, to just basic observations such as a gorilla hanging out in his natural habitat.


MFL: If I were to ask you as a group to make me a mix CD right now and mail to me (feel free to do so if you please…but no pressure), what would the first and last songs be?

 SW: We would probably kick the mix off with “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John and it would definitely end with “Why Write a Letter That You’ll Never Send” by The Drones.


MFL: What bands do you think Strange Waves sounds like? This can be a moment to boast if you like.

SW: I honestly can’t think of a particular band that we sound exactly like and that is really one of our goals so I hope it stays that way. That being said, I’m sure listeners can hear various influences. Sabbath, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and just endless other subtle influences. We are music geeks.


MFL: What’s the music scene like in Florence, AL and how has it influenced Strange Waves?

 SW: It is rather competitive. Bands are definitely held to high standards and the city is filled with extremely talented musicians. It’s easy to get lost in it all and also easy to miss out on really good acts. I think the biggest challenge is drawing crowds. There are few venues and with shows going on all the time it’s hard to keep people coming. The shoals is a highly influential town for music so of course it has influenced us in ways, but overall we don’t necessarily always fit in with what is going on. We respect the legends, but use what is going on to really push us to keep doing something different.


MFL: Look back to a year ago today. Where you and what were you doing?

 SW: I’m not sure if any of us can remember what we were doing on this exact day a year ago haha. Evan was probably playing his drums because he’s always playing. I (Joseph) was probably at home watching The Wonder Years on Netflix.


MLF: In your experience as Strange Waves, name/describe two of your highest high moments and two of your lowest low moments.

SW: Our highest moment so far was probably our album release show. We had a nice local crowd and we were all really proud to release what we had been working on. I’d say right now we are also in a nice place. We are recording new stuff and also writing a ton of other even newer stuff and really branching out and connecting musically.

 Our lowest point I can’t really talk about in too much detail, but we went through a time of dormancy and was briefly held back. Also, at one time Evan’s life was getting really busy and we thought he may have been leaving, but luckily we stuck it through and we are happy to have him with us still.


MFL: What was the hardest part about the process of creating and releasing Walls? Did that difficulty surprise you?

SW: I think we can all agree we just went about it the wrong way. We had never really made a full length record before and none of us realized the time and dedication it takes to put out a quality record. It was really spaced out and sporadic. By the time the record was finished we had all matured a lot and were kind of over our old music.


Side note, I love the variety on this record. You fellas really touch on different tempos and styles. It’s refreshing!

SW: Thanks! Glad you like it. We want to always touch on all of the emotions of music, but hopefully in a more cohesive way.


MFL: Finally, what’s in store for Strange Waves now? You have one full length out. What next?

SW: At the moment I can’t really speak in detail as to what exactly it is we have planned for this year but it’s definitely ambitious if I do say so myself. I can say we have quite a bit of old a new material that has yet to be heard and we have a pretty tight plan for what we want to do all the way up to 2017. More details to come though. I will say early January is the kick off so please keep an eye out!


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