Glasgow cousins Ali and Billy Strange combine to form a shaking nostalgic rock and roll trip as Acting Strange. Having recently supported the likes of Ezra Furman, the pair are fast rising in recognition on the road to the release of their debut EP ‘Night On The Tiles’. We chat to Ali Strange on the funky low-fi sounds and playful humour of Acting Strange…

 

Acting Strange seem largely influenced by a 60s sound with elements of Mersey-beat to rhythm and blues heard in your EP ‘Night On The Tiles’, what is it that attracts Acting Strange to this timeless classic sound?

 

I feel a lot of band from that era didn’t really describe the sort of message in our melody; there was too much production and things for that.

We let the songs do the work, we always make sure the songs behind the melody and that’s the main thing.

 

 

Is this what makes the duo keep to a playful stripped-back, raw and low-fi sound?

 

To be honest, that’s kind of all we’ve really got. We’re both kind-of skint all the time and we don’t really have loops and things on the computer. I mean, we do most of it in my flat now.

 

It’s just really and acoustic base, that eight-track, a keyboard and an old guitar pedal and things like that. It’s just strapped to a wee ten pound amp.

 

And I’m really into sounds like that, sounds that sound rough like that. We’ve always got the policy that we should be one with the song, it doesn’t really matter how rough it sounds.

 

Do Acting Strange concern themselves purely with a nostalgic based sound do you wish to transport the listener in a time machine with your sound, or are the band attempting to refresh this classic sound with a 2015 take?

 

(Laughs)

 

It’s really not that deliberate. It’s just kind of what we like, I guess. It’s really what we’ve grown up with. Like it’s probably the kind-of melodies my Mum used to sing to me when I was a kid and all that you know? Just coming back?

 

How do you feel you bring this 60s sound into the contemporary day?

 

And I’m not really sure we do. (Laughs)

 

I’m worried I’m going to be hounded as a plagiarist one day.

 

No… It’s hard to say really. My fingers not really on the pulse of what is contemporary. I wonder if maybe it’s been getting a lot of blog attention and that’s down to the lo-fi sounds of the songs. Maybe we have accidentally stumbled into something that’s going on right now. Without really meaning to.

 

 

If you could go on a night out with any figure from the 60s, whom would Acting Strange choose to join on adventure?

 

You know what, funnily enough I heard that the drummer from The Monkees used to be a bit of a party animal. Despite the clean image, I heard he was wild. I heard that he was always waking up in Harry Nelson’s apartment and stuff like that, that he’s nip out for a quick pint with Harry Nelson and wake up three days later in an apartment in New York. Or maybe Harry Nelson.

 

In one of your press releases Acting Strange have described to be culturally influenced by The Simpsons? How has the popular cartoon influenced your work?

 

Just the sense of humour really. Me and Billy are both really dry individuals, you know? And just all that kind of sarcastic stuff we like. And all the things we end up doing in recording, just always laughing about, we always have to clip the very end. We’re always mucking around and doing stupid voices and things like that. And it’s still my favourite show.

 

Who is your favorite The Simpsons character?

 

Probably Homer because he’s just like the voice of ignorant America. And he just says what ever he wants.

 

What’s the strangest thing the duo that declare themselves Acting Strange have ever done?

 

I don’t know if it’s strange but when we were kids we used to take rotten eggs and stuff like that and bags of flour. And we used to just throw them off massive walls when we were kids. It wasn’t strange but it was just a wee ritual we had when we were kids. When we were angry we would just take loads of eggs, or anything that would make a squelch or a noise when you break it, you know?

 

Acting Strange lyrics seems to inject a modern commentary and humor into your songs. Who’s in charge of the song writing or is it a joint effort?

 

The four on the EP they’re mine. I guess you just kind-of write lyrics about what’s going on around you really.

 

With ‘Rumble’ I’ve seen people talk about the student loan lyric a bit. [I’m quite happy with my five pound phone, chase me up on my student loan…’ ] And I just had to look to the right really when I was writing those lyrics, and a student loan letter was at the top of my pile of mail.

 

As a concerned student I myself I have to ask are Acting Strange still indebted by university fees?

 

Heavily. I’m always looking out the door, checking no one is coming for me, you know?

 

Do Acting Strange feel jest and humor is important to inject into modern song writing?

 

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Glasgow but if you walk through Buchanan Street, there’s often quite a lot of buskers. And like, they’re doing this Ed Sheeran thing… They’re all like closing they’re eyes and it’s like they’re wretching Ed Sheeran lyrics from their soul and all that.

 

We look at it like, even if you’re singing a ballad, does it have to be so one-dimensional? Like you can have a laugh. You can write a serious song but you don’t have to be having a glum face and all that. It’s not who we are you know?

 

 

Tell me more about the shoot for the music video to ‘Rumble’ featuring dancing friends and wooden spoon microphones in a kitchen. How did the video recording come about?

 

(Laughs)

 

I don’t really know where I got the wooden spoon from, I needed a prop, something to do with my hands really. We weren’t drunk. But we weren’t sobre.

 

My flat-mate who runs In Black Records actually filmed the video. And yeah it was in our own kitchen.

 

How did Acting Strange become involved with the independent label In Black Records? Where did things kick-off with your flat-mate?

 

Yeah my flat-mate started the label. And he actually, when we had the first few demos of Acting Strange, we were going to keep them to ourselves, but he was like ‘Ah! Put this out!’ And we didn’t really want to do that… But he was like, ‘Ah! Stop being a shy bastard and do it!’

 

With a range of topics from hopeless romance (‘Dreaming Away’), vampires and the dark side of technology on (‘Universe Blues’) to forgiveness, heartache and student loans on (‘Rumble’) Acting Strange seem to cover an eclectic range with their words. Where do the band take lyrical influence from?

 

For me, the first time I ever really listened to lyrics was when I listened to Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan. That was an important album for me. That was the first time someone really painted pictures with lyrics, and I thought it was really high-end pop music, you know?

 

And I think that the more you read, the more that you’ll gather a bank of words in your head already. And I think if you sing what you know, that really helps too.

 

 

You recently supported Ezra Furman in Glasgow, how did you enjoy the evening?

 

It was our very first gig. We were straight into the deep end there really.

 

We went down to the venue, from the top upstairs bar and down the stairs, thinking it was just going to be a few people milling about for the support act. But when we got down, the whole venue was full and nobody was talking, everyone was just looking at the stage.

 

It was great. I hadn’t really played a crowd like that before really. I’d played in bands before but crowds had never really been like that, they’d never really been that attentive.

 

How did the set go, did you enjoy it?

 

Yeah, it was bit ropey and all that. But it was spirited you know, and that’s the main thing. And people seemed to be receptive and that’s the what it’s all about.

 

Your EP ‘Night On The Tiles’ sees release on In Black Records September 8th. For those who are yet to hear the forthcoming release, what can they expect from it?

 

Even though there’s only four-tracks on it, we definitely built a dynamic on it. The songs that we chose were so that it would have it’s wee up and downs, so. It’s not all out rock. And it’s not all out balladry. It’s a good mix.

 

Tell us more about the recording of the EP. I here this was recorded in your Uncle Gabby’s old taxidermy workshop?

 

Partially. Maybe the first two were. We didn’t have much time up there. The other two, they were recorded in the kitchen of the flat, that you see in the ‘Rumble’ video. That’s our studio basically now.

 

How would you describe ‘Night On The Tiles’ in just three words?

 

Officially metronome free.

 

Following the release of your EP what can we expect next from Acting Strange, are there more releases to come? And where can fans catch a live set in the coming months?

We’re actually just in the process of picking some shows right now.

 

As for what next, we just want to write more good song really. I know that’s the boring answer but that’s what we want really.

 

We want to try not to over think it. Because I think when you put music out and people start saying what they think about it, it kind of makes you change the way you think about it.

 

‘Rumble’ is out now on In Black Records

 

See Hooting & Howling’s review of ‘Rumble’ here: www.hootingandhowling.com/ep-night-on-the-tiles-acting-strange/

About The Author

Emily Schofield

First Year Music Journalism Student. Particularly focuses on indie and alternative music. Has a keen eye on new and unsigned bands which need a push and promotion. Born in Bolton just outside of Manchester, she is a follower of the Manchester music scene and its history. She also constantly has her eye on up and coming artists gigging in and around London. Twitter: @TheMoverTweets