Review – Sex With Strangers – You Know Something We Don’t? (2014)


Sex With Strangers (SWS) are from the shadows of rain-covered Vancouver.  They draw from a wide source of influences from new wave and post-punk to ’60’s inspired ballads. Although the band revels in the exploration of a wide variety of genres, SWS has managed to create their own unique sound that is highlighted by robust bass grooves and the vocal interplay between lead singers Hatch Benedict (lead vox/keyboards) and Alexis Young (lead vox/keyboards).  It seems to me that Hatch has met his female musical counterpart in Alexis and vice-versa.  They play well off each other as far as studio music is concerned.  Rounding out the band is Mike Gentile (bass), Cory Price (guitars) and Dan Walker (drums).  I’ve been a big fan of this band since 2009’s The Tokyo Steel LP.  Spin Magazine once named SWS as one of “7 Undiscovered Bands Worth a Listen”, and they are best known for their feverish and interactive live performances.  The band has been showcased at a number of North American Festivals since their inception – which includes performances at SXSW, CMJ, NXNE, Halifax Pop Explosion, Riffilandia, Sled Island, Junofest and Shambhala.

Hatch Benedict.  Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Hatch Benedict. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The band are set to release their 6th Studio LP this May 27.  This LP extends the sonic margins of the band’s previous efforts, moving the guitars out front and furthering the unique vocal interplay of Hatch and Alexis.  The vision for this new album is clearly evident when comparing the album’s first single “Slaves to the Night” (a dark unrelenting bass driven track) to Alexis Young’s dreamy synth crackling entry ballad “Burned”.

The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Paul Boechler (along with the band Sex With Strangers) at Garth Richardson’s Fader Mountain Studios in Vancouver. It was mastered by Brock McFarlane (at CPS Mastering Vancouver BC).  The cd was designed and photographed by Alexis Young with photo styling by Lindsay Elliott. Also in the cd, there is a thank you to the students at the Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver BC.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The track listing is as follows:

1.   Hostages

2.   22

3.   Pink Sock

4.   Slaves to the Night

5.   Falling Over

6.   Burned

7.  Wasted Glory

8.   Space Wolf

9.   Temporary Love Confession’

10.  Wandering Eyes

“Hostages” begins with high chords on the guitar and has some good bass grooves that come in and out of the song which gives it a choppy feel.  “Don’t you hate it when the panic never arrives?” and “Don’t you hate it when the truth sounds better than lies?” are great lyrics in my books because in a lot of ways, these are true statements. What you expect to happen doesn’t.  “Whatever happened to our senses?” gives one a thought of your senses may be misleading you because you want something to happen that never does.  “You don’t want to be hostages in the night” which can elude to some primal act or emotion or both.  Great song!  This song also reminds me of another great Vancouver band whose CD I’m also reviewing right now.

“22” is a good song with a good hook and melody.  Reminding me of a band in Ontario whose music I really like, this song is taken over by Alexis who sings the lead vocals.  The music is fast, danceable and has a feeling of being crazy. This song also sounds very punk in the music because of the guitar work by Cory Price.  Alexis’ vocals are really good and make a dramatic part from Hatchs’ vocals.  “Let’s go out and tell everyone we know” and “Cause you won’t stop and I won’t tell you no” gives you the impression that there is something that one cannot say no to.  What that is only the band knows.

“Pink Sock” is an interesting title for a song that is written in minor keys (as much of the album is) which gives it a slightly darker feel to it.  “I only want to watch you carry on with your convection” which gives me the impression someone is watching you for what reason(s)?  For their own amusement?  Or for some darker purpose you aren’t aware of?  The guitars are very much in your face but so is the keyboards, so you have a duel off between them. Which is wild and crazy as the melody of the song is really not like that.  But SWS has a way of making notes of music do that.  Bend it baby!

By far the best song on the CD is “Slaves to the Night”.  Wow.  The bass work by Mike is so deep down which makes the song and gives it a great backbone to work off of. Dirty heavy guitars are laced throughout the song as an evil coiled snake moving its way through the songs sinewy body.  Hatch and Alexis’ vocals trade off each other and also compliment each other which gives the song an even more darker edge.  The melody itself is rather edgy in its own way and kind of has a life of its own.  “….I warned you lovers/you can’t take back what’s under the covers” is a great lyric for this song and gives me an indication as to what the song is about.  Fantastic job on guitars Cory!

“Burned” is a dark ballad sung very well by Alexis.  The melody has a very dark edge to it and is all keyboards with some drums, other percussion instruments and guitars with a little bass.  The song reminds me a very well cooked meal in its design.  The melody flows really well in the background giving it a full lush sound. With lyrics like “Oh the way you tricked me and how you lied” and “Oh and how it feels to be so alive” give an indication of a romance gone bad in visceral way but somehow managing to surviving the fallout.

“Space Wolf” is a great title for any song but this song reminds me of a running wolf.  Always going going going without taking time to look around and enjoy life around him/her.  Once again, Hatch and Alexis trade off vocals with Hatch being the aggressive singer and Alexis being softer more gentle with the lyrics.  The music is fast paced, moving on its own as if it too is alive.  “Let me hear you lie” reminds me of lying and maybe getting away with it.  But in the animal world its all about energy that you give off so in a way I would imagine it would be harder to lie to another animal.  That’s how I see the song – very animal like and of the energetic world as opposed to our shallow world of make believe and distractions.

All in all this is an evolutionary turn for SWS as this is a real departure from the last five albums.  Their fourth album, Behaviours, indicates a direction but this album is that direction burning down the highway in the fast lane.  I look forward to hearing more from SWS in the future and also look forward to hearing more evolution from these great people.

The band doesn’t have a video off the new album yet, but from 2011, Sex With Strangers show their fun side from The Peak Performance Project with 102.7 The Peak (Vancouver Radio Station).  Enjoy!

SWS are also playing a FREE CD release show in the Vancouver area on Thursday May 29 with some of their friends Actors, War Baby and Combine the Victorious and DJ Trevor Risk (Ice Cream Social) at The Fox Cabaret.  Come on down and have some fun and some drinks!  You might even end up meeting the band who wander freely with drinks in hand through the club stalking nothing and no one in particular.

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CD Review – Sex With Strangers – Behaviours


SWS 1Photo credit to Lindsay Elliott.

Vancouver’s Sex With Strangers released their 4th independent album late last year called Behaviours.  Unique to this album is the addition of keyboard/vocalist Alexis Young who totally changes the dynamic of the band in the creative process of songwriting.  With a trilogy of concept albums behind them, SWS are writing songs about “dystopian themes – but this time we focused on matters of a human nature – namely tension and relationships” says frontman Hatch Benedict.  He continues by saying “our hope is that people will question whether they’re actually listening to the same band from song to song while still enjoying the album as a whole”.

The track listing is as follows:

1.  Behaviours

2.  I See The Gun (And You’re The Bad Guy)

3.  Times Electric

4.  Conspirators

5.  The Brave One

6.  Machineland

7.  Blindness

8.  Terrible Things

9.  Pentagram Blues

10.  Waving My Heart

11.  Call In The Night

BehaveSWS

Let me just start out by saying that this is a CD that I’ve been listening to for 6 months.  Due to a vacation that involved numerous health issues that seem to be subsiding just now, I was inspired by this particular CD while ill due to the fact that this is a progressive, funky, crazy band which isn’t all that much different than my own personality.  That and the fact that I really like this bands’ music and their live shows are a highlight of any club gigs I go to – and they are just so damn COOL.

“Behaviours” is a song that has minor tones of music which gives it a sombre and dystopian feel.  Lyrically, this is a song about being afraid of how someone makes you feel internally and how they make you want to change – your life, your job, your feelings about life…..finding your way alone is hard but choosing to find your way with someone else is mind-blowing to an individual who never saw it that way ever.

“I See The Gun…” is a funky and fun song musically but in some ways totally opposite lyrically.  The beginning of the song reminds me of a TV theme show song but it quickly turns into something like someone you’ve known well may want to cause you harm emotionally.  Lyrics like “I don’t see the sun honey/I don’t see you smiling through the window/I just see the gun and you’re the bad guy” and “I see you slithering on the ground” gives me a good impression of what that person is really like.  It could also hint at someone playing games with you that you go along with for a while until you want serious time with that person who may not be able to give that to you.

“The Brave One” is a song that I can really relate to because in my past there was a person who wanted my “hard reaction” but being young and stupid (and possibly drunk) and having many other personal issues that could have affected the other person, I never showed any reaction.  Musically, however, Rob Zombie couldn’t do it better.  This is my favourite song on the album.

“Pentagram Blues” is musically a harder edged song that I’ve ever heard from SWS.  “Ain’t that the truth” is well said in this song lyric.  Chaos is also felt in this song as well as negative feelings like sadness and jealousy.

All in all, I really like this album as it’s a 50% departure of theme or concept albums and enters the realm of human nature and emotions involving reason, fear, torment, sex and love (lyrically).  Musically, some things have changed but in a good way as this is a band that is always moving forward – they don’t get stuck in a rut or move backwards – and that’s a good thing.

You can download the song “Behaviours” for free on the bands’ Bandcamp site where you can buy the album directly from that site as well as from iTunes Canada.  Photos of the band are courtesy of Lindsay Elliott.

The band can be found at the following links:

The official band website

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Video for BEHAVIOURS and other videos by the band: