Sown in the sunshine of the rolling green Petaluma hills, The Well Known Strangers grow their own strain of county-tinged, California soul — a diverse but cohesive assortment of original material combined with reimaginings of time-tested rock, soul and country classics.
No really, there’s something familiar about you…
It began by happenstance — a Sunday jam session among strangers in an airy barn off the Old Redwood Highway. It was a little rough around the edges, but the spark and the chemistry was undeniable. The members came together over their shared love of dark, lowdown songs of heartbreak and despair, coining the tongue-in-cheek genre ‘brutal country’ to describe their self-titled debut EP.
While staying true to their Americana roots, the Strangers have broadened their scope, both musically and thematically, for their upcoming LP entitled “TMI,” taking a more mature and reflective look at the bad and the good of modern life and love, with careful attention to the perspective of the masculine, the feminine, and everything in between.
Musically, the band tries to maintain a touch of that rough-around-the-edges ethos, but covers a wide breadth of stylistic terrain unified and defined by lush, riveting vocal harmonies.
What did you say your name was again?
Lead vocalist Amber Morris is one of the most sought-after and beloved singing coaches in the greater Bay Area with an army of students and a range eclipsed only by her encyclopedic understanding of vocal technique. She has performed with Tim Hockenberry, Narada Michael Walden, The Eric Martin Band, The Soul Jah Family band, and has coached countless recording artists.
Guitarist/vocalist David Noble’s tenor is the male counterpoint to Morris’ lead. Noble is a fully formed front man in his own right, bringing a rock sensibility that compliments Amber’s soulful alto, and is also an in-demand Bay Area session guitarist best known for his work with Pardon The Interruption and Poor Man’s Whiskey.
Guitarist Rob Anderson anchors the band with his confident, steady, always in-the-pocket groove and is fondly known to the band as “Robbie Weir,” a nod to Anderson’s Grateful Dead roots. When not on stage with the Strangers, Anderson is a champion cyclist and brings the discipline gleaned from his athletic career to his musical preparation.
Keyboardist Austin de Lone is the wizard and the muse, bringing a lifetime of musical experience to bear, honed from years on the road with the likes of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Bonnie Raitt, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and his own band Eggs Over Easy, progenitors of the “Pub Rock” British rock ‘n’ roll movement.
Bassist Joshua Zucker holds down the low end with a less-is-more approach emphasizing tone over flash, and is best known for his acoustic work with The Rowan Brothers (Peter, Lorin and Chris), The Jones Gang, Hills to Hollers (featuring Laurie Lewis, Linda Tillery, Barbara Higbie and Vicki Randall), Jerry Hannan, and whomever needs a bassist in the Bay Area this week.
Drummer Mick Hellman is the glue that holds it all together both musically and otherwise and the catalyst who sparked the formation of the band initially. Hellman is an inextricable force in the Bay Area arts and an ambassador for San Francisco’s beloved Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival where The Well Known Strangers are a fixture.