By Noe Gutierrez
Recently, CV Weekly spoke with Grady Lee and Adam Haagen of the musical collective Strangers You Know via telephone from their home studio in Los Angeles. They were gearing up for their appearance on the undercard of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Saturday line-up April 16th and 23rd. The headliners for those dates are rock icons Guns N’ Roses.
SYK are no outsiders to the Empire Polo Grounds having performed at the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience in 2014 as an opening act for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Buddy Guy and Aaron Neville. SYK are comfortable in the desert given Haagen’s family history in the Coachella Valley. They are thrilled to share new music in a familiar place. Loosen Up the Leash is their most recent independent EP released in March 2016. The EP is lyrically driven with a pop-folk-soul feel. There is also a maturity in their music not normally found at such an early age.
In speaking with these two young gentlemen (they are both 21) there is a sense of humility and calmness despite the enormous and potentially stress filled opportunity to perform at Coachella. Haagen is primed, “We are primarily focused on Loosen Up the Leash. We are super-excited because we met at Coachella four years ago and these are our biggest shows to date. We’ll be debuting new music. We perform and record everything in-house with our own computers. We’re looking forward to bringing the same energy and versatility in our recordings to the stage.” Lee is equally pumped, “We found out in November that we were performing at Coachella. It came to us as we were reaching out to the right people. It’s more exciting than getting drafted and I’m not much of an athlete. During this whole experience I recall being 18 and telling myself if I ever get to play on that stage it will be the pinnacle. We’ve put in so much work. We have spent countless hours in a dark room envisioning it. The imagery is all there. Now that were standing on top of this mountain we’re not ever gonna stop climbing. We are content and looking beyond the horizon. We are the bottomless stomach that allows us to stay hungry.” That hunger has lead to significant opportunities to perform May 5th at the Kentucky Derby Festival, May 20th at the Hangout Music Festival, May 28th at Bottlerock and June 17th at the Firefly Music Festival.
SYK have developed a resiliency within a profession that can dismantle your vision. Lee describes this further, “The most difficult thing is at this moment. Things are staying at a steady pace and we’re starting to live a lot faster while living in the moment. We work towards it every day. Interviews and shows are so much fun. We get to wake up and talk about our music. It’s fuckin’ sick!” Haagen expresses the need for a firm foundation, “Our families are super supportive. They have encouraged us from a young age and empowered our pursuit of artistic careers.”
Haagen is currently majoring in music industry and business at the University of Southern California while Grady writes and focuses on music. We asked Haagen to dish on Lee. “Music related, Grady is a big songwriter. He sits down every night and writes a song. He’s extremely dedicated. He has to get it out of his system. But in other realms of his life he’s a complete train wreck.” Lee then cut up on Haagen. “Adam’s biggest strength is his liver. I don’t know anyone who plays as many instruments as Adam. This guy can play electric guitar, slide, acoustic, tiny, and all the small guitars.” Lee wanted to give a shout-out to his grandparents, “What’s up Nana, Papa and Noodle? And Haagen wanted to thank Dave and the random chaotic noise on stage.”
By no means have SYK reached the musical apex by performing at Coachella. “In five years we’ll be playing Mars or Madison Square Garden.”