It’s an all too common and perhaps unfortunate tale depending on who you ask, but when it comes to habits of detriment like addiction coupled with artistry, for better or worse, the two seem to have an everlasting bond.
Such is the case with frontman Regan Lane for Tacoma psych-rock band Strangely Alright, whose past struggles with these hardships undoubtedly shaped him both as a person and an artist.
But in exchanging words back and forth with Lane, he seems at peace with his past, seeming almost jovial in his responses, and is charging full steam ahead with his band and his latest lease on life. The latest bit of that work are the band’s vastly different singles, “Psych Film,” and “Here,” the latter of which is an upbeat, positive pop-oriented quarantine-themed anthem including a music video with various fans and the band singing along at home. “Psych Film” on the other hand, displays more of the “Strangely” side than the “Alright” side, if you will.
“Strangely Alright are sonic time-travelers. They paint paisley patterned pictures that shimmer with the 60’s mercurial blend of darkness and innocence…” With an opening bio like that, I don’t know about you, but it definitely reels me in with intrigue, and you instantly get a feel for their poetic nature and artistic direction. Aside from Lane, this unique quintet features Sean Van Dommelen on guitar and lead vocals, Ken Schaff on bass, Raymond Hayden on keys, and Jason Bair on drums.
Lane opened up about the inception of not only his introduction to the saving graces of music, but the band’s, a look at SA’s recent singles, our uncertain futures, and much more.
So how did you get into writing and playing music, and who or what was a primary inspiration?
I don’t know if it’s typical, but this is my story: misfit loner kid with alcoholic parents who divorce ends up skipping a lot of school and listening to a lot of records. That’s right, records… LOL… I started with The Beatles and The Stones, then Bowie, Sex Pistols, Ramones and so on. Because I was shy and introverted, music was my way to connect and communicate with other people. And that’s where the songwriting part started. Once I discovered Dylan and what you could do in terms of a vague narrative, like painting an abstract picture, the doors were open.
How did Strangely Alright come together, and what’s the history of the band?
When my daughter was born in 2009, I took a little break to really focus on being a parent. And because by that time I’d been in recovery for some time, the players that I was looking for would have to be in recovery also. So when I was ready, it started with our bass player Ken Schaff and I in a bedroom working on stuff to get this thing started. So Ken, Sean [Van Dommelen] and I are all in recovery in terms of drugs and alcohol, but I would have to say that in some aspect, all of the guys are working at a bit of recovery from the experiences that they have had.
What’s the Tacoma music scene like?
We’re drifting into this psychedelic long-form thing with slower grooves, so I don’t know quite where we fit into all of it. There’s some groovy underground stuff happening with younger bands, but generally speaking, there’s probably a handful of bands that we really dig, and a lot of stuff that just isn’t my/our cup of tea. Different strokes for different folks.
There’s plenty of legendary Washingtonian musicians. Who are some of your local state favorites?
My absolute favorite is The Fame Riot. Great humans, amazing showmen and fantastic songwriters. Another band I really dig is Aryon Jones. Amazing guitarist/singer songwriter. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about him in the future.
How did you get hooked up with Ombrello Records?
A good friend of ours, Charlie Dent, is a lawyer and he had the idea to start up a little label. It’s been put on hiatus as of right now, but we’re still in touch with Charlie. Good dude, great lawyer!
How does the songwriting process work within the band?
Like anything in life, it has evolved. It started with me writing most everything, and then when Sean came in the band he started bringing licks and ideas and also his own songs that we worked on together to the party. I find it very satisfying to have a writing partner to bounce ideas off of and work with. All of the players in SA add their own vibe, but Sean and I basically steer the musical ship at this point…lol.
Can you talk about the inspiration and influence behind your January single, “Inside a Place?”
Sometimes songwriting is like voodoo. It’s really hard to say where the ideas and inspiration come from. We live in an area of town where there’s a lot of homeless people and a lot of people on the main line who are hooked on dope and living on the streets. And because Sean and I have tasted that life, we can relate and also empathize. There’s something about not fitting in that’s a common theme with us. So maybe “Inside A Place” is about the idea of wanting to fit in somewhere. To belong.
And how about your newer single, “Psych Film,” which came out in May?
That song is Sean’s music and my lyrics. And once again, there are things that it means to me, but I don’t want to lead anyone in any given direction, because it might mean something different to them. In my experience, humans are more of the same than they are different. In the things that we all want, at least. And as the saying goes, “In the best of us you’ll find some bad, and in the worst of us you’ll find some good”.
What might you say is the primary message or feeling you try to convey to your listeners through your music as a whole?
The power of love, being yourself, and being kind. And because some of us have made it to the other side and are still here after addiction, the idea that what is lost can be found is also an underlying theme in what we do and who we are.
Can these singles be found on an upcoming EP or LP perhaps?
Eventually, yes. We tend to look at each single as their own unique entity or piece of art. We can see the common theme in the music and lyrics, but we like putting them out one at a time so people can take them in and focus on each as its own individual statement.
Are you bothering to slowly piece together plans to put on smaller shows maybe in the fall or next year, God willing?
Ha! Not at this time. What we are talking about doing is a couple of big circus-like shows in a unique venue where hopefully folks walk away with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Once life resumes to some semblance of how it was, what local Tacoma establishments are you most eager to frequent and support again?
I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to how it was. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but I do believe things will be different and how we present music and how we go see it is going to be different. I don’t know what that means yet, but it will be a brave new world for us all to have little adventures in.
All of Strangely Alright’s music can be found with this here Bandcamp link.