When I last saw a Strangers Family Band show, it was at a sweaty bar, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of the night. Droney guitar riffs blasted through a wide-eyed crowd as huddles of models nearly six feet tall posed for camera flashes with the band in the background. The keyboard player was in a Santa suit, some in the crowd were clearly on psychedelic drugs, and wells were $7; this was definitely not Orlando.
A year and a half ago, local bassist Scott Seltzer, guitarist Ricky Seltzer and drummer Juan Londono packed up their gear, piled into an old, ominous-looking van and set out west to Los Angeles. Their attitude about the relocation was nonchalant. “We knew a lot of bands out there, and we felt like we were ready for a change,” Scott says. Now, after a record deal with Xemu Records and a U.S. tour alongside Spindrift, Strangers Family Band return to their roots with a homecoming show this weekend.
The Orlando that Strangers Family Band left isn't quite the Orlando they're returning to, though. Back in 2010, the psych scene was going strong. Bands like the Future on Film in Space and the Vera Violets were still regulars at area venues, and house shows popped up at least once a month at the Strangers' home on Montana Street in Colonialtown. Now, the scene has shifted from paisley to punk. A local standoff seems to have erupted as to who can claim the most provocative name (Mr. Pussy, Fake Cum, the Queefs, etc.). “It seemed like it was starting to change when we were leaving Orlando. Maybe that has something to do with why we left,” Scott says.
The city isn't the only thing that's changed since Strangers were hometown heroes: Right before they left, the band dropped frontman Ates Isildak (now leading buzz- drenched Floridian act Band in Heaven) after an argument following a South by Southwest appearance. “It was a pretty big deal. We were supposed to play Austin Psych Fest and had to cancel,” Scott says. Ricky Seltzer replaced Isildak, a move he says was only supposed to be temporary. “We had some shows planned and still didn't have anyone to sing.” Ricky says. He says he might have been on drugs during his first show up front, but he remains their singer today.
With all of their antics - Santa suits and space helmets included - Strangers have formed something of a party-band reputation. “A lot of people come up to us at shows and say, ‘Yeah, we heard you guys take mushrooms or acid every show,' and I guess we pretty much do, so we've pretty much become known for doing that,” Scott says. But in a city full of powerhouses like the Entrance Band and Dead Meadow, up-and-comers like Strangers Family Band need more than psychedelic gimmicks to stand out. They admit that Los Angeles is much more competitive than Orlando, which goes without saying in a city brimming with aspiring everythings.
They're excited to return, but they're also well aware you can never completely come home again. “We've been pretty disconnected from things going on [in Orlando.] I know a lot of the same bands and people who were there won't be around, so I'm sure it will be different.” Whether there's still a place for them at the table, however, remains to be seen.
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