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A Dirty Dozen with STEPHEN FRANCIS from MODEL STRANGER – November 2020

| 6 November 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Model Stranger is a Chicago based alternative rock band that draws inspiration from the 60’s to 90’s era of Rock and Roll. The Chicago press dubbed them “rock n’ roll classicists” and describes them as “an eclectic synthesis of psychedelic grunge and classic rock.” The trio describes themselves as “an analog band living in a digital world.” Any lover of rock will feel at home with the band’s sound, while also experiencing a new and unique style. The band consists of vocalist and guitarist Stephen Francis, bassist Kevin James, and drummer Vincent Joseph. Stephen and Kevin have been friends for over twenty years and played in a prog rock band together during high school. They played in the same circuit as Fall Out Boy and the Plain White T’s, appearing on the same bills for the latter. Time would eventually bring Stephen and Kevin to meet Vincent. At first Vincent was invited to be a hired gun for two shows—a headlining slot at the Metro and direct support for Our Lady Peace. This invite turned into a permanent stay, since after getting to know each other, the band says that it went from a “hired-gun to a full-time love affair.” Since then Model Stranger was born, and the trio has been rocking ever since.” We get singer / guitarist Stephen to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Phases is a hybrid of all of the genres we enjoy playing, pop oriented songwriting with some grit of a rock album that has some synth elements peppered in to help color the landscape.  Some of the intricacies that could be overlooked on the first listen or two are the harmonized single guitar lines, synth textures and backing vox. There aren’t really any hidden nuggets per se, but as one listens more and more they will discover new elements along the journey.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I don’t remember not being into music… I was always attracted to it from a young age.  The first time I recall wanting to actually be a musician was after I started listening to Led Zeppelin. I went out and rented “Hammer of the Gods” from the library and fell in love with Rock culture. Following that I quickly became obsessed with Slash, David Gilmour and all the big metal bands during my childhood (Metallica, Pantera, Guns N Roses etc.). After I had my first guitar I just learned all those bands’ records.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Appetite For Destruction really had me infatuated. The entire album, the attitude, the look of the band, the guitar riffs, the drum fills, etc.. It would make me mental! I remember seeing the music video for  “Paradise City,” showing the band in that stadium and that made me want to be on stage. I never did see G n R until a few years ago.  In fact, the first band I saw live was Page and Plant – so it would be a close toss up between those two.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Elliott Smith, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam would be my top 5.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Butch Walker because throughout the years he has worked with so many different musicians and brought out the best in them.  Model Stranger has openly discussed how cool it would be to work with him to see what he would pull out of us.  Butch, if you’re reading this give us a call.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Model Stranger is an alternative rock trio that draws inspiration from the 60’s to 90’s era of Rock and Roll. We’re an eclectic synthesis of psychedelic grunge and classic rock… an analog band living in a digital world.  A fan once came up to us after a show and told me we sounded like the Violent Femmes. I didn’t cringe because I love a lot of the work they did but I did disagree. This goes back to the “What does your band sound like?” question… well apparently to someone in the world we sound like the Violent Femmes.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Kevin cooks the meats, Vincent cooks the meat substitutes. I don’t cook much or well. Vincent and/or Kevin will get the drinks in and if someone were to crack out the guitar it would be me, but we save that for our rehearsal space. We hang out to hang out, catch up and stay connected as humans.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

When Sharon Van Etten, who I have been a big fan of for years, shared my story on Instagram about her.  So I guess you could say starstruck in a social media 2020 kinda way.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Being able to express yourself how you want, when you want and the way you want.  Outside of playing music my dream job would be to produce music.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

It would be great if an interviewer asked my top favorite horror films.  I love horror movies and no interviewer has ever touched that subject. I am tired of answering, “What does Model Stranger sound like?”  Understandable that it’s relevant to the reader but it’s a subjective question and when you don’t go out of your way to be a genre based band it’s very difficult to answer.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

A situation that I would change is the way we approached touring and gaining fans which happened to be exactly during the birth of the digital age which we should’ve shifted our focus but we wanted to be out on the road playing shows and meeting people.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Any Beatles record between Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, specifically with an interest in the big orchestra stuff that was happening.  The way that the studio and George Martin enhanced The Beatles as a band is so unparalleled and to be there seeing it all working so perfectly would be an amazing treat.  All of those records continue to inspired me because they showcase how important songwriting is but how much more important great arrangements for great songs are.  On top of all that great art there are great performances to bring the art to life.  Those records required so much collaboration, which is quite the opposite of what we have going on in the digital age.

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

Live music.  Playing, attending, being part of that energy and culture.  Those times were taken for granted given the situation we are currently in and I’d give anything to bring that all back to normal.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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