On When We Were Honest, The Local Strangers mine the intersection of simmering indie Americana, 70’s-tinged sweeping rock explorations, saw-dusted country and mesquite-smoke blues – and strike gold. Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart could each front a band in their own right. Together Zoli, soaring and honeyed, and Hart, rough-edged yet elegant, elevate their work with The Local Strangers to something truly timeless. Grounded in arresting vocal harmonies and assured, assertive musicianship, When We Were Honest is sexy, proud, and just a touch bittersweet.
The band’s third full-length release, When We Were Honest (out 6/28) was recorded with and produced by Martin Feveyear (Brandi Carlile, Mark Lanegan) in Seattle, WA and on Vashon Island. The record follows Take What You Can Carry (2015) and Left For Better (2012). The years following their last release were fraught, filled with life changes and personnel shifts in the lineup of Zoli and Hart’s raucous five-piece backing with whom they often perform. “We had a lot of worry about what this band meant” says Hart. “Eventually we had a revelation about the place that the band fit into each of our lives. We re-centered, got honest, and focused on happiness and fulfillment. The album title really resonates in that context.”
Thematically, When We Were Honest is laced through with water imagery and metaphor. “It wasn’t planned, yet in hindsight, there was a cleansing that happening with us as a band and as individuals” explains Zoli. “that ultimately found its way into the songs.” The record encourages listeners to take the time to rediscover what is truly important in their lives and find the spirit to move on from what doesn’t serve you.
Zoli and Hart traced out the bones of When We Were Honest in hotel rooms and practice spaces over the last half-decade. However, unlike their prior releases, the songs found their final form through communal collaboration with the full band; Mike DeBenedictis on lead guitar, Luke Logan on bass, and Ted Benish on drums. Their spare, duo-oriented alternate arrangements came later, through a careful stripping down of the now fully-wrought compositions.
With Feveyear at the console, the bulk of the record was tracked at Earwig Studios in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. Strings and orchestral arrangements were handled by Andrew Joslyn (Macklemore), while Jason Staczek (Mark Lanegan) played the Hammond B3 Organ and piano. Overdubs and fine tuning took place at Feveyear’s personal studio on Vashon Island in Puget Sound.
Ultimately, When We Were Honest is a bit of an enigma. It’s not a concept album, yet it’s tied together by a common thread. It’s co-written by two very different people and tacks a wide course through myriad permutations and interpretations of genre. Each song could stand proudly as a single – there is no filler here – yet the pieces of the puzzle join seamlessly. Broad in both dynamic range and emotional intensity, it is most rightly seen as a cohesive, holistic piece of art.
Glide is proud to premiere the first single off of When We Were Honest titled”How Do You Like Me Now” a bellowing and wicked composition that contains self-righteous fury, explosive guitar rock, and a supercharged chorus. The Local Strangers make raunchy blues rock with a generous soulful interplay that incorporates both the modern and vintage tones of Beth Hart, Adele and Grace Potter.