At my first Dazzling Strangers show at Kimo’s in San Francisco last year, the Chris Streng-led band ripped through a roaring cover of the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.” I was with a group of friends that evening, and since none of them were familiar with the original classic 1960s psych rock single, they misheard it as “I Had Too Much to Drink Last Night,” and one could hardly blame them. Chris did appear drunk, and a few days later, he confirmed it as fact through an email. This cat became more curious by the minute.
The curiosity factor increased yet again when I spun the Dazzling Strangers’ debut album, The Stars Are Ours. Only one song, “Single Girl on a Sunday Morning,” even remotely resembled what I recalled hearing on stage at Kimo’s (…and guess what? You can relive that show along with me since I covered it for Popdose). Not only that, I couldn’t tell you if that particular song was even played. There were drones, acoustic guitars, light electronic beats, blips and bleeps, and not always in the same song; whereas the live presentation I heard was a loud, raucous rock band tearing it up like Mission of Burma were the new big thing.
I later came to find out that Streng’s previous band, the Stratford 4, formed a decade ago when Chris was introduced to the other three of the soon-to-be 4 by mutual friends in another little band called the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Not only that, the Stratford 4 had been signed to Elektra after two LPs on the indie label Jetset and were set to release their Ric Ocasek-produced third album, Keep Your Crazy Head On Straight, when Elektra folded and the record subsequently became yet another of those storied “lost” albums that the industry produces.
Which brings us to the Dazzling Strangers, a band without quite as much pop in their sound, but certainly with more varied textures and a more typically chaotic, San Francisco style of approaching music. All the more ironic is the fact that Chris has left the buzzing environs of Oakland for the rural little town of Grass Valley, just under three hours northeast of his former home.
It was quite a fun drive up to Grass Valley, what with all the twisty-turny roads and such. And it was a fun shoot as well, one which found Chris a bit under-slept but still quite talkative and accommodating. Among the many topics we covered were, of course, the nature of the Dazzling Strangers band. As the name suggests, they are a rotating cast, with Chris as the one constant factor. Among those who are or have been Dazzling Strangers are the girls in Excuses for Skipping.
Best of all, though, was being there at a time when Chris was in the midst of creating the Strangers’ second album, Home on the Strange (technically it’s their third, as Chris explains in our interview, but he’s not even present on the second album… you’ll have to watch the video to get the full story). The acoustic-based songs he played for me were reflective of his relaxed rural surroundings, which he also took time to show me (including a cool little trail that his cats discovered). One of these songs – “Sundown at Hipster Hole” – makes it debut here in the performance footage below, complete with a rambling introduction about the song’s genesis in true “storytellers” fashion. It’s actually a format that suits Chris very well, something he should do more often if he ever decides to play some solo acoustic shows…
Chris Streng, The Dazzling Strangers – “Sundown at Hipster Hole”
Wanna buy The Stars Are Ours? Write to Chris Streng at the Dazzling Strangers’ MySpace page.