The Hotel Great Northern on Friday 29 June, 9pm. Tickets $25
It sounds like your band is from all over the world, from Barbados Via London, Fiji, Sierra Leone… Where did you all meet and what was it that brought you all together?
Yeah we are definitely a diverse band; anyone who knows us or has heard us play could testify to that!
The original core of the band formed while we were living together in Stanwell Park down near Wollongong. The band expanded pretty quickly with Ras Roni being the first singer to join in 2009. Roni is a legend of reggae music in this country, so it was pretty exciting when he jumped on board! Ltl Gzeus was the next to join after that and Blaka C a couple of years later. Most of us play together in a bunch of different bands in Sydney too.
You’ve been touring for 10 years now. What have been some of the highlights of that time?
Often the best gigs are the surprise ones like the small town halls we play down on the south coast of NSW. The Northern is always a highlight too, no question! Byron is almost a second home to us these days.
I really feel the biggest highlights are just the times we spend on the road together, no matter where we are playing. The Strides are a big family these days and it’s a wild and hilarious ride every time we tour. Actually, as I do this interview we are on a flight up to the Whitsundays to play the Happy Daze festival in Mushroom Valley. Who knows, maybe tonight will turn out to be our biggest highlight? Ask me tomorrow!
You guys have worked with some big names – Third World, Julian Marley – and played at Australia’s biggest festivals, Bluesfest and Womad. Can you tell us what it’s like to play on huge gigs like these?
The big supports and festivals are always so much fun. Reggae sounds the best on a big system with tonnes of bass and we always take full advantage of working with great sound engineers like Eric Coelho to get the sound deep ’n’ dubby! Bluesfest went off this year so we are all super excited to get back up to Byron to play.
I heard you guys played your first gigs here in Byron. What were your early gigs like and where did you play?
The really early gigs were a totally different experience! I guess we were pretty much an instrumental jazz/reggae/Afro-beat band back then. There were just five us in those days and we were yet to meet our larger-than-life vocalists Ras Roni, Ltl Gzeus and Blaka C.
We used play gigs like the Tuesday jazz night in Lismore for Jules and Jim Kelly. We’d also just busk with a small PA in the park across the road from the Beach Hotel. Lots of fun! Our guitarist Matt Smith was a local in Byron back then so he’d line us up all sorts of cool little gigs up on the north coast. We even recorded our first EP up there at Nashua Rd Studios with the late, great Russel Dunlop. It was such a cool experience recording and mixing out there in beautiful Nashua with Russel. What a legend.
You’ve released three fantastic albums to date and have another due for release in early 2019. Are you able to tell us anything about your upcoming album?
We are so excited about releasing this album, and if everything runs to plan we’ll have the first single Feel Special out in time for the Northern show on 29 June!
Recording and producing all the songs on this album has been a very collaborative process with every member of the band involved from start to finish. You can really hear a new energy and depth in the music, which comes from that unified approach.
Where can people see you play later in the year; what other gigs do you have booked in?
After the Northern we head straight up to the Sunshine Coast to play the Verriedale Full Moon Dance on 30 June. Then there are a few shows around Sydney and up on the central coast for the Jazz and Blues fest on 15 July. You can check out all the shows we have coming up along with news about the album on our website: thestridesband.com and on FB of course.
What’s in the future for The Strides; will you be touring your new album next year?
We are definitely going to be touring the album early next year and hopefully jumping on a bunch of festivals to promote it. Other than that we are just going to keep pushing and putting out new music. The Strides are in it for the long game and we are in no rush to get anywhere, just enjoying the ride.
Catch The Strides supported by Declan Kelly and 4’20 Sound at The Northern on Friday 29 June, 9pm. Tickets $25 at www.thenorthern.com.au.