During the strange days of the COVID-19 pandemic, strange Bartes and his songs suddenly seemed to be all over the indie music scene, when the musician actually couldn’t go anywhere.
“I was at home like everyone else. I was just on the phone a lot. It was weird, because I’ve been doing music for a long time and I’ve never really had that kind of success or enthusiasm. for my music. So, it was really surreal. There were days when I just forgot it had happened. I was just at home, and then someone called me and they were like, ” Oh my God, I just saw you on “(Late Night with) Seth Meyers.” And I’d say, ‘Oh okay. Yes. I did it. It’s crazy,” he said with a laugh.
After missing his chance to perform at the Norman Music Festival due to the pandemic, Strange – who was born in Britain, grew up in Oklahoma and is now based in Washington, DC – finally returns to the Sooner State in concert on May 7 at the Tower Theater, where he will open for indie rockers Car Seat Headrest.
“I can’t wait. … I’m very proud of where I come from and the people where I come from and what it means to be from Oklahoma. I’m glad I grew up there” , Strange said by phone from San Rafael, Calif., where he was visiting guitar shops during his tour.
Growing up in Oklahoma shapes musicians’ songs
For Strange – whose real name is Bartees Cox Jr. – 2020 has proven to be a roller coaster ride, although it began to a climax in January with the announcement that he would be among the headliners at this spring’s Norman Music Festival.
Around the time he released his EP “Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy”, a collection of his covers of songs by rock band The National, the COVID-19 epidemic had arrived in America, shut down the live music industry and scrap the Norman Music Fest for two years.
“I was really excited for Normandy Music Festival. I went to the University of Oklahoma. …I worked at Hideaway Pizza right on Campus Corner, so I remember whenever I could, I went there. And that was the coolest thing; I’ve seen so many bands I’ve never heard of,” said Strange, who had previously committed to his spring ride with car seat headrest when the organizers of Norman Music Fest has started planning for the April comeback event.
“I hope next year.”
When he was born in Ipswich, England in 1989, Strange’s mother was an opera singer and his father was in the middle of a long military career. His parents’ jobs meant the family moved frequently, and Strange lived in Germany, Greenland and several US states before he reached his 12th birthday, when they settled in Mustang.
“I went through my seven stages of grieving with Oklahoma, but I love this place and I love the people I met there and I’m so connected to it. I feel like a a lot of who I am is only because of Oklahoma. I remember my whole childhood being like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to get out of here’, then when I moved to the East Coast I kind of saw that everything that made me who I was I was because of this place I started embracing it more – and I’m glad I got it done,” he said.
“It wasn’t always the most fun or welcoming vibe. … We’re a black family and we grew up in a small, mostly white town. And there were issues sometimes. My parents went through a lot. . But some of my best friends, some of my best mentors, some of my closest friends of all time are Oklahomans.”
Oklahoman’s debut album achieves ‘universal acclaim’
Additionally, some of Strange’s favorite musicians are fellow Oklahomans, including John Calvin Abney, Samantha Crain, John Moreland and Tommy McKenzie, who now performs with The Flaming Lips.
“These are all people I’ve worked with at pizza places, played with at the Deli. We were going to The Opolis and The Conservatory; we were playing dates at Bad Granny’s. I became a musician there- low, so I love this place for what it has done for me,” Strange recalled.
Strange honed his musical talents playing in hardcore bands in Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, New York, while working in Barack Obama’s administration and later in the environmental movement.
But when he released his debut LP “Live Forever” in the fall of 2020, the first two singles — his hometown punk-rock hat “Mustang” and the indie rock anthem “Boomer” — were specifically about his upbringing. in Oklahoma.
Recorded in a barnyard studio in Wassaic, New York, the genre-defying album – which ranges from rap and folk to dance-pop and synth-rock – earned Metacritic’s coveted “universal acclaim” designation. The success of “Live Forever” also allowed Strange to perform on NPR’s “Little Office Gigs” and “Seth Meyers” although he ended up playing on these prestigious platforms from home due to the pandemic.
Bartees Strange is preparing his second album “Farm to Table”
Her sudden success, especially under the surreal circumstances of the pandemic, inspired much of the writing for her second album, “Farm to Table,” which will be released digitally on June 17. His debut on the famous independent label 4AD will bow on vinyl and CD October 7th.
“I never thought this would happen to me, and there were so many new things I was going through. So, I just had to get it out, I had to write about it. That’s what it was all about. acts: it’s about the last few years and thinking about how i’m becoming my parents and how silly it is to see how life has gone and how i feel about myself , even though so much is changing around me,” he said.
“I named it ‘Farm to Table’ because I grew up around people who are from farms, working people. My parents are working people, and now I get closer to those tables – or I am at the table – of the biggest music industry. The people that I’ve looked up to all my life – the artists that I’ve always wanted to be like and felt like I was out of reach – these are my buddies now. So I just recognize where I’m coming from, but I also recognize that I’m going in this new direction. I want to be aware of those two things.
So far, Strange has served up two singles from “Farm to Table”: “Heavy Heart,” a slow, horn-punctuated guitar-rock ode about letting go of guilt, and “Cosigns,” a hip hop-meets -alt-rock banger that not only shamelessly basks in its success, but also functions as a self-directed cautionary tale about the pitfalls of never being satisfied. As these initial lessons show, he said his new album, like “Live Forever,” will offer a sound that spans all genres.
“I’m in a polyamorous relationship with genders. I love them all,” he said with a laugh. “I’m an Air Force kid, so I moved all over the world and ended up in Oklahoma. I just had access to a lot of different sounds. … I loved the music rap, I loved country music, I loved blues, I loved house music. I was like, ‘How do you do that?’ Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to make sounds, and as I got older I thought, ‘Oh, they’re actually more closely related than people normally give them credit for.'”
And now he can finally return to Oklahoma to show off his eclectic sound style.
“I’ve always wanted to come back like this, and it’s really been a dream. And I’m so grateful to be able to come back and play The Tower, which was built, I think, after I left,” he said. declared. . “There are people in Oklahoma who have seen me play guitar since I was 12, 13…so it’s going to be a treat to come back and play in a beautiful place. Anyone can come church and old jobs, and we can all hang out together. It’s going to be very special.”
BARTEES STRANGE OKC CONCERT
Opening for: Car seat headrest.
When: 8 p.m. on May 7.
Or: Tower Theater, 425 NW 23.