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Strange Birds—Irvine’s melancholy, textured, wispy, indie shoegazer rock combo—are still in search of an identity. (The numerous adjectives in that previous sentence should be a tip-off.) Hardly surprising, when you consider the band have been in their current format—two axes, a bass and drums—for less than three months.
They are really the product of the songwriting collaboration between longtime friends Aidin Sadeghi and Bret Leinen, who composed a series of well-constructed, mostly acoustic, clean electric-guitar tracks peppered with halfway-despondent-yet-poppy melodies reminiscent of Elliott Smith and Grizzly Bear.
They slapped together their better efforts and self-released a self-titled EP. The set is good—really good—and has a maturity, in a classic-rock sort of way, most fledgling outfits clearly lack.
What the release does lack is the energetic blitz—namely a backbeat and sprinklings of rhythmic texture—the songs call for. Songs this good should have fuller arrangements, which explains the band’s newly formed version as a four-piece.
“When we recorded those songs, we didn’t have the other guys. It kind of feels incomplete to listen to it now,” Sadeghi says. “The songs were always written with a full band in mind; now that we have that, we are learning to play them as a group.”
The transition has taken some adjustment as far as converting the tracks into a bigger, full-rock sound. But from a chemistry perspective, things have never been better. Sadeghi says that the songwriting process is now more collaborative, with each member bringing something to the table.
Still, jumping back into the studio is not in their immediate plans—though the group try to practice at least twice a week. In a climate in which the Internet allows musicians to keep putting new material out there, Strange Birds are taking a less-is-more approach.
“We are writing a lot, and there is that urge to start recording right away, but we don’t want to rush anything,” he says. “We feel like it’s better to just get used to playing together for a while before we start thinking about anything like that.”
The new material remains true to the EP’s texture and low-key sentiment, but the songs are bolstered by the additional weapons in the band’s arsenal.
“We have a lot of ideas about the type of songs we want to make,” Sadeghi says. “We just want to add to what we’ve already been doing.”
Strange Birds have played less than a handful of shows—all in and around Orange County—in their current lineup, but there has been talk about an expedition to the Bay Area in the near-future. Those shows, if they do happen, will have to be booked by the band. From booking shows to building websites, making T-shirts and issuing new material, the band are DIY.
“At this point, we can handle all of those sorts of things on our own without much of a problem,” Sadeghi says. “If it ever gets to the point where that stuff is too much to handle, that will probably be a good thing.”
Strange Birds perform at Avalon Bar, 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650. Mon. Call for time and cover. 21+. For more information on Strange Birds, visit www.myspace.com/strangebirdsmusic.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column appeared in print as "Learning to Fly."