Walking out of a routine session in Hermosa Beach, David Stücken feels good. He's been boxing since he was a teen, and it once served as a good way to relieve tension. Now, his preferred way of expressing himself and channeling his aggression is in music.
Though he'd been bouncing around in local outfits such as his teenage group the Breakdowns ("We used to sneak into the Doll Hut and play before we were 21") and, more prominently, the Strangers, David and the Curse is Stücken's first as a solo artist. Figuring out what he wanted for his own music with his name stamped on the cover proved to be a more challenging task than recording and touring with those other bands. "With this new debut single and the record that's going to follow, An Epitaph for Love, it all came down to the word being refinement," he explains. "The hardest thing is to find your own personal voice. To sound like yourself isn't as easy as it sounds. That's the struggle as a solo artist, to define and refine yourself."
David and the Curse has allowed the Long Beach-based songwriter to develop a sound that melds his many punk and rock influences to create something more coherent. Stücken started singing as far back as he can remember, joking that he came out of the womb singing songs. Among his earliest music memories is singing Phantom of the Opera when he was a toddler and enjoying music that was technically challenging. "I remember in preschool, the teachers' aides would ask me on the playground to sing them songs," he says. "They used to tell my parents that they should put me on Star Search."
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Stücken's success with the Strangers included touring with the likes of punk stalwarts TSOL and the Buzzcocks and an opening slot for Social Distortion, from which he gained some words of wisdom from Social D guitarist Jonny Wickersham. Following a stint with the Dead Relatives, a band that formed following the Strangers' demise, Stücken decided to give his solo career a go. Without having to answer to any band mates and serving as the de facto maestro who could shape and map out a firm vision, the 31-year-old has been rejuvenated. He then spent some time in New York City, where he developed an idea and a sound for what was to become David and the Curse. The no-frills brand of rock was channeled in the preproduction for An Epitaph for Love. "I found myself alone without a band, and it was time to take all of this information and put it all together," he says. "It's been a couple of years, and it's time to put it out."
Though that won't happen until early next year, Stücken is optimistic that his earnest, grounded songwriting approach will resonate with fans. "Even though it's my solo debut and my solo band, if you don't recognize you're working with a great team, you became jaded quickly," he says. "With David and the Curse being a solo debut, I'm very conscious that I have to earn respect. Jonny told me that I couldn't let anything I did in music go to my head in order to win their respect over. That stuck with me.
"What I've learned with so many bands—with starting and ending—I learned a lot about humility and respect," Stücken continues. "It's really cool, but you have to stay humble, and staying true to the earnesty of the songwriting. I don't feel like I have to compromise . . . that with David and the Curse."