Nashville-based indie rocker Benjamin Stranger released a dual single on December second. The tracks, “Misshapen Identity,'' and “Paint The Roses Red,” are the culmination of an extremely creative and collaborative approach by the artist and a large chunk of his network.
Stranger is bringing “Paint The Roses Red” back from his time in Baltimore. It was a product of one of his earlier collaborations with Alberto Pacheco. According to Stranger, “He composed most of the beautiful chord progression. I added a bridge and wrote the lyrics and melody.”
Stranger shares that, as the title suggests, the track is “Alice In Wonderland”-inspired. Stranger says, “[I wanted] to add my own contribution to the long list of ‘Alice’-inspired songs,” while musing over lyrics containing, “Rabbit holes of reference points and a healthy dose of mystery.”
Collaboration is apparent here again as Stranger shares that both “Paint The Roses Red” and “Misshapen Identity” enjoy the help of a legend: “Both tracks are helped immensely by Nashville legend Tony Paoletta's pedal steel guitar, which swoops and dives and complements the lyrics hauntingly with its genre-twisting logic.”
Misshapen Identity is another consummate collaboration, hailing from his current location in Nashville. Stranger can find creatives to work with everywhere he goes: “Trace Faulkner … wrote the bulk of the music and came up with the punning title. We shared the same workspace at the time.” Trace left Stranger a note one day simply saying, “It’s called Misshapen Identity. Go.”
And, he went. Stranger immediately went to work on the track and recalls that, “By the afternoon I had written the lyrics and melody around that titular idea, and that demo went on to be the basis for the finished track we recorded with John Meehan at Sundial Sound.”
Stranger is fully aware of the trailblazers who came before him and sees parallels between the way Faulkner works and some of his own heroes: “Faulkner was taking a page from the David Bowie/Iggy Pop playbook--during the making of The Idiot and Lust For Life, producer Bowie would sometimes write basic tracks with title ideas in mind for Pop to write and sing to.”
Faulkner and Stranger’s knowledge of each other’s working styles extends to understanding of each other’s experiences. Says Stranger, “Lyrical inspiration for the song stems from my mysterious family history (something Faulkner knew, cleverly), a tangled story that both explains and further obfuscates my own sense of 'misshapen' identity.” But Stranger won’t be telling you too much about his past or formative years, the artist declining to shed too much light on his own life, the creator instead preferring to spotlight his creations, the music.
Stranger goes on to say that the lyrics inform, “the fractured lines and snippets of narrative that, to me, reference a range of influences from 'Eleanor Rigby' to the paintings of Francis Bacon.” His music is certainly made with enough artistry that you could compare it to fine art, or even The Beatles.
Stranger leaves us with a little bit of a preview of the final composition. He shares that this release sees him incorporating new elements, equipment, and approaches: “The sound of the single itself is a very deliberate mixture of analog and digital sounds. It's the first time I've ever used overt vocal manipulation (i.e. Autotune, Melodyne, Eventide Harmonizer) as a creative tool on record and there is a conscious dialogue between digital synthesizer riffs and analog guitar/pedal steel riffs.”
The final product is impressive, alt-fueled art-minded indie. The tracks were mixed and mastered at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville. Stream them on Spotify.