Commanding, crisp, and energetic: Cast Away, out April 29, 2014, is the highly anticipated debut album by Melbourne, Australia’s electro-pop charmers Strange Talk. Following up on the international buzz brought on by the release of their self-titled EP, Cast Away is 12 tracks of indie-meets-synth gems including the anthemic electro-tinged debut single “Young Hearts,” which was produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove, Smallpools, The Mowgli’s) and mixed by Tony Hoffer (M83, Phoenix, Beck).
The internet has been abuzz over “Young Hearts” since it premiered on Neon Gold who hailed “From the sizzling coming-of-age synth arpeggios to the contagious singalong choruses, it’s an ageless beauty that bleeds neon and shimmers like glitter and gold.” The song immediately shot to #1 on Hype Machine and The Chainsmokers, whose well-known remixes include songs by Bastille and Ellie Goulding, heard it and wanted to remix it. They did so and it too immediately shot to #1 on Hype Machine and has garnered nearly 500,000 plays to date.
Packed full of shimmering synths and pulsing pop beats, from the relentless, hook-laced hit “Climbing Walls,” the rave drenched “Falling In Love,” big tom dance floor banger “Another Day” and the minimalist electro ballad “Come Back Home,” Cast Away is one epic, dazzling listen. “It was a long journey, making this record said frontman Stephen Docker, “We really challenged ourselves. It’s odd: you’ve got a classically trained violinist, a dance producer with a DJ background, and two funk/soul musicians. It’s weird how it all gels together, but that’s the unique flavour of Strange Talk.”
The press has been quick to take notice with Rolling Stone (Australia) giving Cast Away a four out of five star review calling it "Equal parts Cut Copy and Daft Punk with pinches of Eighties pop, Strange Talk's album is a fizzy cocktail of synths, breathy vocals and tinny drums." Billboard said, “Stateside fans of stylish alt-pop acts like Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy and Royksopp will be getting very familiar with Strange Talk... Bursting with ornate synthesizers and warm vocals…”
It all began in October 2011 when Strange Talk decamped to a friend’s farm in Castlemaine, Victoria, 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne. In between breaking to play headline gigs across the country, they wrote and layed down tracks. “The farm was amazing,” remembers Stephen. “It had moose heads on the wall, an amazing veranda which overlooked a huge field with cows, a big lake, a gym so we could keep fit (laughs)... After a while it was sad to come back to Melbourne, because when you’re being creative like that it’s hard to leave it behind.” There was, says Stephen, “mood talk” about the direction of each new song, “For example, should it be a big club banging tune, or even a ballad, which is something completely out of our realm.” The singer took heed of advice given by the Presets’ Julian Hamilton. “He’d said to me, ‘If you’re onto an idea, roll with it – whatever comes out you’ll most likely stick to.’”
After the Christmas break in February 2012 Strange Talk headed for the coast, Gerard’s sister lending them her beach house in Victoria’s Mount Martha. Here, the second half of Cast Away fell into place. On the recommendation of pals Van She, Strange Talk had fallen in love with the gritty, digital workhorse sounds of synth - the Dave Smith Poly Evolver. Six songs in, they replaced older beds with their new favorite toy. Enter mixer Tony Hoffer (M83, Phoenix, Beck).
“Tony was the perfect man for the job, he brightened everything up,” enthuses Stephen. “We record and produce everything ourselves, so over that whole process we really learned what works for us and what doesn’t. The thing that sold us on Tony was what he did with M83’s ‘Midnight City,’ I haven’t heard a song with such glitz, but at the same time such gritty sound.”
On Cast Away Strange Talk have widened their scope, reaching back into influences past and present to create a whole new sound. Basslines are deeper; melodies even more euphoric. “For the first EP we were heavily into M83, Phoenix, Passion Pit and Two Door Cinema Club,” Stephen admits, “but growing up, our biggest influences were people like Michael Jackson, the Police and Queen, among others, all of which I think you can hear more of on this record. We’ve stepped away from the ‘indie’ thing somewhat; the album’s a lot more complex, and really shows how we’ve progressed as producers and musicians.”
Off the back of killer songs like “Climbing Walls,” “Eskimo Boy” and now with “Young Hearts,” Strange Talk frontman Stephen Docker, producer/DJ/bassist Gerard Sidhu, Travis Constable (drums) and Gillan Gregory (guitar) have already made their mark, both in Australia and beyond. They played several shows at CMJ last year to packed houses including The Fader Fort at Converse's Rubber Tracks Studio and have racked up numerous accolades including #1 Billboard Uncharted for “Climbing Walls.” They were #1 Most Blogged Artist according to Hype Machine and also had a #1 Hype Machine remix of their own with Foster The People’s “I Would Do Anything For You.” The band has also had some great syncs including “Morning Sun,” off Cast Away, featured in and on the soundtrack of the recent Zac Efron film That Awkward Moment. “Climbing Walls” was featured in American Eagle Project Live Your Life Campaign and Cheer, “Cast Away” was used in Need for Speed: Most Wanted and 90210 among others. They’ve played such festivals as Parklife, Stereosonic, Future Music, Soundscape and Falls, played with Foster The People, the Rapture, Neon Indian, Marina and The Diamonds and The Sounds.
With all of these great things, Strange Talk has morphed into one of the country’s most exciting live acts. It’s a long way from the bedroom duo Stephen and Gerard envisioned when they met almost three years ago. “We all know each other a lot more now,” Stephen laughs. “It’s weird how it works with such a diverse mix of backgrounds, but I think that does the project justice. ‘Climbing Walls’ was when the penny dropped for us. Now, we just want people to have fun, lose themselves in the songs. Enjoy the journey, from start to end.”