Interview: Echo Strike
What a pleasure to have Echo Strike in the Music Sanctum! So many things beg to be asked so let's get to it!
Can we get a brief introduction of the band’s members and their roles so we know who we stan over each time we listen to a piece of you?!
Randy Van Gelder - Vocals, Composition, Lyrics (keyboard, drums, bass and guitar), Beau Newlin - Lead Guitar, Juan “Zeta” Zeballos - Lead Guitar, Home Prie - Bass, John Peace - Drums, Angel Giu Romero - Keyboard, Jonathan “J Kut” Broussard - Bass / Beats / Mixing / Production
Under what circumstance was the band formed and why did you choose ‘Echo Strike’?
Beau, Jonathan and I met in 2017 and realized that we each had skill sets that would enable us to play together cohesively. When Beau and Jonathan listened to the many songs I had written over the years, they both asked why I had not produced an album. So I said... 'Why not?'. That lead to 'Honest Lies' in December of 2019. During that time, my travels down to Argentina led me to meeting the remainder of the band. They began playing my music and we decided that the synergies were just significant and we had to do something different. Now we have a band full of different influences, styles, genres and backgrounds... A melting pot of music. The name 'Echo Strike' is a combination of two ingredients. First, you’ll notice our use of echoing effects to create a spacial feeling in our sounds. We want you to feel like you are constantly floating through time and space in many of our songs. 'Strike' has to do with the way our music affects you. You will listen to the albums and you’ll never know what’s around the next corner because we like to surprise in our compositions. I don’t follow the musical composers handbook. I go right when you might expect me to go left.
But also, Echo Strike is a legendary character in my game creation Master of Wills, a competitive and strategic card game that can be played on Android/Ios/Steam and also originally as a board game. You can play the game and you might recognize the games soundtrack when you're in the arenas.
The amount of music you’ve released so far is significant. Is Echo Strike consisted of full-time music workers or are you productive in other activities/hobbies/jobs as well?
Music is always a full time job for me but that doesn’t mean I can’t find another 8-10 hours in my day to run a gaming software company and an energy software company. The thing is, Echo Strike also makes the music for our game Master of Wills and will be doing the entire score for the movie as well. We are also producing theme songs and music tracks for several movies, Amazon series and Netflix Originals. All the band members have a variety of backgrounds including architecture, teaching, machine work, music production and other various and diverse hobbies.
Was music creation/singing part of your childhoods or did it manifest later in your lives?
I think we all have been musicians for most of our lives but focused on our careers simultaneously outside of music (except Home Prie since he is the youngest in the group). I wrote music for two decades before I decided it was time to let the world hear it.
When I first listened to the ‘Dirty Clean Sexy Mean’ album, I received it as a 90’s-00’s album that would be ahead of its time back then. How did you come up with such a progressive, balanced genre-blend?
This is a world of copycats and originality can be severely limited. I go into everything I do with the idea of inventing something new. In music that is hard to do because there are only so many chords to go around. But I believe our work is a manifestation of what the world can become. We want to create music for every human on the planet. That is why throughout a single album you will here is fuse genres from rock to pop to funk to blues to electronic and so on. Each album might take on a specific genre or two that we want to explore. Disco was one that we wanted to try in Dirty Clean. The next album... Well, you’ll have to hear it to believe it.
How would you compare ‘Not Inside Your Mind’ to ‘Dirty Clean Sexy Mean’? Also, what does each mean to you?
'Not Inside Your Mind' will almost certainly go down as our shining achievement and breakthrough album. It might never be as technically complete as 'Dirty Clean Sexy Mean' but it certainly has had a global impact. If you listen to both, you’ll find them quite different in all the right ways.
NIYM contains more socially impactful songs focusing more on ideas that are relevant today such as 'Let It Shine', 'Just Fly' and 'It’s Alright'. But it also has a lot of fun with playful songs like 'Dig In' and 'Like Candy'. It also has some great storytelling like 'Catch Me' and 'Revisionist'.
DCSM is more conceptual in its delivery as it takes you on the emotional roller coaster of relationships from the beginnings, through the love, to the loss and despair and finally into the introspective. It was quite an accomplishment to write all but one of those songs in a specific order. That’s something most people do not know.
Your discography begins in 2019 with ‘Honest Lies’. Were there any specific artists that influenced or even formed the aesthetics of your sound at the time?
It’s important to understand that when I wrote all three albums, I stop listening to all other music except for the music I am making. That is my process in order to attempt to create something new. I turn off all around me to drive deeper into my mind and soul.
However, I’ve been influenced by years of a diverse pallet. I enjoy The Doors, The Beatles and Pink Floyd for their time period. The Bee Gees and other late 70s disco era bands. New Order, Depeche Mode to Late 80s rock. Tribe Called Quest, Outkast and Pharcyde to late 90s alternative and 00s electronics. Daft Punk was certainly a favorite of mine.
May I ask what inspired ‘Leaving’ and ‘Demons’ from your latest LP as well as ‘Let It Shine’ from your previous release?
Demons was inspired by the many times you feel down in your life and what it means to hit “rock bottom”. I am someone who constantly self evaluates, and in doing so, recognize the moments that can be difficult. I’m typically a very happy person with a positive attitude so, writing songs like that allows me to explore the darker parts of my mind that always interest me.
Let it Shine was always inside of me but these last several years, watching so many people get bullied or targeted for being different made it finally get written. It is clearly and unapologetically about being proud of being different and doing things your own way. The falsetto in this song was a big moment for me. I wasn’t always confident in my own abilities and this song showed me that I could effectively use the falsetto in a song. You’ll see that many songs now explore that sound ever since Let It Shine. So I let it shine so to speak!
'Leaving'... that one I am going to leave for your imagination. I want to keep that one inside for now. ;)
Do you have any songs throughout your discography that are special to you? Also, if you could choose one track from each album to become an international hit, which ones would you pick?
Let’s start with your second question first. On 'Honest Lies', 'Eyes on You' was always the song I thought had the most mainstream sound. On 'Not Inside Your Mind', 'Catch Me' was (from the moment I first composed it) always going to be a hit. 550,000 streams and counting has proven that (though 'Like Candy' comes in a close second). I thought 'Work to Do' was the best song that crossed the most boundaries on 'Dirty Clean Sexy Mean' but 'Leaving' and 'Making the Jive' are right there with it.
But there are a few songs that have a special meaning to me. 'All the Way Home' was a song that was specifically about my quarantine in Argentina and the inability to get home. 'Give It a Try' is my favorite song on that album. 'Sweet Child of Mine' is the one and only cover we’ve ever done but it was the most difficult challenge of my career tying to create greatness by changing the song while somehow maintaining the essence of the amazing original.
The entire first album is special to me because many songs were written 20+ years ago like 'Mexico', 'Santa Fe' and 'Falling Down'. 'Wait and See' is the song that I want people to pay attention to. That is a style that I purposely leave you with on DCSM as a sign of music to come. Everything you see on our albums are done with purpose. Every position of every song has a reason for its place.
It feels like you’re an instrumental-oriented band. Does your creative process start with music before lyrics, and who is the lyricist here?
I’m not sure I completely agree with that, though I don’t disagree that some songs are focused more on the instruments. Each song is driven by a sound and I follow that sound. For example, 'Listen Hard' is almost exclusively about the vocals. I begin with the piano on some, guitar on others and the drums on occasion as well. Sometimes I sing without lyrics and sometimes I write them even before the music. I try everything to create new sounds.
But I always compose all the music and lyrics first before the band gets involved. Once I’ve provided the blueprint, each member has the opportunity to create their piece of music. I will then take their music and determine the effects and sound as well as cut the composition to create new sounds with their components. Finally, Jonathan and I work on all the layers of the vocals (You will hear only me in all vocals for ever song except for 'Work to Do' and 'Rolling Stone' where we have two amazing guest back vocalists). Then Jonathan takes the track into the studio and begins the mixing and mastering process.
The pandemic has obviously been very creative for you as a band. In what other ways has it affected you?
Honestly, it’s affected me tremendously in all ways in regards to being able to be with the band. I cannot travel to Argentina and we have had numerous shows cancelled even now because I cannot get into their country. However, we have two complete and amazing albums created during this pandemic. We almost certainly would not be where we are today if not for being forced into quarantine.
Are there any thoughts you would share with us about possible future projects or are you recharging at the moment?
I never stop. If you think three albums in a year and a half would force me to recharge, think again! I am already composing new songs for the next album. We also have about 75 songs that have not made the previous three albums for symbiotic reasons which could rise to the top again. What will this album have? Well, more rock and hip hop are two places we want to explore next so get ready to have your minds blown!