Truman Capote-influenced band takes it to the max

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A throwback to the ’80s pop scene mixed with Fleetwood Mac is the best way to describe the sound of Hello Stranger. Their self-titled album (Aeronaut, 2006) is a very interesting listen. Its distinct sound is reminiscent of ’80s music. There are a lot of poppy songs, but there are also songs that will transport you to a very different place. When you first start to listen, it draws you in and soon you can’t turn it off.

The University News got a chance to talk to the lead singer and keytar player, Juliette Commagere, about life in the band and how they came up with their unusual name.

“Hello Stranger came from a collection of Truman Capote short stories,” she said. “When we were trying to decide on a name for the band, one of the guys in the band was reading the book and said, ‘Hey, what about Hello Stranger?’ And we thought it sounded cool. So there you have it.”

Joachim Cooder (drums) and Commagere are natives of Los Angeles and band mate, Jared Smith (guitar, keyboards), is from northern Michigan. When Cooder and Commagere met Smith at a train station in Los Angeles they were embarking on a new type of band.

“Being a part of a band is really wild,” Commagere said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and teamwork that goes into being a part of this band. Sometimes it can be an emotional roller coaster. But we love it.”

When she was asked how they came up with their sound, she had to laugh.

“We didn’t really plan to sound like the way we do,” she said. “We all come from very different backgrounds of music . I’m a classically-trained pianist and I bring that into the band. It just sort of happened, I guess.”

They have very interesting titles for their songs but they hate having to giving them titles.

“We don’t really like to title,” said Commagere. “We would rather that the music stand for us. We didn’t title the song ‘Take it to the Max’ but someone told us that [that’s] what the song sounded like, so the name stuck.”

In an industry that is dominated by male lead singers, Commagere is one of the few females to step up to the mic. She said that it’s very interesting being a part of that.

“I pick up on things in the audience that the others don’t,” she said. “Like one time we were performing, I thought I was being heckled by these guys in the crowd. I asked Joachim and Jared if I was, and they said they didn’t think so. It can be very interesting, but I have so much fun.”

Along with bassist Ben Messelbeck, Hello Stranger is currently touring and is coming to the Creepy Crawl in St. Louis on Feb. 17. The band plans to tour and record some new songs in the coming months. They also plan to have a new album out by the end of summer.