Estrangers continuing on the lo-fi road

by Ryan Snyder

Winston-Salem fuzz-pop outfit Estrangers released a four-track EP of demos in April entitled Sunmelt, an unofficial follow-up to their 2011 debut EP White Ballroom. It’s economical offering of twisted pop melodies and a fanatically sunny disposition. Songwriter Philip Pledger possesses a strong affection for uncompromisingly lo-fi production, which is fitting that their natural sound lends itself considerably to the normal characteristics of a demo.

Sunmelt takes a somewhat different approach in that it finds Estrangers toying more with the synth-based side of their two keyboard, two guitar arrangement. After wrapping up Phuzz Phest in early April and playing a Brooklyn date, the band has no shows scheduled until Pledger’s 25th birthday in mid-June. That doesn’t mean they aren’t staying busy, however.

On the idea behind Sunmelt:

The formula I like a lot is drums and bass that are very defined and prominent, but where the beats are very defined to drive the song. That’s just the way I work in general. If I try to write on guitar it’s a lot harder than it is if I have a drum beat or at least a rhythm to play with. I think if we started incorporating more synth. The first song for Sunmelt started with synth the way that “White Flowers” on the EP could have been played on the piano, but I thought it would be fun to mess with some psychedelic keyboard sounds and still keep the bass and drum sounds.

On making White Ballroom:

The first record was made in a really quick amount of time. We recorded the first song in June 2011 and recorded the rest from July to September. We kind of wrote a lot of it pretty quickly. Even by the time it came out in November, they had been done for a few weeks. Some of them were brand new, some of them I had been kicking around for a year or so. At the beginning of the writing process, I always feel terrible because I’m like, “I don’t have anything, what do I do?” I wanted to have something new for [the first] Phuzz Phest, so that gave White Ballroom a sense of urgency.

On writing really, really happy songs:

I was talking to Derek Torres in T0W3RS and some song came on, I think Everly Brothers and I said, “Yeah, these songs are so sad.” He said something like, “Yeah, everybody just writes sad songs. Except Paul Mc- Cartney, because he wrote really happy songs even when he’s not.” It has that feeling, but it doesn’t sound like a sad album. For Sunmelt, I tried to be as unabashedly, finger snapping and head bopping, even the lyrics are too idealistic. I just wanted to see how it would sound if there was not a speck of unhappiness.

On coming back to perform in June:

The next show we play, we’re going to have four or five new songs.

I’m stoked because I feel like it’s going to have a totally new energy about it. There’s new ground to be broken. I’m excited to explore Pat’s drum work. We’ve never played “Scatterheart” live, which is the second song on the EP. We’ve only played “Sunmelt” twice, and both times we botched it a little bit. It didn’t sound totally different because we were cheating a little bit. We’ve never played “Glass Petals,” which was on the first record. We tried to when we first started, but it never sounded good. We’ve found a way to play it where it sounds really cool now though, and then there’s two other songs that no one’s ever heard.

On upcoming releases:

Would like to have another record out next April, but this summer I’d like to release some singles. There are a couple of songs we’ve been practicing that have been a little different than the way I think they should be going, but they’re still good songs so I want to put them online. I think people will enjoy them even if I think it’s not the direction we’ll ultimately be going. There’s also a Christmas song we did last year that we’ll put out in December.

On stylistic difference between Estrangers and the Bayonets:

It’s just two totally different animals. Anytime I’m hitting a wall with an Estrangers song, I’ll go to a Bayonets practice and play a different role in the band and simply focus on that.

Listen to Sunmelt at