The Bay Area’s Wreckless Strangers Release When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide.
Debut Album Beams California Country Soul to Music Lovers Across the Galaxy
The Wreckless Strangers are a collective of top Bay Area session musicians and friends playing California country soul comprising members Amber Morris (Vocals), David Noble (Lead guitar, Vocals), Joshua Zucker (Bass), Austin de Lone (Keys, Vocals), Mick Hellman (Drums, vocals), and Rob Anderson (Guitar).
Their debut album, When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide will be available on all streaming platforms Friday, May 20th. The project was produced by Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Alison Krauss / Robert Plant, Bob Dylan), whose talents on the guitar are also featured on singles “Sun State” and “Alexa.” The album also features a special guest appearance by Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica on the lead single “Sun State,” and Jim Hoke on horns/pedal steel on “Raw Deal,” “Mudluscious,” “Alexa,” and “My Art”.
I connected with these Americana troubadours right before the release of the album to learn more about this band of friends, their writing and recording process, and navigating live performances in the world of COVID.
What was the inspiration behind the album title, When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide?
Joshua Zucker (Bass): “When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide” is a line from the chorus of the lead single, “Sun State” which is about those special people you run across in life who shine like the sun. You know the ones — those people who energize and lift up everyone else around them; who draw people to them like a magnet — some sort of unearthly force field — like when the sun and a blue star collide. It was such a great reference for that song and perfect for the vibe of the band and the record. It named itself!
Is there one aspect of the album creation process you enjoy more than others? I.e., writing, composing, producing?
David Noble (Lead guitar, vocals): I am a fan of the whole process. But if I had to choose, writing and composing is the most joyful. It is true alchemy witnessing something being created from nothing. I also love hearing the rawness of how a song starts out (before the production makes it “pretty”).
Amber Morris (Vocals): I love production and I really enjoy the creative process around writing and the synergy that comes with each band member’s contribution to the Wreckless Strangers’ sound. In the recording process, I love getting to the end of a take and all of us knowing that was the one with the magic fairy dust!
How did the band form?
JZ: The band formed out of an unplanned, unstructured jam session in a barn in Petaluma, California, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. No pretense, no plan, a case of beer and some friends and family. There have been many many twists and turns — many highs and lows — since then, but we try to hold on to the vibe and the ethos of that day in that barn. Because that’s what it’s all about.
Austin de Lone (Keys, vocals): It started as a vehicle for Mick and his daughters to sing and play, and eventually, over time, some folks left and others joined on until it reached its current line-up about 3 years ago.
What is your favorite part of working with such a big band?
DN (Lead guitar, vocals): It is a pleasure working with such a large group because there is never a dearth of ideas. No one member is tasked with coming up with all the songs, production, lyrics, etc. It takes the pressure off knowing that someone else can always pick up the slack.
Mick Hellman (Drums, vocals): Grooving, live, after the band settles into a set. When everyone relaxes, and the audience starts moving, the energy in the room builds and the band catches fire. It is just crazy, crazy fun. I never want to stop or go home.
How did you get hooked up with such an awesome GRAMMY winning musician and producer Colin Linden, who produced this project for your? What was it like to work with him?
MH: We met Colin through my daughter Olivia, who is a singer-songwriter in the Country/American genre living in Tennessee. Olivia used to be vocal lead in our predecessor band, The Well Known Strangers. Olivia recorded some fabulous tracks with Colin, and what I appreciated so much about him was his construction of mood, and also where he chose to leave things out, like periodic breaks in the backbeat or downbeat. He also emphasizes the need for songs to “breathe”, hence he prefers to work without a click. That allowed the natural tendency of this band to build energy with each other, instead of separately playing our parts as individual instrumentalists.
How do you deal with deciding which songs made the album versus which ones you had to cut?
JZ: We had a wider set of songs that we could have recorded that we narrowed down to the 14 songs which ended up on the record, but in the end we didn’t cut anything that we recorded. I’ve joked that songs are a little bit like children — through the course of writing and recording them you become very attached to them, which makes them very hard to cut — very hard to let go of. We were advised to cut down the number of songs, partially based on general convention and
partially because we can’t fit all 14 songs on one vinyl record, but in the end we wanted the music to be heard and didn’t want to decide for our audience what they would hear and what they wouldn’t. We decided to let our listeners decide that.
What is the inspiration behind the album artwork?
MH: So many things! The visual imagery of Sun and Blue Star together, but not colliding in a violent way, mixed with mysticism of the Mountain Song, as expressed through the artistic creativity, beauty and excellence of Stanley Mouse (Grateful Dead, Journey), a longtime family friend of Amber’s.
Did the pandemic affect your music throughout this project? Are your experiences dealing with COVID reflected in the songs?
JZ: Most of the songs on the record were written before lockdown began, but the adventure of bringing this album to fruition was deeply impacted by the pandemic. We probably would have recorded it in the spring of 2020 if all had gone ‘according to plan,’ but when does anything artistic or organic ever go according to plan? For the first few months after March 2020 we simply couldn’t play together. During that time we did a lot of pre-production work. We basically recorded the album on our own using Logic by passing the tracks around on Dropbox. And it was amazingly productive — allowed us to arrange the songs in detail. Finally in early 2021 we were able to safely, carefully gather in person to record the record. It was really jarring to be back among humans and took us a while to relearn how to play together — how to feel eachother — how to groove together. Stuff we had always taken for granted — but that will never be taken for granted again. So the process was deeply affected by COVID, but as for songs themselves that came out of that phase, a bunch of those will be on the next record.
What does your creative process look like with so many band members?
AdL: The main authors come in with big ideas, sometimes complete songs, sometimes a simple phrase or melody. At rehearsals we work on creating arrangements, maybe adding a verse or bridge, maybe changing a melody. We are all very fond of each other, so it is a very cooperative process.
If Wreckless Strangers could tour with any act current or past who would it be?
JZ: Hmmmm… That’s hard, but they’d have to be from the Bay Area. Probably some kind of lallapalooza situation because our influences are very diverse. Like maybe Sly and the Family Stone, Journey, Primus, Metallica and of course the Grateful Dead. Wreckless Strangers would headline.
DN: Bonnie Raitt, Bill Withers, Black Pumas, The Black Crowes MH: I am voting for The Black Crowes. Or Grace Potter.
If you had to use one word to describe your live shows what would it be? JZ: FUN!
DN: Wreckless (Laughes)
MH: Danceyourassoff! Is that one word?
What do you hope listeners get out of listening to the album? How do you want them to feel?
AM: I want them to feel like they are hearing something authentic, that is familiar, rings true and leaves a mark. I want them to feel like they’re with us on that long car ride from the Bay Area to Mt. Shasta as the changing natural landscape and political landscape changed outside the window. We felt like we were witnessing the juxtaposition of a divided America in real time. Mountain Song was written as a result of asking can we live side by side? Nothing like a good old road trip to give you perspective!
DN: I would like for listeners to acknowledge the variety of genres and styles that we attempt on this album. The breadth and scope of this album is very ambitious. I’d like for people to not pigeon hole the Strangers musically speaking … I think our sound is bigger than any prescribed genre.
Learn more about Wreckless Strangers at https://wrecklessstrangers.com
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3niRRJFTVQEmQAVtrCHMu5?si=GCbSI1RBSceoA-PaT11udg TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@wrecklessstrangers