On the make
Josh Hodges, frontman for the indie-rock band STRFKR, doesn’t like listening to his own music. When he hears one of his band’s popular songs, such as “Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second,” playing in a bar or department store, he cringes. It’s not that he thinks they’re bad songs—he’s just finished with them.
“The enjoyment is in creating the thing,” he said. “It’s fun to make the song, but I’ll never listen to it again unless I’m relearning a part to play it live.”
In other words, Hodges makes music for the sake of the process. As the band’s primary creator, he’s responsible for the rich, intricate and densely layered arrangements that characterize the trio’s sound, as well as their dark lyrical themes of death and mortality. The total package is generally poppy and danceable. (See “While I’m Alive” off 2013’s Miracle Mile).
STRFKR is a live-oriented band known for its energetic stage shows and elaborate homemade set designs and light displays. As such, Hodges wrote STRFKR’s last full-length album—2016’s Being No One, Going Nowhere—with live performances in mind, and believes he pulled it off OK.
“I focused on the dancy stuff, and I think it was successful; the beats were driving,” he said. “Now we can have a longer dance bloc during our sets, because that’s become what people expect when they come to our shows. And I also just love having a fun, reactive audience, you know?”
Even so, Hodges isn’t entirely satisfied with how the record turned out: “There are definitely things I would change about the album, but I’m just like, ’I’ll do something better on the next one.’”
Despite being so self-critical, Hodges recently released a bunch of unfinished songs—the final volume of the Vault Series, a three-part collection of rare and previously unreleased recordings. The tracks are mostly fragments of ideas, some of which were later fleshed out with the help of bassist Shawn Glassford and drummer Keil Corcoran.
Hodges explained that he’d stumbled on about 80 demos stored on a wheezing, 15-year-old computer, and thought it would be a shame not to salvage the material.
“It’s fun to start a song, but it’s difficult to finish it,” he said. “I was never going to finish those songs, and the computer was going to die, so I figured I might as well put them out.”
The collection offers an illuminating glimpse into the creative process of a prolific and eccentric songwriter. For Hodges, each song in the Vault Series serves as a milepost, a reminder of his life circumstances at the time of the recording, and he considers releasing the collection kind of embarrassing. It’s like putting his diary on an audiobook for everyone to hear.
“But, you know, at this point, even if just a few people appreciate these songs, then it’s worth whatever embarrassment I have over releasing unfinished shit,” he said. “I just thought it would be interesting for fans because it shows my writing process or whatever, and I think some people like the raw, unfinished vibe.”
As for future plans, Hodges is already writing the follow-up to Being No One, Going Nowhere, which he described as “white boy R&B.” And he recently broke his own rule and listened to STRFKR’s self-titled debut album, because the band is preparing to play it on tour, from start to finish, to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
“It’s been enough time that I feel like I was a different person then,” he said. “So I was able to listen without feeling so much ownership of it.”