The punk-grunge trio Strange Wilds is truly a product of the Pacific Northwest.
From Olympia, Washington, the band members grew up playing in punk and hardcore bands, listening to their parents' grunge records and, ultimately, caught the attention of Sub Pop Records.
So when it came time to record their debut record, Strange Wilds picked Robert Lang Studios, which for more than 40 years has been the go-to place Seattle's best bands, including Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters. But rather than simply chasing history, the band knew it was a place that could perfectly capture their energetic sound.
"I'd heard about the studio because I knew Nirvana had recorded there and bunch of other Seattle bands," says guitarist Steven Serna. "But I really wanted to record there because they have this gigantic open room. That's really what I was looking for in that place."
On the resulting album, Subjective Concepts, Serna, bassist Sean Blomgren and drummer Allen Trainer bring heavily distorted and scuzzy grunge rock, breakneck-paced punk, dark and heavier metal riffs and even some dissonant post-rock noise.
"My parents were into alternative music, so I got into all that grunge stuff at a real young age. It's the reason I wanted to play music. We're all kids from the '90s, so we all grew up on it," he says. "Our generation has it pretty easy. I got into hardcore punk stuff around 12, 13. I've been listening to bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains for long time and that's what defined my music playing until this band."
And despite the easily applied grunge tag that typically finds its way into reviews of Strange Wilds, the 11 songs on Subjective Concepts make the album an exercise in fusion, with disparate styles coming together into a hybrid sound all its own.
"We're all over the map really," Serna says. "All of us have been playing in bands since we were teenagers, mostly punk, hardcore, DIY bands. But we put a different spin on things. Our musical tastes are really eclectic. Devo is another influence for these songs, plus classic rock like Led Zeppelin. We throw some of that stuff into it and get more of a noise rock vibe rather than some of the bands that came out in the late '90s."
The band formed in 2012, when Blomgren's band from Boise played a house show where Serna lived. Sean moved to Olympia for college a few months later and they formed a band, first playing around the region as Wet. Trainer joined on drums in 2014 and the band changed its name to Strange Wilds, recording a four-song EP that caught Sub Pop's attention.
"When Sub Pop came calling, we were like 'Hell yeah!' That hearkens back to what got me into playing music and we started writing a bunch of new songs together," Serna says. "We wrote the LP all at once. Once we got signed to a label, we to put something out right away."
Strange Wilds has been thrilled with the reception that Subjective Concepts has received, as well as the audiences they've had as a new band on tour. But, keeping with the grunge tradition, they make music mostly for themselves.
"I really don't like to explain a lot of what I write. People relate to it or they don't relate to it. The title is kind of a joke in a way. You're making art and everyone has different opinions on things," Serna says. "Every piece of music is subjective."