Strangers You Know
text Kristin Winters
In the mist of Coachella 2016 headliners, lasers shows, theatrics, and big budget productions, you can still find hidden gems of boundary-pushing music. This year’s discovery is the artist duo Adam Haagen and Grady Lee of Strangers You Know. The young musicians met each other by chance while sneaking into Coachella 2012 and from that point on, their friendship grew and careers took off. At this year’s performance, Grady grooved on the keyboards as Adam seduced the crowd with crooning lyrics. The pair sat at the edge the stage, as close to the fans as security would allow, singing their hearts out in an arm in arm embrace. The spirit of brotherhood permeated through the Mojave Tent as the audience broke out in dance and, no doubt, left with Strangers You Know downloaded to their playlist.
Strangers You Know’s latest EP Loosen Up The Leash, is a blend of electronic, R&B, and folk, but more significantly, is an ever evolving pursuit of identity morphing and mixing. Strangers You Know is a dynamic new venture, where the collaboration of Adam and Grady’s musical sensibilities reign over conformity, genres or any resemblance of a prepackaged sound.
Coachella Magazine was fortunate to steal a moment with Adam Haagen and Grady Lee at the Indio Polo Grounds before they took to the stage. We are proud to present to you, a new festival favorite, Strangers You Know!
KRISTIN WINTERS: How did you guys meet each other for the first time, back at Coachella 2012?
GRADY LEE: Yes, I ran into Adam. Adam was with a whole bunch of girls and I saw the girls and not Adam …
ADAM HAAGEN: Not me (laughs)
GL: And so I pursued. It turns out he [Adam] was with them and it happened we were all going to the same show.
KW: That’s pretty sweet. Did you form the band shortly after that?
AH: No, it was pretty funny. After meeting, we didn’t see each other again until Outside Lands [San Francisco], a good four or five months later. We had each other’s numbers but we never met up. He was up in Santa Barbara back then and I was in LA. We met up there kind of randomly, he was trying to get in touch with me and it never happened until the last day. It came across that he had a new band he wanted to start making music with, I kind of produced and just finished building a studio out in LA. We talked then and we decided I’d have him down a month later. After that month, I think we’ve been together every week ever since, we just got a long real well. I produced them, I started writing, adding parts to their songs and kind of took over and other members fell apart and now there’s the two of us.
KW: A major feature at Coachella this year were the accompanying visuals, such as laser shows in the Sahara Tent and film footage on the main stage — Do you want to incorporate visuals like these in the future?
GL: Yes, I think those things come with time. The longer you’ve been doing it, the more notoriety, the more people will get on board. We haven’t been doing shows that would have afforded us to be able to do something like that. This is really new to us so now that it’s starting to happen, we’ll probably start incorporating that.
AH: It’s our first major run of shows where we have a whole stage set up and we’ve come in more geared towards kind of a club and theater venues and festivals.
GL: I also don’t think it’s necessarily required if you’re a good performer to have anything else going on. I think we’ve proved in our performance, we don’t have to have any other things going on.
KW: Ok cool. I’d like to talk about your unique sound and two tracks in particular: The first song on your 2015 LP, Attention, sounds like a jam session- two guys grooving together and really in sync with each other. What stage was the band in at that point in time?
GL: We were all still together every day. I made that beat at my friend Stefan’s house and it was just a testament to how awesome it is that our life is performing and being artists. We get paid to do that, that’s really special; that’s where that song came out of.
KW: Your single Used, released in 2016, in contrast has a more of a folky vibe
AH: Well completely, we’re into genre bending and that I love country music and alternative and folk and kind of that side, where he loves electronic and hip hop and R&B. If you listen to the entire arc, you can see both sides but I think it’s a lot more cohesive than what we put out before. It’s us forming the sound of the other 808’s and drum machines and auto-tune and then banjos and violins and that more organic sound.
KW: The two genres sound perfect together. Is this the direction of your next album or singles?
AH: Probably something more hip-hoppy
AH: Yes, I’d say more into country- so we don’t really know yet (laughs)
GL: You can’t expect anything, we’re on two different wavelengths. At the end of this tour, we’re going to be at a totally different place and I don’t think either of us really know what we’re trying to do sonically from there.
KW: What is your dream tour?
GL: The one that we’re going on
AH: We’re playing at [summer festivals] Hangout, Firefly, Bumbershoot, BottleRock, Summerfest and touring around with other unreleased bands in between. We have a big few months- I’m really excited about Hangout [in Alabama], apparently the stage is on the beach on the Gulf Shore. That sounds unique and awesome. I’m going to love it down there. FireFly should be great up in Delaware.
GL: We have friends that are going to BottleRock. It’s up in Napa, that’ll be sick. Good area, a lot of wine.
AH: A switch over from beer.
KW: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
GL: We want to wake up in the same place that we were dreaming of four years ago.
KW: That’s beautiful.
AH: I like that, it’s poetic. I don’t know how I’m going to follow up that. I think we have the same thoughts about what we want. We’re living the dream in that we can create and do what we’re going to do anyway. It’s amazing when things work out, and like he said, if we can wake up every day and keep doing what we are doing and be where we want to be; that’s the dream.
Strangers You Know’s EP Loosen Up The Leash, was released early May, 2016 and is now available for download. Adam Haagen and Grady Lee are hitting the road this summer, playing music festivals nationwide — for dates and details, visit their site strangersyouknow.com