Local Santa Monica Band Wows Audiences With Original Live Music
Called “Los Angeles’ best kept secret” by critics, The Strands have been making a name for themselves on the local music scene since 2011 for their original music and live performances.
Their music has been described as “genre defying” and they effortlessly blend jazz, blues and soul to create a unique sound. Comparisons are inevitable though, and lead singer Amanda Campbell describes their style as “Steely Dan meets Sade.”
They also received critical acclaim from cultural historian, Marlena Donohue, who wrote, “The Strands bring an unusually intelligent, deeply emotional and expertly performed sound to an often over-produced and slick music scene. In a world of popular music where buzzwords like rock, rap, electronic sum up a sea of identical followers, The Strands defy categories in the best sense of the word.
Founding members of the band include longtime Santa Monica resident Campbell from the UK; lead guitarist Richard Greene, former member of The Whispers and inductee into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame; with bassist Paul C.
The band played for years without a drummer before recruiting Lance Tamanaha, who played with bands such as Jupiter Ignition. After an exhaustive search, Emily Ashenfelter joined on keyboards, and Jim McGrath recently joined on percussion.
The group is made up entirely of friends and neighbors. The group takes its name from the fact that four of the six members live on Strand Street in Santa Monica. The band members range in age from the early 40s to the late 70s.
Campbell, who is 61, didn’t discover her voice until she was 44. She described the moment she discovered she could sing as “profound and life changing”.
“There’s a lot of ageism in music,” Campbell said. “I think if I was 19 and squirmed in a miniskirt and bare back, we’d get a lot more attention.”
Even though The Strands have much older members than most bands, that doesn’t make them any less original or dedicated to their craft. Most of the members have been playing music for most of their lives.
“It’s not a hobby,” Campbell said. “We’re pretty serious about it, not to say it’s not a lot of fun.”
Campbell, who sings and writes the original lyrics to their songs, is inspired to write about things that move her or that she has personally experienced. Their songs have thoughtful and provocative lyrics delivered with a solid groove and they have never shied away from being political.
In 2016 they recorded “Tear Down the Walls”, written by former band member Susan Ferrari. The song was a direct response to Trump’s candidacy and carries a very clear message of support for social justice and an end to racism with clever lyrics like “love trumps power”.
In the height of summer 2020, the band recorded “Eyes Tell Us Lies” written by Campbell and Green. This is a strong reaction to the murder of George Floyd and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Their music video for the song shows actual footage from the protests.
Another unique thing about the band is that they only record their music with live instruments. Their goal has always been to make their recordings sound as close to their live performances as possible.
Currently, they have recorded two extended play discs, “Entanglement” and “Rough Out There; » a complete album, “Freshly Cut”; and are in post-production on four singles.
Their ultimate goal is to tour and perform in crowded venues all over the world. In 2015 they traveled to London to play a few gigs and performed on the main stage at the Strawberry Festival in Cambridge. A few years ago, they opened for The Spinners at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills.
Recently, The Strands were vying for a spot to be chosen as their opening act to perform at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. For the contest, they were only one place away from reaching the final round. They landed in sixth place, which was very impressive considering all the competition they had to beat to reach that position, plus the fact that they have no direction.
The Strands perform all over Los Angeles. Two of their favorite local spots include Harvelle’s in Santa Monica and The Venice West.