The STRFKR Paradox

STRFKR performs at Cargo in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 21.

STRFKR frontman Josh Hodges doesn’t care what you think: “So, this is my new philosophy,” he says. “It just has to be fun. I don’t care what else happens. I’m going to do whatever feels good.”

Jan. 21 | 8:30 p.m. | $18.35
Cargo Concert Hall | Reno, Nev.

The video for the single, “Open Your Eyes,” from the indie band’s 2016 album, “Being No One, Going Nowhere,” is a perfect example of this attitude. The dreamy, hooky, synth-pop tune plays over a video of aliens who come to take over Earth from a trailer-bound desert dweller. Fortunately, he beats them in a best-out-of-five competition for the planet that involves moped racing, hot-dog eating and a drinking contest. The images are seemingly unrelated to the song’s lyrics, which have more to do with death and loneliness than interplanetary throwdowns.

“It just has to be fun. I don’t care what else happens. I’m going to do whatever feels good.”
–Josh Hodges

But it really doesn’t matter. The video was shot by Chris Birkmeier near the band’s Joshua Tree getaway cabin where they rehearse and record outside their home base in Los Angeles. It and the song are both genius — the absurdity of the collage makes it so.

Watch the video for “Open Your Eyes:

Hodges came up with the name for the band while living in New York City during his “version of a young, starving artist thing” and working as a hired hand for bands on a Warped Tour spinoff. When the impressionable young performer overheard some music executives talking about how they were literally starf***ers, it epitomized everything he had already grown to hate about the industry.

“The name came from that attitude of an industry trying get people to like you,” he says, yawning throughout the explanation as if tired of the question. “It was the whole vibe of elevating yourself with something so shallow.”

When tiny Portland label Expunged Records offered Hodges a meager contract to record an album with his former band, he abandoned the Big Apple for his Pacific Northwest hometown. He made the record and played some shows around the area, but his interest in the project soon disintegrated in the midst of Portland’s burgeoning wave of hipsterdom.

“I didn’t like how it felt,” he says. “Even the music scene at the time was like high school with all these cool kids and stuff. It felt like going backwards. So, I quit the band and started recording songs to play drums to in my basement.”

This is how Hodges created STRFKR on his own before adding in two regular bandmates. Rotating on drums, guitars and synths, the group quickly found popularity with their upbeat, yet philosophical sound.

“In the beginning I wanted to make the show something that if people didn’t like the music, they could at least dance and have fun that way,” says Hodges. “Then, I added more emotional weight so it was greater than minimal techno.”

Although STRFKR used to spell the name out in full, band members opted to use only consonants after getting some push back from Portland locals.

“We were getting angry letters from parents and crazy people who were ripping down our concert posters, so it was just a work around,” Hodges says. “Shortening the name is a way to have our name on the festival posters and things like that. The FCC will fine radio hosts if they say it on air. It’s pretty absurd that everybody says the F-word, but what happens in your brain when you hear it is totally different. It’s still the same name as far as I’m concerned.”

In spite of his artistic eccentricities, Hodges’ music has been featured in commercial advertisements for brands such as Target, as well as for numerous television shows and movies, most notably the 2014 teen hit “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s a contradiction of which he is well aware.

“These day there’s a weird mix of commercialism and capitalism in art,” he says. “I could imagine making art for nothing in mind, but it’s not like it used to be where fans would buy records and bands could make a living off that. I think in a utopian world we wouldn’t have to worry about where we’re going to get food and our basic needs met, but in the world we live in, you have to survive. I’d rather have to play music to make money than work at Starbucks. And what that means now is having to sell songs to things.”

For more information, visit strfkr.com. To purchase tickets, visit cargoreno.com.