Interview with Strata: Coma Therapy For Cocaine

StrataVocalist Eric Victorino, guitarist Ryan Hernandez, bassist Hrag Chanchanian and drummer Adrian Robison comprise California’s Strata, whose latest recording, Strata Presents The End Of The World, was released this week. Just after finishing a Canadian tour with Chevelle, and before their US jaunt with Wind-up label mates, Finger 11, the vocalist, who has quit smoking thanks to a cold turkey approach and a mild antidepressant, spoke to The Aquarian Weekly with great candor. Touching on everything from his aspiration “to be at a bar singing karaoke and nail ‘Last Goodbye’ by Jeff Buckley. That would be better than playing Madison Square Garden, no it wouldn’t, but it would be close. Jeff Buckley has the best voice ever, so if I could ever achieve anything close to that, that would be great,” to pointing out the fact that making this record almost broke the band up.

This record is the follow up to their self-titled 2004 release and the offering is fiery, poetic and as urgent as life itself. It also tells many stories. Aside from proving himself a proficient lyricist, Victorino also authored his first book, called Coma Therapy. He stated, “The book kind of gives you the back story to a lot of the lyrics. It’s not really meant to accompany the album. I don’t really have plans to make it available, it’s just sold on my MySpace and at Strata shows, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. If I ever find people who have the right idea about the book…”

The first video is for “Cocaine (We’re All Going To Hell).” Although it’s an illustrative work of art, and the song is one of the catchiest to come out this year, it still manages to be lyrically meaningful. In short, Strata present a very solid record.

The CD was originally supposed to come out in May of this year, why the delay?

Normal stuff, like the album artwork not being done on time. One of the release dates, we were still rerecording songs and scrapping stuff. It’s been pushed back for a number of reasons.

It was recorded in a number of different places also.

Yeah, they let us go to England to record it, and when we got home we felt like we didn’t have it exactly how we wanted it, so we ended up scrapping like half of it. We ended up redoing it in New York and San Francisco.

Did you work with a different producer each time?

Yeah, we had a producer Sam Williams. He was really great and did a lot of really great work with us, but we just didn’t have the ideas to do the whole record yet. When we got home we ended up working with another producer named Greg Wattenberg, and then we did some of the stuff ourselves. So we all kind of shared the prodcution credit on the record.

The book that you wrote, Coma Therapy, is great as well. You are a very succinct writer. Was it always a dream of yours to put out a book?

I wanted to be a writer before I ever wanted to be in a band, I think. For whatever reason, in the last 10 years of being in a band I never really paid attention to the fact that the lyrics could be used to tell a story. I don’t know why I didn’t put that together. I just started looking into a lot of folk oriented stuff that I am loving now, like Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes and Death Cab, and all those bands that are so good at telling a story within three or four minutes.

They are not vague and writing in analogies all the time, they are writing in plain English. I just felt like that was what I wanted to do too, and I had a lot of catching up to do as far as my lyric writing. So that’s why I think you can tell, when you listen to this record, that it was pretty thought out.

Then to bring it back, how did you find your way into being in a band?

I really don’t even remember planning that. Since I was 12 or 13, I probably wanted to do it, but I never felt motivated to do it until Nirvana was big. Then I just fell into it.

Being from San Francisco, it must not be too hard to find yourself in a band.

I feel horrible for kids who live in these areas where it’s impossible to find enough guys to start a band, let alone find a place to practice and a place to play your first show. I was fortunate enough to grow up on the west coast.