Interview with Stranger Band

By: SD Liz
Photo By: Jennifer Martinez

STRANGER is a well-known reggae band from Chula Vista, California. Maybe it’s their friendly, sultry sound that captivates new and loyal fans, but STRANGER ain’t a stranger to various parts of the world. Since 2000, the band has made their way from Hawaii to Arizona and up north, along the western coast of the U.S. They have played major shows, including those with Don Carlos, Barrington Levy, and Johnny Osbourne, and are shown plenty of love from people of other countries, including those from Canada and Mexico. Stranger is known for their widespread love and message of unity and hope.

Stranger consists of Daniel, David, Tilly, E.N Young, Nolan, Don, and Aaron. These guys constantly “Come Together” (like the Beatles’ song they cover) and play music for large crowds, especially at home in San Diego. Their captivating lyrics, messages, and very own vibe puts people at ease, wakes them up, and definitely gets them dancing! With songs such as “Like A Dream,” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Lift Up Your Hands,” and “The Only One,” Stranger sets a roots/reggae tone mixed with jazz horns to produce a hopeful celebration of life, love, and cherished moments. With their latest CD release of “World Underground,” and a recent CD Release Party, NUG Magazine caught a glimpse of just how thoughtful the band gets.

The band’s CD Release party took place on Friday, July 15th at the House of Blues in downtown San Diego. Four bands opened for them, including The Vera Groove from Arizona, True Press, Ease Up, and Through The Roots. The show started at 8 pm, but I arrived a little after 9 because I had to look for parking in the busy downtown area. Upon arrival, there was a pretty good line for the box office. After some time, I made my way downstairs where the crowd on the floor next to the stage was 18 years of age and older. I have to admit, the restriction of not being able to enjoy a beer on the floor next to the stage made it slightly difficult to enjoy the show. This was because the venue was well-packed; people were everywhere. At least the venue opened a lounge area equipped with video screening for drinkers later on in the night.

Stranger went on stage and the crowd cheered. They started with “Believe”. The most memorable songs included “The Only One,” “Like A Dream,” and “Lift Up Your Hands.” Songs off their latest album included “Go Leave,” “Hand in Hand,” “Royalty,” “My Angel,” “Body Connection,” and “Best Part”. Stranger presented an encore of “Come Together,” where they got members of all the bands to come on stage and participate in covering the song. The crowd also stood closely together and cheered for the amazing, extended performance. In fact, in a recent interview with Daniel, the guitarist, and David, the vocalist, the guys admitted that this is one thing they strive to do with all the members of their audience. Read on to find out what else Stranger strives to discover about their world and their very own wake-up call.

For those rare readers who are unfamiliar with STRANGER’s sound, please recap what the rest of SD and neighboring cities know.
David: Our music is a fusion of reggae, jazz, and rock. Also, we are more soul than blues, so we term ourselves “Soul-Cal Reggae”.

Daniel: Over the years, our sound has been diverse, where we don’t try to keep to the one drop reggae. We have tons of influence from hip-hop, jazz, and rock; and we try to combine that into stuff we love. As we grow, we get more into technical style to keep it hip. I think it’s just a natural progression of any musical group.

STRANGER prides themselves on being multicultural. How do you think this makes a statement in today’s world?
David: Daniel is Chinese and White; Tilly is African; I am Mexican and White, and Don, our horns player, is Armenian. With the mix of members, our audience sees the multicultural-ness; so they can connect to such diversity, and then connect to our music. You know, as a band, we grew up in a diverse community, so that brings something to our music.

Daniel: Music is definitely a universal language, so no matter where you are from or what you believe in, we can ALL come together and agree on something. That’s the beauty of OUR music. I want people to leave with our own unique experience, and also, what they have shared in it with other people as an audience. We try to make every show unique and that’s what we bring to each show.

David, you are the vocalist and you write the lyrics. With those conscious lyrics heard in most of the songs, tell me, what inspires you?
David: Everyday occurrences inspire me, whether it is something seen in the media, general public, or personal life experiences. That, in particular, is where the blues comes from, as well as some uplifting messages.

What about you Daniel, tell me who inspires your guitar-play? How did you find your rhythm and lead riffs?
Daniel: Hendrix and old blues style. I did not know anything on reggae until I got together with the band. Influence is very minimal; the styling and technique just take practice. Obviously, I do reggae music, and listening to old school reggae for the vintage sound of guitar is nice, but Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, as well as some other classic rock guitarists inspired me – even the sound of the jazz guitar.

What do you find inspiring about the local music scene and local bands?
Daniel: It’s great that we have a big scene, especially in reggae, because the scene is becoming more reggae. Bands like Rebelution and Iration are having more success out there, which lends opportunities to up-and-coming bands in the genre, like Tribal Seeds and such. Even our sound has evolved! We try to keep the foundation of the roots sound, but we mix different sounds like jazz, hip-hop, rock. But, at the same time, you can hear different foundations of what we have previously done. Being from South Bay, San Diego, we are more towards the roots style versus the Cali-reggae style; yet, it’s also been an innovation of these two sounds.

Your members have stuck together over the years. Besides the music, what’s the glue that keeps you guys together?
David: We’re people before musicians. We’re a family, we’re friends; we started out as friends. We communicate as friends, so we respect each other as people. We get together a lot and we focus on the music, but we don’t get caught up. We come together and talk and celebrate life.

As you know, we’re heavily involved with cannabis issues. What do you think about the current state of cannabis in the U.S., specifically here in California?
David: The band supports cannabis. The plant has been here for centuries and is used as medicine. Federally, it would be wise to decriminalize it, but it shouldn’t even be an issue. In fact, people should be educated on it since it is not the same as alcohol or pharmaceuticals. People have this stigma that because it is illegal, it is bad; and it’s the same with hemp, when it can be useful and beneficial for our country. Whether legal or not, or just decriminalized, we shouldn’t have to worry about it. That would be smart.

Daniel: The controversy is the state rights issue in this state. It’s legal, but under federal law, it’s illegal. Personally, I believe in a free society. One should be able to choose what goes into their body, but as far as the history of it goes, it’s an economical issue. I have no problem with it being legal for personal and economical reasons.

David: Yeah, in California it’s a double-edged sword because some people are losing and winning from the legalization of it. But, it’s a natural herb; just put water on the plant and watch it grow – that’s how it should be.

Tell me something about your latest CD that is coming out right about NOW.
David: “World Underground” – the CD is named that because it’s a statement that we’ve been together for 10 years, and we are dedicated to pushing forward. It means we aspire to bring about a conscious movement. It’s something we want to bring to the forefront. We don’t necessarily care if it makes it because it’s about spreading true love and consciousness first. Inspiration drawn for such songs as “Royalty” and “Believe” is about looking inward – reflecting, walking the middle path, choosing paths, and learning, especially in these times of economic crisis.

Daniel: Where we been, especially for me, the message is a wake-up call. One to look at things deeper and get educated deeper about the world, especially on why things have become the way they are – issues like thinking for yourself, what is valuable, the change in the world, and coming together specifically in the U.S. It’s about critically thinking about what has been lost and what is lost…what works, like a bunch of different cultures contributing to the whole world, and what we can learn from it. Under globalization, that gets depleted…when every culture has beauty to offer.

Finally, what message do you want new and old fans to take home after the band’s recently past CD Release show?
Daniel: This band is about chemistry. We’ve always understood each other and gone in the same direction, so we’ve been fortunate to develop as a family and come together as brothers. I think that is what was brought out in our last shows – how we have come together. We come together, we work with it, and we each add a unique piece; that’s how we develop our music. Just like when we try to jam in practice and someone comes in with an idea; we feed off each other and it’s a collaborative effort.

David: We’ve come to a level where we created a unique sound and have many aspirations. Our music keeps growing, but we mostly want people to be conscious about their everyday life and contemplate what’s most important!

Stranger is definitely a band who knows the importance of sticking together, uniting for the same reason, and filling people’s ears with good, conscientious music. If you haven’t heard their music, or the tracks off their latest CD, “World Underground,” be sure to visit their website,, for more information. As always, One Love!

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