Not too long ago I realized something. I had done some cool interviews, and/or album reviews of some of the bands back in NY where I’m from (Killcode, Black Water Rising, Charetta), but it dawned on me that there was one GLARING omission: Craving Strange!! My friends back on Long Island, Adele and Jessica had talked about these guys soooo much that I had to see them for myself. And on a hot August night in 2011, I did just that. Their show was sensational, complete with a killer version of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield”! The band, led by vocalist/guitarist Jimmy G was tight, and engaging, and the crowd was completely insane for them. So, once I realized the error of my ways, I set about contacting the Craving Strange boys, and Jimmy G was kind enough to call in and update me on the goings-on in the Strangerhood:
Amps: So, you guys are one of L.I.’s hottest bands. How long have you been together?
Jimmy G: We’ve been together for about four years. We released an album, and since then we’ve put out two different sets of singles. We just put out a download card with about six songs on it, and we’re going to be releasing a full-length album of all new material in January.
Amps: I know a lot of your peers are going the EP route lately. What made you decide to do a full-length?
Jimmy G: Honestly, we were doing the best of both worlds, but I think on a purely selfish level that none of us have been in a band that made it to a second album yet (laughs). Jimi (Tassone, drums) and I have joked about that a bunch of times. Some of the songs on (first album) Savior Self were going to be the second album of our last band! I mean, it’s not exactly the smartest thing to do, and everyone is really on the right track with EP’s, I think, especially cost-wise. But you know there’s something to be said for buying a CD and having it, having the artwork, stuff like that. We put a lot of thought into the presentation. And while the download card is cool, we want to make albums.
Amps: I’m with you there. Nothing like buying a CD!
Jimmy G: And we have enough songs for three or four full-length albums. That’s part of it, too, is nothing that’s going on this album is on an EP, and nothing from the EP is on the first album. We’ve always tried to come out with new stuff as much as possible. We’re very much a songwriting band. We’re a LIVE band, for sure, but writing is something that we’re very passionate about. We’ve got all this material, and we want to play it live, and we want people to be able to get it. I love playing new stuff live, but I hate it when someone asks me after the show where they can get it, and I don’t have anything to give’em, you know?
Amps: How as the L.A. trip not too long ago?
Jimmy G: Oh, it was amazing! We’ve been to L.A. twice now. The first time we worked with a guy named Rob Jacobs. He produced and engineered our last single, the guy’s got Grammys, and he’s worked on so many albums. I walk into his house and there’s about six Grammys on his mantle! We wanted to go out there and meet him; he was already kind of working on our tracks, so we went to listen. And we booked a couple shows while we were out there. He came to see us at the Viper Room, and when we finished, he’s running up and grabbing our gear to help us take it outside, just the coolest guy, you know? I’m like, “I gotta get to the merch table”, and he says, “Oh, I’ll watch your stuff”, and I’m thinking, (softly) “Yeeeah, Rob Jacobs…Grammy winner…you watch my stuff (laughs)”. I t was pretty surreal.
Amps: And how was the Viper Room gig?
Jimmy G: Oh, awesome! We’ve played there twice now. We went to L.A. for a week. Shows were end of the week, so me and Matt (Abbate, guitar) just blanketed the town. We shook hands with every person we could, handed out CDs, we gave tickets away. We were like, “We’re from NY, and we would love it if you came and checked out our band. Here’s a CD with three songs on it, check it out. Here’s my phone number, if you wanna call me and let me know you’re coming.” We actually got a lot of people to come out, and we made a lot of great friends in L.A. that way. So next time out, we drew even more people because we kept in contact with people.
Amps: Well, that’s the thing. You know, our mutual friends Adele and Jessica RAVED about you guys to me over and over, so when I finally caught a gig in August 2011, I looked at my buddy Mike, and I said, “These guys are
really professional. They have what it takes.”
Jimmy G: Thank you very much.
Amps: Oh, you’re welcome. And I think that the strength of your live show alone is enough to bring people back, with more friends next time.
Jimmy G: I appreciate that. We’ve been very fortunate. We just kind of do what we do, and we get to have so much fun! We feed off our friends in the audience. And to do what we love is just exciting to us. We just want more of it!!
Amps: I notice that whenever there’s a benefit in NYC, or on the Island for a family or whomever the person in need, you guys are always first in line to help out, it seems.
Jimmy G: That’s important to us. You can only get so far asking for things all the time. When you’re in a band it’s, “Come to a show, buy a CD, check out our website, etc.” and it’s tiring for everyone involved. And so anything we can do to help people out, we’re there. The people around us are the ones who have supported us. And we support them as much as they support us. That’s the one thing that makes this band unique from other bands I’ve been in or around. When Jimi and I put this together we wanted certain type of people with us. Not just the musicianship and drive, but a sense of community. This is our community. The bands we play with, the people who come to our shows are our family. And without them, we’d just be playing in our garage. I would do that anyway, but luckily we get to be in front of people. And those people are giving to us all the time, so it’s only right that we do as much of that as possible in return.
Amps: Who are you listening to lately? Other than your own stuff, to remember it live.
Jimmy G: Funny thing is I should probably listen to more of my stuff, so I actually remember the words (laughing)! I listen to a lot of different stuff, but one of my constants would be Social Distortion. Absolutely one of my favorites. Mike Ness’ guitar tone I’ve been chasing forever. I have his same gear, and I can’t get it!! I didn’t get Black Water Rising’s new one yet, but I’m doing it later today, I’m excited for that.
Amps: What’s next for you guys, tour-wise? Back to the Midwest, or maybe down south?
Jimmy G: We’re actually working with a booking agency right now that’s gonna be doing a lot of college stuff in September/October. We love being on the road, but strategically the best thing is to keep building our Tri-State following, and then go up as far as Maine, down as far as North Carolina. We might be back in L.A. after the New Year. We just wanna keep building, brick by brick.
Amps: Jimmy, thanks so much for taking some time out for us here at Amps and Green Screens. Give all the guys my best, and I can’t wait to hear the record.
JimmyG: My pleasure, Damian. Keep in touch, brother!
Next thing I know, a short time later, a package arrives at my door. The guys in Craving Strange signed a T-Shirt and CD for Mini-Amps, and included a very nice note. These guys are not only consummate professionals, but also a class act, both individually and collectively. If you get a chance to see them in a club, I’d suggest you do it. Because with the truckload of good karma headed their way, it won’t be long before a Craving Strange ticket is one of the hardest ones to score. Thanks so much, guys!