Americana Highways brings you this video premiere of Model Stranger’s song “Surrender,” which was recorded at Rax Trax Studios and Strangeland in Chicago; recorded by Noam Wallenberg and Model Stranger; produced by Model Stranger; and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound.
“Surrender” is Stephen Francis on vocals and guitar; Kevin James on bass and organ; Vincent Joseph on drums and percussion; and Packy Lundholm on piano.
We sat down to chat with Stephen Francis of Model Stranger about the song. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: This video is a bit of a new style for you, right?
Stephen Francis: Yes. We’re really excited for the release of this single and music video moving on from “Phases” and opening new doors to explore. It’s a side of Model Stranger that our fans don’t see too often so it’ll be a nice change!
AH: The lyrics to “Surrender” read almost like a still life painting. Was there a specific circumstance that inspired the lyrics?
SF: Many circumstances played into the character in this song. At the time it was written, there was a lot going on around us. I’d been thinking a lot about relationships, defensive energy and all those hard parts of us that get built up in difficult situations.
Personally I had begun practicing this idea of saying ‘yes’ to everything no matter what I felt about it and tried to give up on fighting. The song is coming from a softer place, inviting this character to be more vulnerable.
AH: The song really builds and then sort of erupts halfway through. What was the arranging process like for this song? Did it start out sounding exactly like this, or did the recording process change it at all?
SF: The song started as a piano track with a bit more music to it and a verse we ended up scrapping. Later it was rewritten was demoed as an acoustic guitar track but didn’t translate well. So we built it back from the piano as a three piece and used the studio to overdub the guitars, add some harmony/percussion.
The recording process naturally will alter the way something may be performed. We generally impact the arrangements throughout the mixing process, trying out different things until it feels right.
AH: How does this song differ from the rest of the material on your most recent album Phases?
SF: Phases, in large, was a rock record that was driven by big rhythm sections, layers of guitars and a lot of synth… for us. This song is very different in it’s tone and structure. Again, much softer than our historical catalog and a new feel.
When Phases was recorded we demoed quite a bit of music, which included Surrender. We had really exhausted ourselves in style and songwriting. We leveraged that output to build a record.
“Surrender” gives an indication of some other things we have around.
AH: How have y’all stayed inspired after twelve years of Model Stranger?
SF: Just letting it happen, not chasing the product. We try to keep it light and fun. At this point it is very familial and that brings a lot of boundaries and respect for each other. It is inspiring when we feel free to choose what we want to do and thankfully Model Stranger gives us that liberation.
AH: Do you have any touring planned? Where can listeners find you for the rest of the year?
SF: Model Stranger will be playing shows throughout the Midwest, sharing new music and selling merchandise. Additionally we will be back in the studio working on music and some potential collaborations.
Anyone interested in what were up to can find all of our upcoming shows, releases, music videos and socials at http://www.modelstranger.com
Thanks for talking with us, Stephen Francis. Listen and savor the song with its sustained longing, a fear you can’t erase, and an underlying core of resistance over acoustic guitar, foreboding and a feeling of hiding out.