Strange Neighbors: How to Human / Alien – track of the day

Today’s track of the day is from New York’s Strange Neighbors: ‘How to Human’ and it’s a lesson in how to create perfect indie pop. So much so, we asked the band to give us some further schooling. Here’s what guitarist Zach said:

We used a couple of different guitars on this tune, the most drastic differences in tone being between the first and second halves of the song. Throughout the song, Dana plays a Fender Mark Hoppus Precision Bass, which regardless of your feelings on Blink-182, is a great sounding instrument. On the first half, “How to Human” I’m playing a Fender Telecaster for the rhythm guitar, and then arpeggiating on my Danelectro DC 12 String. They’re both very bright sounding guitars, which give the first chunk it’s jangly sound. I think both guitars are played through one of the Fender Silverface models, for that really clean sound. For the second half of the song, “Alien” I used totally different guitars. The main guitar on that half is a Gibson SG, which has a much thicker sound and is really the way to go for that overdriven, punky sort of sound. One of Mike’s fuzz pedals is on there, but I can’t recall any particular brand or model. We double or triple-tracked that guitar so it sounds huge. The guitar used for all those sound effects and crazy feedback is a Jackson guitar from the 80’s. It has a Floyd Rose on it, and that lets you do all those wild bends and divebombs. To record those, I stood in front of the amp, and we cranked the volume so it would start feeding back. It sounds impressive but it’s actually really easy to do, as you’re pretty much hitting random notes.

How to Human and Alien were written by Aidan as two separate songs that the band mashed together because it was too fun and perfect not to. How toHuman is a song about a feeling I feel all the time, like I’m just pretending to be a human in a world of actual humans. Sometimes I feel like I’m faking it, or “passing” really well (like the line in the bridge “Don’t I look like you don’t I move like you, why can’t I quite pass?”) and sometimes I don’t seem to get this human experience at all. I feel like the alien in human skin.

The verses of the song always make me laugh, like sneaking into a party, saying you know Nancy (there must be a Nancy at every party, right?) and ending up drunk and alone in the shower with the house pet. Or the second verse, going for a long drive with a human, a cannibal bastard, still trying to figure out how to operate. They have their feet on the dashboard, so I follow suit, but oops I’m driving, well at least my hands are still on  the wheel.

Then Alien is where it gets really fun and crazy. The  backstory of the song is a friend confiding in me that they found an alien, and I am doing all I can to convince them to give me the alien. It’s kind of a metaphor for your inner alien, and weirdness, coming out when you find something or someone you relate to on that level. Desperate to learn more and connect with that thing, and that alien side to ourselves.

Most of our songs feel really lighthearted, sometimes vague, but every line can be a metaphor, usually for darker or more intense themes.

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