Stray Native deliver first-rate performance at The Junction's iconic 'Fiver'

Stray Native deliver first-rate performance at The Junction's iconic 'Fiver'

You may not know Stray Native, yet, but I urge you to take a moment for this band. Captivating the room with limitless energy and an alluring, playful stage presence, they really do know how to work an audience. If you asked me to define their genre, I'm not sure I could, but heavy rock with a nod to alternative garage/experimental rock and perhaps even the emo-screamo melodic hardcore of bands such as Thrice, I’d say you’re somewhere near the money. This fluidity is a good thing though. During my latest interview with the band, I asked them for their musical influences - a ‘who’s your muse?’ kinda thing, and the varied responses I got gave me a sense of how determined they are as a collaborative entity to produce work with a unique sound and feel. Dillinger Escape Plan, Every Time I Die, Foals, and Incubus all cited as heroes during the writing process for the band.

After talking with them, I had to see for myself what goes on, so I grabbed a spot at Cambridge Junction’s ‘The Fiver’. Breathing life into the regional music scene is the shared vision of everyone involved in this monthly event, which regularly provides opportunities for breakthrough musicians to showcase their talent, and is fortunately a permanent feature on the venue’s schedule. The diary has also included sell-out performances from some pretty epic music royalty recently with the likes of Feeder, Bob Vylan, and Deaf Havana taking to the stage. This place is clearly attracting an impressive array of high-profile names and holds status as a desirable spot for new musicians to make headway. It’s got to be said that The Junction is one of the city's most highly regarded live music & creative arts venues, so it's no surprise that such an event also always goes down well here.

Finding time to chat with promoter Gary Brown on the night, he tells me how he feels strongly about The Junction creating a safe space for new music artists to play, alongside supporting established regional bands looking for live performance opportunities.

 “It started as a place for the young ones - in that 14-18 category because they’ve got nowhere else to go. The Fiver gives them a chance to be who they wanna be and develop their talent. Often, it’s indie or rap these days, but we try and mix it up if we can. We usually put on at least one metal/deathcore event per year too”. Gary tells me this without leaving his post at the door as the venue fills. He is 100% invested in every second of this show and seriously proud of what it brings to the music scene, that’s incredibly clear.

And the event delivered. It really did. With a varied lineup of punchy, chaotic, and most definitely unashamed heavy rock/alt talent including Slughouse, Bangkitan, Divided Kingdom, and Stray Native, headliners Planet Fatale also offered up a dark and melodic lyrical mastery put to heavy riffs- perhaps a little too polished a feel for an event such as this, they still delivered irresistible appeal on the night. The performance that stood out for me was without a doubt from the boys in Stray Native though. Showcasing a solid alternative sound and tracks laced with seriously catchy hooks, it’s no surprise they were deemed worthy of a spot in the lineup.

Stray Native on stage at The Junction

Opening their set with immediate uplift, it was in your face from the first track. They wanted us woken up. Vocalist Boff’s range is impressive. He screams as well as he sings, feeding off his band members with ferocity. They know how to move on stage too, and the feeling is they are fully connected as a collective. Jake’s performance on guitar is somewhat of an internal one when he’s lost in the moment, disappearing into the feeling of each track, but it kinda works. Frontman Boff is able to bring him and everyone else back together during vocal breaks to create a unified performance.

I wanted to know more about this established band currently working the local music scene, so I was invited for an interview backstage. Bassist Oz, who sat alongside Boff (lead vocals), Paul (guitar), Karl (drums), and Jake (guitar), took soundbite duties and was clearly in his element during our conversation. He’s proud of this band, and it shows. Telling stories of their experiences in the past, how each member was recruited, and why they just work as the five-piece they are now, I really got a sense of their commitment, not only as band members, but mates too. Boff was practically forced to join them because they just knew he was the right fit. And I think I agree.

“At the time I thought, you know what, I haven't seen them in ages, so thought I'd just go thinking yeah it will just be a bit of a jam. Then I just never left.”- Boff.

“Once he’d heard the songs he was like - yeah this is alright, this is a bit of me. When we were writing songs, we were kinda writing them with Boff in mind anyway.” - Oz

They went on to tell me more about writing songs together and the 50 or so demos they have ready to perfect (tracks with names I can't repeat here, all of which have their on-stage professional titles for audience purposes only. Don't ask!) It sounds as if these boys have a shared sense of love for the creative process behind the scenes as well as performing live, which is refreshing these days considering how few performance opportunities there were during Covid-19 and how desperate music artists have been to spend their time focusing solely on live gigs in the years that followed. To have a love for the process from beginning to end is clearly important to Stray in a really good way.

The band are currently still writing and recording, with several tracks planned for release before the end of this year and future hopes to get out and play across the UK in as many cities as possible- taking their fired-up hard rock sound out there for new audiences. Head out to their next date at The Dublin Castle, Camden, Thursday 6th June supporting metal/prog rock-influenced outfit Wicca. Tickets £10 on the door.

Photo credit : Sam J Lance