“Adult Themes”, the debut album from STRANGELIGHT, a new Oakland, CA band featuring members of Kowloon Walled City, Transistor Transistor, Swingin’ Utters, Cobra Skulls, and more brings in ten exciting, organic sounding chunks of tortured-yet-anthemic rock n’ roll, by way of teeth-gnashing hardcore punk and burly noise-rock. One week prior to its official release on October 23rd, we have teamed up with the band to give you an awesome and comical track by track commentary, spiced up with a special intro written by Nat Coghlan (vocals/guitar)!
Recorded and mixed by Kowloon Walled City’s Scott Evans; mastered by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Gouge Away).
“The twisty, smart, enlivening, and all around killer debut from post-hardcore expanders Strangelight… A sonic attack that combines the best aspects of the members other bands (Transistor Transistor, Kowloon Walled City) with an extremely welcome and heavy dose of Propagandhi and Hot Snakes-esque rock n’ roll perversion.” / Decibel Magazine
Strangelight’s Nat Coghlan says: “The album is called Adult Themes because the lyrics deal with the monotonous aspects of life as an adult. I don’t pretend to have any great insight into the human condition. There are songs about mortgages, there are songs about retirement plans. And since it was all written and recorded before the pandemic, it’s kind of a weird snapshot of life as it was, for better or worse.”
Consisting of members of Transistor Transistor, Kowloon Walled City, and a slew of other notable bands, Strangelight rips the gate right off its hinges with Adult Themes – ten glorious chunks of anthemic rock n’ roll by way of teeth-gnashing hardcore punk.
Strangelight’s songs rage hard, but this is not teen angst. Adult Themes bears the world-weariness of four lifers who between them have put in about a century of rocking. Coghlan’s lyrics look bluntly at everyday existence and find the tough questions therein. On “Heaven’s Parking Lot” he sings: “What’s going to happen to all my stuff after I die? / It’s the one reason I hope there’s an afterlife / They say heaven is a place where it’s rent controlled and cheap / They say you can’t take it with you but go ahead and watch me.”
Strangelight’s origin story goes back to the early ’00s. New Hampshire native Coghlan met drummer Julia Lancer (The New Trust) while on tour in California in the early ’00s and the two bashed out some demos together. Almost fifteen years later they reconnected in Oakland, unearthed the demos, and brought their friends Tony Teixeira (Swingin’ Utters, Cobra Skulls, Western Addiction) and Ian Miller (Kowloon Walled City, Less Art) into the fold. Adult Themes was recorded by the newly united foursome in three days at Shark Bite Studios by Kowloon Walled City’s Scott Evans, the very same week in March 2020 that the Bay Area was ordered into lockdown. The album was mixed by Evans at Antisleep and mastered by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Gouge Away) at The Atomic Garden.
Nat Coghlan – vocals, guitar, Tony Texeira – guitar, vocals, Ian Miller – bass, Julia Lancer – drums. Album art by Tony Teixeira, Layout by Josh Staples, Band photo by Sara Sanger.
Strangelight “Adult Themes” track-by-track breakdown:
“Ian, Tony, and I got together on the old information superhighway and put together a track by track breakdown. I haven’t listened to the album since we mastered it, so it was fun to go back and hear everything again with pretty fresh and not devastatingly critical ears. Julia wasn’t able to join in on the fun, but she got a chance to look it over and said “It reads like our text threads. To say: unhinged.” – Nat Coghlan, Strangelight
3-way conversation between Nat, Ian Miller (bass) and Tony Teixeira (guitar):
1. The Samsara of Secondary Markets
Nat: I generally have very little interest in talking about a song’s meaning. It’s probably just PTSD from so many hardcore albums with overly precious lyric explanations in the liner notes. That being said, this song is about the endless tundra of remakes and reunions in which we find ourselves. This is by no means a “back in my day” sentiment, because there are awesome movies, books, albums, etc. being made right now. I just wish you didn’t have to wade through all the zombified media of your youth to get to it. I lobbied hard for this to be the opener on the album because we opened a set with it once or twice and I always really enjoyed it.
Ian: Nat has the best fucking titles. And “ouggghs.” We all need more ouggghs.
Nat: We had an “ouggh” quota to hit. We’re getting the Cadillac.
Tony: We got a comparison to propagandhi somewhere. I’m convinced it’s because of the “ouggghs”. Such a fun song to play.
2. Digressions from Sierra Leone
Ian: Julia is such a rad, weird drummer. I really missed playing with her!
Nat: I really love the drums on this. My drumming vocabulary begins and ends with “ do the blooka blacka” so it’s not like I can provide any constructive insight anyway. Luckily Julia writes these really great parts. Julia’s taster at 1:16 leading to Ian’s runs down fretboard alley is my favorite part of the song.
Tony: This was the first song I was shown when I “auditioned” for the band. It’s really hard to downstroke through the whole thing but I’m pretty sure I did on the recording. Give me a medal.
Nat: This and Start Breaking Down are from the initial batch of songs that Julia and I wrote and recorded way back when. They were a lot leaner then. They are like the kid who doesn’t make the wrestling team, so he does steroids over the summer and comes back to school all jacked. This song started pushing the other songs into lockers is what I’m saying. Really, this and Start Breaking Down, were massively improved by Ian and Tony. Just natural supplements and putting in the work, not skipping leg day, hitting those PRs.
Ian: I got to live out all my Matt Freeman fantasies on this one. Life goal achieved.
3. Start Breaking Down
Nat: The original version of this song was like a dorky unattractive kid in a high school movie, but then in the final act that kid takes her glasses off and the captain of the football team realizes she is beautiful inside AND out. The song is that kid, Tony’s vocals are that kid’s glasses being taken off, your ears are the captain of the high school football team.
Ian: I can’t help but wonder what a Don Fury version of this song would sound like, with enormous gang vocals and tons of compression and cocaine.
Tony: This is so fun to play. I love when everything opens up halfway through the second verse. Hot Rod Lincoln.
4. Object Permanence
Nat: After we tracked this song I looked back into the live room and said to the engineer Scott, “Scott, why is there only one set of footprints in the studio?” and he said “that’s when Tony carried you with his vocals and tasty leads.” If memory serves me, this is the song we “worked” on the most and I think it came together really well.
Ian: Nat, Nitro Records is on line 1.
Nat: I couldn’t remember which compilation-heavy 90s punk label Nitro was, so I googled them. Their wikipedia states they were an “incubator for punk rock artists who have subsequently become successful.” That sentence made me really sad.
Ian: That is an absolutely cursed series of words.
Tony: There’s some cool stereo shit on here that I like. It’s got my closest thing to a guitar solo on the record. My second favorite song on the record. Sick pause into rock out end.
5. Walks into a Bar
Ian: This is our prog rock opus. I’m working on a rock opera based around this song. It’s gonna make American Idiot look like Dookie.
Nat: This song is not in 4/4, which by our standards makes it a prog song. Also, I don’t think there is a barre chord until the very end. Putting that out there in case people are listening and saying “Hey goober, where’s the barre chords?” They’re coming, hang tight. This song also reveals my latent Boston accent.
Tony: It’s rare that a song is both my favorite to listen to AND to play live, but here we are! I can’t help but move around when it’s on.
6. Gold Rolex
Ian: This song does a thing that a couple of other songs on this record do: the verse makes you think it’s gonna be this standard indie-rock jam, and then the chorus comes up and punches you in the throat. That’s songcraft, people.
Nat: We wanted a hovercraft, settled for songcraft. The verse in this song is basically bouncing between major and minor chords. F maj, F min, D maj, D min, and on and on. I got the idea watching Ihsahn do a playthrough of old Emperor songs. But, this is about ever dwindling employee protections and benefits, not murdering someone in the woods. The more you know.
Tony: We played this song at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco and I swear I saw some hella sad looking kid in a Soil t-shirt headbanging during the chorus. That was sick. Feedback is good!
7. Alienation Pt 2
Nat: One of my favorite albums from 2019 was Mike Krol’s Power Chords. I had been listening to that album a lot when I started writing this. Having a lead guitar part floating over the whole song is not something we typically do. It’s usually just ham-handed downstrokes. I also used the neck pickup to play that part, which I think is the only appearance a neck pickup makes on this entire album. I’d like to give you a no neck pickup guarantee for our next album, but I’m not sure if I can.
Ian: Nat wrote this so he could show off his sick Guitar Center chops.
Nat: I did work at a Guitar Center. On two separate occasions. I onced MC’d a blues competition. That is not a euphemism.
Tony: What’s going on here?
Nat: When I started gravitating towards playing fast and heavy music, I feel like there was an unwritten rule that open/first position chords were verboten. This song features a bunch of them; my thirteen year-old self would be aghast. The title is also very misleading, this is probably the song that requires the most effort for me to play.
Ian: Tony’s little leads and squeals and bends are so sick on this one. The little embellishments are magnifique.
Nat: Ian’s bass run in the second break and Tony’s vocals at the end are some of my favorite parts of the album.
Tony: This is hard to play. Some speedo shit happening. My favorite “ougghhh!” on the record in here. Shit’s angry. I picture a drawing of Nat as “Angry Nat” ala Bart Simpson’s original comic “Angry Dad”.
9. Heaven’s Parking Lot
Nat: I wrote the lyrics for this song while looking for apartments while I was in the process of moving to California. I think I said this somewhere else, but if you had asked me at the time what heaven was, I would have told you “rent controlled and cheap”. I’m not sure I feel any differently now. If I’m remembering correctly, I also think this is the first song Julia and I started working on when we started playing again. The verse riff had been kicking around in my head for a while, and we finally unearthed it and brought it into the contemporary era. It’s the Brendan Fraiser of riffs.
Ian: Capitalism is a virus.
Nat: I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is voting for your actual class interests, not the ones you think you have or the ones you think you’ll have in five years.
Ian: Five years from now I’m gonna own a series of Jet Ski dealerships. I may be embarrassed right now, but that’s going to end any minute now.
Tony: Nat’s taught me a lot of weird chords. Thanks Nat. This one hits home after living in the expensive ass Bay Area my whole life whilst having zero monies. Perfect pickslide by Nat. I can’t do pickslides for some reason. Julia’s vocal debut. Chef’s kiss. Favorite outro.
10. Adjustable Rate
Ian: I wish I could write stuff like this: stuff that sounds simple on first listen, but is actually really weird and sophisticated. Whenever I try to do this, it ends up sounding overwrought and stupid. I did get to do some cool Tony Lombardo runs on this one though.
Nat: The album is called Adult Themes because the songs are about things like mortgages, retirement plans, and car payments. There’s no metaphors anywhere. If I’m singing about mortgages, I’m singing about mortgages. And this song is about, you guessed it, mortgages. This was usually a set closer for us, thus it being the last song on the album. I also think we tracked it last in the studio.
Tony: Downstrokes are hard. Music is cool. I love my friends in Strangelight. I’m proud I got to be a part of this record.
Ian: I love you too, Tony!!