Hello Stranger
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Hello Stranger


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Vagenius explains how to win fans and be influenced by erstwhile actresses"

Los Angeles trio Vagenius is so tight-knit, every get-together blurs the lines between a friendly hangout and a de facto band meeting. On this Sunday night, the three musicians are stationed in a corner booth inside Cat & Fiddle, a popular pub on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and continuous rounds of Boddingtons don't stop them from talking shop.

"I think we need to be meaner to people," says singer/instrumentalist Juliette Commagere. "That's what they want."

"We need to be more mean and less on time," chimes in drummer Joachim Cooder.

"Yes, and more late!" adds Commagere. "I feel like if we can just slack off and be assholes, we'd get signed."

The list of half-serious behavior modification grows. Vagenius, like many bands in the Los Angeles area, isn't so much being courted by the roving label A&R reps as it is the focus of growing attention among the general music scene. Just a few weeks ago, the band played Austin mega-music conference South By Southwest for the second year in a row. It just landed some ink in a Los Angeles Times weekend section cover story. And it has been a ubiquitous presence in SoCal music venues, having played 24 hours earlier at Spaceland -- the trendy Silverlake club that will host a Monday night Vagenius residency throughout the month of May.

The significance of the monthly Monday residency is not lost on the band. "I remember trying to get on other people's residencies, and you only get the 9 p.m. or 12 a.m. slot," says Commagere. "It's definitely cool. It means a lot to other people. That means a lot to us."

Judging by the near-capacity turnout of the show the night before, Vagenius has much to look forward to, as do the prospective weeknight gig-goers. The band is ostensibly known as another '80s nostalgic indie act, yet it distinguishes itself by eschewing the hammy tendencies of its overexposed peers, and it establishes its drum machine-free groove without sugarcoating it with desperate synth melodies.

Vagenius' sound is such that recording and performing take two different approaches, which took much time and effort to establish before the two-and-a-half year old band began playing out. For instance, Commagere and guitarist/keyboardist Jared Smith never stick to just one instrument, though the former is primarily known for her mobile keyboard, or key-tar, skills -- a point of some contention among certain industry types who have suggested the band add an instrumentalist so Commagere can "dance around more," something Vagenius' members laugh off.

Another sticking point amid its current buzz is the newfound interest on Cooder, who is the son of venerable guitarist Ry Cooder, known for scoring films such as Paris, Texas and Southern Comfort, as well as being the American ambassador to Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club. The younger Cooder claims the L.A. Times requested an interview for a piece on the band, when the March 17 story was actually to highlight local offspring of famous musicians. "It's never been an issue until then," says Smith. "[Ry's] been important to us, like a mentor. We don't not want to associate with him. But Š people will say [we] use that to our advantage. We're just trying to do it on our own."

In fact, there's no discernible trace of the elder Cooder's inspiration anywhere in Vagenius' musical output. But Joachim Cooder has offered another muse for the act, which he proudly announces to his bandmates after his umpteenth pint of Bodds: "I have a new influence for us: [Basic Instinct actress] Jeanne Tripplehorn. No explanations. That's all you have to say."
- Las Vegas City Life


Vagenius' complex electro blues sound accounts for their diverse following; every one from Vice-d out hipsters to grommy surfer bros can be seen dancing — well, swaying — to the trio's irresistible live show. Stunning lead singer Juliette Commagere brings straight new wave pop magic on her keytar, supported by Joachim Cooder's tight drumming and Jared Smith's Ledbetter stylings. Watch them "Take It to the Maxx" at their Spaceland residency this month, because it won't be long before they get scooped up and labeled. (HC)
- Flavorpill

"Review: Vagenius, Vagenius EP"

I've always been slightly wary of bands who name the keytar as one of their key instruments. The fusion between regular keyboard and guitar is an unlikely one and a quirky, kitschy, gimmicky one at that. Flock of Seagulls, anyone? In fact, any '80s band, anyone? Don't get me wrong, I really do have a fond place in my heart for many '80s and new wave bands. The new new wave trend (Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, The Futureheads, The Ordinary Boys), as well as the real one, does send delightful little shivers up my spine; it really does. It's just when I heard the words "keytar" and "L.A. band," my brain worked into overdrive, thought that Vagenius was another one of those Los Angeles scenester bands.

You know the kind. Spiky black hair, plugs, deconstructed As I Lay Dying t-shirts, girl jeans, either Vans or Converse, the sweat, and the sweet, sweet smell of arrogant music pretension. Sometimes, I am so wrong.

Vagenius happens to be an L.A. band but an L.A. band that only slightly conforms to the indie-electro-rock scene, at least in their clothes and some sonic stylings. The rest is all Vagenius, which is impressive, considering that they consist solely of guitar, synth and drums. Vagenius is electro-futuristic, dancepop, dancerock-it doesn't really matter what you call it because they're really, really talented. This statement proves to be true simply by the sheer amount of followers they have, considering they have yet to let out an LP. Yet, their EP is strong enough on its own; it doesn't even need followers. Why? Just the buzz surrounding the release of the EP was enough to get people listening. Since the release, Vagenius has been all over the Internet and Los Angeles: www.thecobrasnake.com (the new Polaroid Scene, a.k.a. hipster party photos of pretty people from all over Los Angeles), and Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again (one of the premier internet music blogs).

After all, it's hard to resist the bouncy, catchy hooks of the majority of their songs when Juliette Commagere, the stunning lead singer, is practically inviting you to come live in their word of shiny, shiny '80s spacesuits and mohawks. My issues with the keytar practically dissolved upon the second track on the EP, "Everyone Comes Here." The song buzzes with a smooth, synth-y feeling, and it's clear that all three musicians are incredibly talented because none of it is sounding kitschy at all. "Everyone Comes Here" leads into a slower, rock-tinged, flirtatious song, "Educated Fool," which sounds more like something from the past than anything else on the album. "Here We Go Again" starts off with a punchy drum beat, and then different textures of sound are pieced together as Commagere (appropriately) sings "Here we go again/It's unraveling," which fits together against the contrasting (and also unraveling) soundscapes. The first track, "After All," is almost delicate in the beginning, Commagere's voice seductively meandering around the bounce of keytar ... really. The clear favorite, however, is "Magazines," which sounds like something that Madonna might have done had she more musical ingenuity and a better voice. All and all, Vagenius' second EP is most definitely a commendable effort and a good one at that. They'll even give it to you for free if you sign their guestbook on totallyvagenius.com.

Vagenius is currently touring with the Kings of Leon, and will gracing Chicago with their presence at the Beat Kitchen on March 10 (time and cost to be announced on www.beatkitchen.com).

- Weekly Buzz from Champaigne, Illonois

"Vagenius at Spaceland"

Check out those surfers of sin wave, Vagenius, and their jazz-on-Yaz front woman Juliette Commagere. She makes playing the Keytar sexy...and thats damn near impossible. - LA Weekly

"What Chicago Says"

Hello Stranger
"Hello Stranger"
(Aeronaut Records)
(5 out of 5)

I wrote about this Los Angeles trio just over a year ago when they were playing under the name Vagenius, and had released an astonishingly catchy and polished self-titled CD. Now, they've switched names, and issued another self-titled CD under their new name … but not much else has changed — which in this case, is a good thing. In fact, half of the songs from "Vagenius" are represented on "Hello Stranger." If you missed their previous incarnation, don't let this one slip by.

Juliette Monique Commagere is a sweetly enticing vocalist, and the band's sound owes a huge debt to the Cardigans. Commagere has an alluringly delicate lilt to her voice and all of the band's material has a poppy, sing-song quality that brings to mind that Swedish band that once ruled the charts with "Lovefool".

Hello Stranger also features a respectable pedigree; drummer Joachim Cooder is the son of well-known blues/rock/jazz guitarist Ry Cooder, who helped produce this disc.

But Hello Stranger sounds nothing like the elder Cooder's material — this is an electro-fresh combo of synthesizer, guitar and drums that rides shimimering melodies and retro-simple keyboard lines into bouncy, grab-your-ear harmonies that entice and beguile again and again over the course of this collection of 13 tracks.

Almost every song here deserves to be played over and over again on pop radio, from the dancy disco-driven "Take it to the Maxx" which was rescued and remixed from their "Vagenius" release to the shuffling contemplation of a broken relationship in "We Used to Talk" ("we used to talk/but we don't talk much anymore … sitting here in silence/and though I have tried it is hard to talk alone.")

It's a crime that this disc is out on a tiny independent label instead of a major record company that could get them heard more; with a little promotion behind them, Hello Stranger could be world-class saviors of hook-happy pop music. Look them up and hear for yourself at www.hellostranger.tv.

The band will be appearing for a concert with Nous Non Plus on Sept. 27 in Chicago, at The Double Door.

Hey Pop Stops readers! If you've got a comment or question about this column or music in general, e-mail John Everson at john@pop stops.net. And check out the Pop Stops archive of reviews at www.popstops.net.

- Star Newspapers

"Haven't seen you in a while..."

Havent seen you in a while
Written by Joymode
Tuesday, July 18 2006

Havent seen you all in some time. It's probably the heat that is now causing me to stay inside and actually write a blog. I'm so behind on my music blogs. Summertime keeps me busy with all my other endeavours. like plotting to take over central california with all these upcoming Popsmear events. But CD's are starting to pile up. Its time to share them with you.

I figure now is as good a time as any to start pimping out some of the bands that I've booked.

Hello Stranger is a band that has managed to snag the coveted "NEXT BIG THING" title from Spin Magazine. You know, I think I agree with them. I mean who doesnt like a hot chick singer (Juliette Commagere) who plays the Keytar wears knee high boots and feathers, and sometimes sings in spanish? The Press kit that I recieved with this cd says they sound like "The perfect accompaniment to an early John Hughes film"

They've toured across the country 3 times (Once with the Kings of Leon), and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols has been known to play them on his Indie 103.1 radio show "Jonsey's Jukebox". They've been playing Spaceland, down in Silverlake every wednesday for the last few months. A position once held by acts such as Rilo Kiley, The Moving Units and Giant Drag. Impressive. This is a band that will cause you to kick yourself if you dont manage to see them before they get huge.

But enough about thier accomplishments. Lets get to the music... I freaking Love this CD! Its the perfect summertime album. Its light. but deep. The songs have a great feel. And they work together well alone or with each other as an album. The synth lines are well placed. Not overpowering at all, but when they come in, I tend to start bobbing my head a little bit harder. Everything has its place with this band.

Usually I can say "This band sounds like this band. Or I am reminded of this band." With Hello Stranger... I cant really say that they remind me of anyone. I believe that this band is truly unique. but not in an annoying unlistenable pretentious way. It's refreshing. This album really makes me feel good. About myself and everything around me. But it's not cheesy. Its well written. clever lyrics about life, the universe... and everything. It's songwriting and pop/indie sensibility at its best.

They will be playing Popsmear Live at Club Fred with Elephone on August 26th. They are on Aeronaut Records. And thier album hits the streets August 08. 2006, but you can order it now on thier website. there are also a few more tracks posted on thier myspace page. - Fresno Underground

"We Used to Talk"

Hello Stranger "We Used To Talk" - It's just a bit over two minutes long, but "We Used To Talk" is sentimental and heartbreaking enough that it's sort of difficult for me to get through on some listens. Set to a plaintive, pretty melody and a gentle arrangement, Juliette Monique Commagere laments an extraordinarily close relationship that has become estranged. The reasons for the apparent dissolution of their bond is not explained, but the tone seems forgiving enough that you can tell she's wondering why she or the other person can't just find the strength or time to call the other and talk. (Click here to buy it from the Hello Stranger website.)
- fluxblog


Album out August 8th on Aeronaut Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


Four years ago, Jared Smith was working at a hip coffee shop in L.A.’s eastside, where he would sneak in after it closed, feed himself with their coffee cake and sleep in a crawl space above the bathroom. He had been living like this for over a year after moving to Los Angeles from a small town in Michigan. During that time he met Los Angeles natives Juliette Commagere and Joachim Cooder, a couple who had been making music together since they met in highschool at sixteen. They took Jared into their little apartment and Hello Stranger was born. For a year they sat around drinking whiskey and writing songs before they had their first show. It wasn’t long before they became an integral part of Los Angeles’s Silverlake music scene, a scene that has helped catapult Indie music into the mainstream.
In 2005 the Kings of Leon saw Hello Stranger play and invited them to tour with them. Without a record deal, an agent, or a manager they were touring the country and playing to sold out crowds at venues like New York’s Irving Plaza and Webster Hall. When they returned home there was the typical major label clamor, but after A&R guys suggesting Juliette put down her instrument and “dance around more”, and being offered new songs to record (including the song “Screwed” which Paris Hilton ended up recording), Hello Stranger realized they were being steered down the wrong path. They decided to turn down these weird deals and make their own record with the help of Joachim’s dad, legendary guitarist Ry Cooder, who offered to produce it. Then they recruited Juliette’s teenage brother Robert to come play bass and do some live shows. His input alone added a whole new dimension to the band, musically and emotionally opening it up. The record encompasses everything from synth-driven dance songs, to languid country ballads, to a crazy song sung in Spanish—a nod to Juliette’s half-mexican heritage. After completion of the record, they contemplated releasing it themselves, until they met the wonderful people of Indie label Aeronaut Records who offered to help them with the release. Now, as Hello Stranger prepares for their national tour, it is up to the country to decide how big they can get.