The Upper Strata

The Upper Strata

 Portland, Oregon, USA

The Upper Strata is a chameleon-like duo blending indie rock, electro, disco, trip hop and blues.


Inspired by the Pacific Northwest, the duo releases their first vinyl record Neon Glitz in 2017. It is written, recorded, mixed, mastered and pressed in Portland (OR). The album has eight electro indie dance tracks, with a hint of soul and trip hop. There isn't a specific genre or style that this album fits into, which has been true of previous releases as well. Adam Gonsalves from Telegraph Mastering, who has mastered over a thousand releases from artists around the world, said: “Nice work on these songs. The variety in songwriting is really cool.”

The Upper Strata is Johnny and Regula - a husband and wife duo. Johnny has always been attracted to music from the wrong side of the tracks; from gritty punk to raw blues in some sketchy juke joint or reggae down at the port of Tampa in some illegal club. Regula, who grew up in Switzerland, went to raves in empty industrial warehouses and dragged an old diatonic accordion to the States to feed through effects pedals. The duo melts these experiences together. The influences are varied. “On one track, you might find calm Middle Eastern-flavored melodies, and on the next, a rave-worthy thumping keyboard patch. No two songs have the same sound, yet they’re held together by their underlying darkness,” says Marissa Abruzzini from TourWorthy.

After doing Americana, blues, folk and indie, The Upper Strata started to become electronic and dance on the album Cabaret Wartaire. They are pushing it further on Neon Glitz with songs that celebrate the synth dance music of the 80’s - hinting at New Order and Joy Division; or David Bowie’s work from that time period. “I was working on the last part of the song Neon Glitz and I kept wanting to sing the ending of Ashes to Ashes; perhaps my all-time favorite Bowie tune,” says Johnny. The song was coming together around the time Bowie died. Johnny rewrote the lyrics to directly address Bowie and his passing, in particular the way he often set a standard for what was artsy in pop music. The last verse of Neon Glitz is now: “Over all the years our standard bearer, worlds with words characters and images so demented and free.”

Regula has branched out from playing bass and occasional accordion, to 16-step sequencers, drum programming and a poly analog synth. Johnny now plays an eight string guitar, which adds a unique low rumble to a few of the tracks. Keyboard sounds also come through various guitar effects that imitate a B-3 organ and an old Mellotron. The icy synth sound of the Mellotron can be heard on half the tracks of Neon Glitz, adding an old school synth pop sound ironically played on guitar.

The duo performed extensively in the US (OR, WA, CA, AZ, NM, CO, UT, MT, ID, LA, FL) and a bit in Italy and Switzerland.


Neon Glitz (2017) - Full-Length (vinyl, digital)

Cabaret Wartaire (2015) - Full-Length (CD, digital)

Shadow Upon The Snow (2014) - EP (CD, digital)

Phantastic Pigeon-Holes (2013) - Full-Length (CD, digital)

Manifest (released 11/11/11) - EP (CD, digital)

From Restless To Ruin (1996)