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2The End of the World


Hrag Chanchanian, bass.
Eric Victorino, vocals.
Adrian Robison, drums.
Ryan Hernandez, guitar.

The straightforward, no-pretensions rock of Strata makes no apologies: hard without being claustrophobic, serious without being humorless, melodic without being pretty. This is a band built not only to last, but also to rise above the din of samey rock groups that are currently cluttering the airwaves and record stores.

"What music has needed for awhile is someone who can put everything they have into a record," declares singer Eric Victorino. "This isn't just a single with a bunch of filler, like a lot of albums today are – these are songs that mean a lot to us, and hopefully will mean a lot to the people who hear it."

From the incendiary opener "Piece By Piece" to the melodic introspection of tracks like "When It's All Burning" and "The Panic" to the full-bore statement of purpose that is "I Will Breathe Fire," Strata reveals itself to be a thinking person's rock band, with emotive lyrics, intricate instrumentation and the very real sense that there's something important happening here.

One need only look at the album's credits to realize just how self-assured Strata is: the album was entirely self-produced and self-recorded in the band's own studio, highly unusual for a debut album. Victorino considers that aspect to be one of Strata's defining elements.

"We just went about recording our songs because that's what a band does," he says. "There was no producer standing there telling us how to pull it off. And now Wind-Up is putting out the finished album almost exactly the way we did it."

"We're open to working with an outside producer in the future," remarks guitarist Ryan Hernandez, "but for now we've found this is the best way of getting our music out there the way we want it."

It's been something of a whirlwind four years for the group, who met in and around the music scene of Campbell , California , near San Jose . Victorino and Hernandez met at a coffee shop, "and pretty much instantly knew what kind of music we wanted to make," Victorino recalls, while bassist Hrag Chanchanian got to know Victorino at the Internet company they both worked for ("We jelled pretty much on the spot – they knew I was their guy"), and drummer Adrian Robison was drafted in after several months of jamming with another band in the same practice facility.

"They were watching my band play, and I was really stoked about that, but then it turned out that they were there to watch ME play because they were about to kick their drummer out. They tried me out on a Wednesday, we were practicing on Thursday, and one day later we were playing one of the area's premiere clubs."

Strata finished up the album, and hit the road – another life-changing experience. "Before that tour we were just four guys," says Hernandez. "Now we're all there for each other at all times. Playing every night also helped make us that much tighter of a band -- it's like a beast that takes over."

That cohesion is underscored by the band's approach to songwriting, which usually evolves from jamming in the studio. "With a lot of groups, one guy writes all the music; to me, that's not a band," explains Robison. "What's special about us is that we're four guys who are all willing to try stuff, and vibe off of each other."

"It's a democracy where majority rules," adds Chanchanian. "If someone else comes up with a better idea for a bassline or even a lyric, each member is fine with it. We all want to make the best song possible."

While Victorino downplays any autobiographical content in his lyrics – "I don't rely on specific incidents for songs, it's more about capturing the emotional residue of something that's happened" – he admits that such instant Strata classics as "I Will Breathe Fire," "The Panic" and "Waiting" all grew from the ashes of a four-year relationship.

"It was that point in a relationship when you feel that the end is coming," he remembers. "The words just came out, examining how everything was collapsing, but there was also the optimism of knowing that I could get through it. Sometimes our songs sound negative, but we try to get across the idea that the very intensity of the situation can be a positive."

Those feelings are confirmed by the muscular instrumentation, including Hernandez's strikingly cogent solo on "Waiting." "I wanted to lay back and let the solo flow without being busy," he says. "There are not a lot of notes there, but that's the whole idea of 'less is more.' It's hard for a song to breathe when it sounds like there's five thousand guitars over it."

As Strata heads into what appears to be a very promising future, the members feel secure in their approach to their art. "Ryan and I have a saying: If something doesn't give you chills, don't use it," Victorino states. "There are plenty of melodies and songs out there, but you need to be true to yourself."

"Music is a powerful weapon if you use it the right way," adds Hernandez. "It can definitely help people; it certainly has helped me."

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