Interview - Meet Runaway Strangers

Updated: Apr 12, 2020




Runaway Strangers is a genre-blending, expectation-defying group of Pop- Rockers that will catch any listener's attention with catchy hooks and provoking lyrics. 

Combining influences such as Ben Folds, Amy Winehouse and Queen, each member of Runaway Strangers’ influences are present in their music, resulting in a punchy, groovy and emotional mess that somehow makes sense in the end. After playing around London for two years and releasing their first single 'Palmtree' in November 2019, the band will be back with their second release, the single 'Box'. 

What first got you into music and when was it? Marta (keys, guitar, vocals) - For me, it was when I was 6. My dad asked me what my favourite instrument was. When we both said piano was our favourite, he asked if I’d like to learn how to play it, and a few weeks later I started having lessons. I just never really stopped after that and my love and interest in it only kept on growing. 

Maria (vocals) - Started when I was about 5 or 6 at church as I joined the choir just for fun, shortly after my dad bought me a piano and I just dabbled with the notes attempting to make a melody. The choir leader saw potential and involved me on the annual talent show just 2 days before it and I won first place. After that I became involved with the church band and became lead singer of the youth group at age 13. My love for music did drift away at about this time as it felt more of a chore than a passion, but it slowly came back at the end of high school. 

Lisa (bass) – When I was about 7 or 8 my aunt bought me my first ipod and that’s when I first heard bands like Nirvana, Oasis and Guns ‘n’ Roses. All I can remember was suddenly soon after hearing these guys I just had this urge to learn to play guitar. 

Fran (drums) - I got into music when I was 4 years old and I asked Santa Claus for a kids drum kit 

Cristian (guitar) -Seems weird but it all started with one episode of The Simpsons that I watched when I was around 7. Lisa was playing guitar and I fell in love with that sound. I told my parents and they gave me a cheap classical guitar for Christmas and I started taking lessons. When I was 14 I started my first band with some mates in my town, and the way I felt when we played together was overwhelming and so beautifully new. Since then I decided to invest my life in music, researching the way I felt during my first band experience. 

Who inspired you to make music, who are you influenced by? Marta - My piano playing and composition are very inspired by a Portuguese artist called Jorge Palma. I’d listen to his records on repeat when I was around 8. My mum is a huge Queen fan so that inspired me as well. Then when I was about 12 or 13 I got into Paramore and the way that they wrote and performed and interacted with their fans made me really want to do it too. 

Maria - Coming from a Colombian household I was constantly bombarded with salsa, boleros and other latin genres. Singers such as Celia Cruz, Alejandro Saenz and groups such as the Buena vista social club and grupo niche definitely play a big part of my musical book. Along with those genres my dad would also play a lot of jazz and motown. Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse have also played a big part of my musical influences along side with modern artist such as J Balvin, burna boy and Celeste. I don’t really have a particular person who’s influenced me but rather a collection of artists who inspire me to always involve emotion and sincerity in not only my songs but perfoming aswell. 

Lisa – When I first started playing for a good few years I always thought it was going to stop at just being a hobby. It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I realised I was kind of good. My guitar tutor is my primary inspiration to do what I do because he’s the first to make me realise that it’s a viable option in life if you put in the work. Other than that my main influences for playing would be Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton. Although I don’t necessarily listen to some of those guys as much today they definitely still play a huge part in how I play. 

Fran - To be honest I got inspired by many artists I used to hear back in the day when my mom and dad played their favorite albums in the car or at home. Which they generally remain around 70s’ and 80s’ pop music. Some of these artists where Phill Collins, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Tears for Fears and some other Mexican pop artists like Luis Miguel and Antonio Sànchez. 

Cristian - I’ve always been a big rock music fan. My first inspiration as a player was probably Slash from Guns n Roses. When I was very young I started to dream about playing something like Sweet child o’ mine on a stage. When I got to high school I discovered the instrumental rock scene with virtuosos like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and I fell in love with their style. Many different genres came into my life during those years, from trash Metal, to traditional Italian music and jazz. I’ve always paid a lot of respect to any kind of music, that’s probably the reason why it was easy getting inspired by so many different genres and styles. 

How would you describe the music that you typically create, has it changed over the years and how? Marta – I’m quite focused on harmony and arrangement. If a chord progression moves me in any way, whether it makes me sad or uncomfortable or creates 

expectation in me, I’m interested. And I love the way instruments and musicians interact when performing it so that’s on my mind too when writing. The more music I listen to and the more I learn, the more stuff I want to experiment with, so that’s what has made my music evolve over the years. In terms of lyrics, for me it’s a neverending hunt for accurate and originals ways to put feelings or situations into words that go with music. 

Maria - I feel like the music I make will always be driven by delivering emotion and by being relatable. Although I’m more particular about lyrics, melody and delivery, Marta has inspired me to also think about chord progressions and how to make it more interesting and how it can go out of the norm. So I think my bandmates inspire me to do better, to constantly create original and different pieces and just being willing to experiment with new sounds. I think as you grow and change so will your music, as new you experience life this will reflect in your music, so yes throughout the years my music has changed but carries the same essence of honesty. 

Cristian- I like the idea of considering whatever kind of music a result of a life experience. Marta and Maria always write songs with this idea in mind. What we come up with together is always a mix of our music backgrounds which are very different and our personal experiences. It is difficult to explain as most of the times we struggle to put ourselves into a categorized genre, but hopefully it makes sense. 

Lisa – I feel I’m still quite new to the writing experience. I did have a go at something a few years back when I was 13. I’m all about improv so I was just trying to make cool chord progressions (which were quite generic) and just improvising over the top. Now I guess where I better understand how harmony works, I’m dealing with an evolved version of that. I still suck at lyrics though. 

Fran - I would say my music writing always comes from different situations I’ve been experiencing throughout a recent period of time and all I do is to put those feelings and thoughts into words or into drum patterns in my case. Sometimes these ideas might be reflected on a fill or in some cases as an overall groove. So yeah they keep changing over and over again. 

What is your creative process like?

Marta – with the band, usually what happens is me or Maria come up with an idea, either a progression or a theme or sometimes a half-finished song. Then we 

bring it to the band, try ideas for the arrangement and structure and everyone comes up with their own parts. 

Maria - I definitely agree with Marta, one of us will have a good or bad day and it we’ll talk and something will come out of it! 

Cristian - Studying music gave me a lot of new tools and toys to have fun with when I’m writing or arranging a part. I’ve always tried to make everything I do simple enough for me to play it, but at the same time I try to make it the result of everything I’ve interiorized during the years. As I said before, when Marta or Maria come in rehearsals with an idea based on their life experience we try our best to make those experiences our own. That’s probably why we got so close as friends thank to this project. 

Who would you like to collaborate with?

Marta – My dream collabs would probably be Jacob Collier, Hayley Williams, and if they were still alive, Freddie Mercury and Amy Winehouse. 

Maria - This is hard as I have so many artists I would love to collab with, however if I Amy Winehouse would be my go to. Colombian ballad artist Andres Cepeda would also be a dream! 

Cristian - I’d love to collaborate with my favorite musicians and composers one day: Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Nick Johnston, Hans Zimmer, Antonio Castrignanò, Marty Friedman, Jacob Collier, Slash, Myles Kennedy, Devin Townsend just to name a few. I know they’re mostly guitar players, but hey, I am that kind of nerd. 

If you could support one band, who would it be?

Maria - Marta would you support Twenty One Pilots??? Haha would be cool 

Marta – Ahh that’s a good one, yeah I would! 

Lisa – Would so love to support Don Broco. They’re the main band that I just have to keep seeing live again and again. Their shows are such high energy and I’d just love to be a part of that. 

Fran - Snarky puppy, Collier as well and Coldplay 

What is the one message you would give your audience and what message would you give the MU readers?

Marta – Do what you love and don’t be scared to be vulnerable and different. We all need outlets and art and creativity, so make it and/or support it if you can! 

Maria - I agree with you!! 

Lisa – Anything is possible if you work at it and really try hard. You’ve got to be stubborn and persistent with some things but if it’s what you love it’ll always be worth it. 

Cristian- Let yourself fall in love with music, she will never betray you. Treat her with respect and be openminded. There’s a whole new world of genres and musicians out there that are just waiting to be discovered, so don’t stop yourself on the 1st trend on YouTube, you might find something you didn’t know existed and maybe start a complete new chapter of your life. Music has that power too and she has always been next to us for our entire life, and will always be. 

What is the most useless talent you have?

Maria - I can do a club with my tongue ahaha 

Fran - I can move my nose nostrils 

Marta – same as Fran! 

What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for music?

Marta – Maybe making films or videos. I’d be doing some other creative thing. But it probably wouldn’t make me as happy as music. 

Maria - I would probably be doing hair and makeup, it’s actually one of my hobbies, or I’d be studying law. 

Lisa – Most likely some job involving languages I expect. I did better at languages than music at school. I spent 3 months at a uni near Liverpool a few years ago and when I left, languages was my fall back plan. Although I’m much happier things worked out this way. 

Fran - In my case I have never seen myself making a living out of something else but music. 

Cristian- I probably would have continued my architecture studies, or some visual art related stuff. Even though I love drawing and visual art, I would have felt empty without music and I prefer spending my nights on a guitar instead of projecting some building for a deadline. 

Where have you performed?

Marta – We’ve mostly performed around London. One of my favourite gigs was our most recent one at The Bread and Roses. Everyone on and off stage seemed to be really into it. In our last song, ‘Cold War’, we just weren’t ready to finish yet so we prolongued the ending and just sort of went a bit crazy, it was awesome. My least favourite gig was one where the sound was just terrible. It was quite disappointing cause so many people were there, including my parents who flew in just for the gig. We still managed to have a good time though. We tried to act like nothing was wrong and just did our thing. Unfortunately, our next gigs are postponed due to the virus. The best thing to do is to follow our pages to stay up to date! 

Maria - I agree with you but I did also love performing at Marta’s family event in Portugal, we had a laugh. 

Lisa – I’m pretty new to the band so I only got to play The Bread and Roses gig with Runaway Strangers so far. But it most definitely was my favourite gig that I’ve played overall! It had been a very long and busy day and that gig was the perfect pick me up at the end. It’s also the first gig that my mum was able to make which makes it all the more special. I don’t have any least favourite gigs as of yet... 

Cristian - My favourite gig is definitely the first one I played as Runaway Strangers guitarist. We were the main act of a jam session in Camden, and lots of friends came to see us from the other side of London, and I totally didn’t expect that. My mum came from Italy to see me and was so proud. The sound wasn’t the best, but that night is just a beautiful ineradicable memory. One of my least favorite is probably the same one Marta described. The sound guy struggled to the sound properly because of what was available at the venue, and we acted like everything was fine, and we couldn’t really control it. But it definitely was a lesson for all of us. I really hope our next gigs will be as soon as possible, I look damn forward to being back on stage. 

How do you feel the internet has impacted the music industry and you specifically?

Marta – the internet allows us to have a platform to share our music and promote ourselves / reach a larger audience through social media. We get to have regular contact with our followers and it’s also a lot easier to find people to collaborate with – other musicians, photographers, videographers etc. On the other hand, as everyone can make use of this platform, it’s hard to cut through the ocean of information that’s being released into the internet each day. 

Maria - I agree with Mart, its an amzing platform to share and create. Although I only have facebook I do believe social media is great! 

Lisa – The internet has just transformed the way we absorb music now. I think it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Everything is at our fingertips to listen to and there’s so many good artists out there, it’s hard to keep up. 

Cristian - Internet definitely changed the game. Every single band, musician and information is really easy to find right now. What I don’t really like is the need of some people to badly judge others on the internet. Everyone feel safe behind a keyboard and those people often forget that there are feelings that can be hurt on the other side. Don’t get me wrong, feedback is always constructive and musicians need it to grow, but there’s no need to be mean, and I doubt face to face someone would act the same way as they do on the web. 

What is your favourite song to perform and why?

Marta – Mine is Cold War, cause it’s the heaviest and most powerful one. 

Maria - I love to perform all songs with equal love however I agree with Mart, Cold War is fun!! 

Fran – agree! 

Lisa – Absolutely love playing Box. I love all these intricacies throughout the song that just makes it that much more fun to play. 

Cristian - When we perform live we usually close our shows performing consecutively Box (our next single) and Cold War. Playing those two songs is awesome as it feels like living a movie in real time. They’ve got many different parts and dynamic changes and playing them is a new journey all the time. 

What is the most trouble you have gotten into? Maria - It doesn’t seem like much now but growing up in a Christian home getting your nose pierced at 15 and a tat at 16 was a no no, slept on the couch for a week, mum was angry haha 

Fran - Replacing Tomás (previous Runaway Strangers drummer) was tough for me because he put the standards quite high and I respect him as a drummer very much. 

If you could only listen to one album from now on what would it be?

Marta – probably any Jacob Collier album cause I’m sure there would be something new to learn from it every time, plus his music sounds awesome. 

Maria - Can I mesh albums together?? Haha I love Amy’s Back to Black but right now I’m obsessed with J Balvins new concept album ‘Colores’, each song is named after a colour so it’s cool and very lively 

Lisa – Would have to be either Led Zep’s Houses of the Holy or Physical Graffiti. They’re my go to when I don’t know what to listen to. 

Fran - 22, a million - Bon Iver 

Cristian - That’s a tough one. I probably would give a different answer every day. Right now i’d say Wall of Sound by Marty Friedman. His songwriting and guitar playing are the best blend of heaviness, melodic knowledge and passion. I love that stuff. 

What is the best advice you have been given? 

Maria - Probably my nan’s one ‘pongale cuidado a la vida porque la vida no le pone cuidado a usted’, meaning ‘pay attention to life cos life wont pay attention to u’, she would say it in a sassy way when I was younger, quite threatening, meaning don’t waste time lol 

Cristian- One of my tutors once commented on one of his gigs with the advice: “Don’t overthink it”. I’ve always judged myself too much, but sometimes it is necessary just to take a step back and enjoy the time, especially when it comes to playing. I still need to apply that advice completely to everything I do, but it takes time, that’s why I struggle to post frequently on socials. 

Fran - In music you need 3 things: 1% Talent 3% Good luck And the rest is practice (and I’d like to add being a good human being as well) 

Lisa – Buy a bass. 

If you could change anything what would it be?

Marta – I wish I could solve climate change and environmental issues, I wish I could change people’s views and mentalities on this so that everyone would do their part. 

Maria – Many people say that they’d like world peace but ain’t kind to their neighbour, so as Schiers said, ‘start by changing with the next person who comes to you in need’. Just by being good vibes and spreading positivity. 

Fran - I would forbid selfishness in people’s mentality because I think this leads to so many problems such as robbing, killing, wars, climate change, racism, etc... 

Cristian - I wish I could change people mentality regarding music. We’re so used to be surrounded by music that we often forget the amount of work and passion that someone put behind it. I truly believed music is part of everyone’s life so there should be more respect for it. 

Which bands do you think are currently under-rated or that people should look out for? Maria - Sunflower Ashes!!!!! Great music 

Fran - Snarky Puppy 

What is next for you?

Marta - We’re recording some more songs, hopefully an EP sometime soon. 

Cristian - Me and Marta will finish our degree soon and then we’ll have more time to focus on our project. Recordings and an EP are in our plans and definitely gigs, gigs and gigs. 

What was the driving force behind your new release, are there specific subject matters dealt with?

Marta - ‘Box’ is a song about feeling really trapped when living in a tiny apartment in a new city. I had just moved to London and it felt very overwhelming and lonely. It took me a while to get used to living somewhere different and having to take care of myself for the first time. I ended up getting myself super busy to the point where I was totally burned out, all cause I wanted to be out of the house and around people as much as possible. So after holding all of this in for a few months, it all just poured out when I sat down to write. 

What was the process for writing and recording the release, are there any aspects of the production that were interesting or that you were keen to incorporate?

Marta - It was quite important to make sure all the instruments were interacting with the lyrics, by having certain stops or hits coincide with certain lines, for example, and making sure every instrument contributed to telling this story. 

Were there any hurdles to overcome when going through the writing and recording process, how did the album and songs develop?

Marta - It’s a long-ish song with many intricacies, so we had to find ways to make it both interesting and accessible. We had a few people advise us to remove certain details or simplify the structure, but honestly we decided to keep a lot of those things, because we believed they were there for a reason, they contributed to the song and made it different. 

When and how are you launching the new release?

Marta - It will be on all the major streaming platforms sometime in the next few months, but we can’t announce a date just yet! We’ll definitely announce it on our Facebook and Instagram pages soon. 

How are you hoping it will be received, have you changed your sound from previous releases to this one?

Marta - This song is a bit more serious and emotional than ‘Palmtree’. ‘Palmtree’ is our crazy fun song where we’re all having a good time, it’s quite sarcastic and quirky. ‘Box’ is very personal, although quirky as well. It’s that song that I hope someone will hear and relate and maybe feel less alone if they’re going through something similar.