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Album Premiere: “Strange Empires” by Lions of the Interstate

7 December 2023

Lions of the Interstate will release Strange Empires, the group’s first full-length, on Braxeling Records this Friday. The LP, available on vinyl and CD, was produced and engineered by Michael Deresh (Risley, Tea for Julie) at his Lamplight Studio in Portland.

Strange Empires builds on the template established by the double-EP Hug Point-Death/Love, which, as do many Lions songs, explored several themes of self-actualization and philosophy.

Lions Of The Interstate formed in 2019 as longtime songwriting partners Ben Alberts (of Metropolitan Farms & Magnetic Health Factory) and Rich Millward (of Magnetic Health Factory) combined their intellectual resources. The duo soon invited drummer Arturo Diaz (from their celebrated Smiths cover band, This Charming Man) to record what became their self-titled EP. The 2020 release landed on The Big Takeover’s best-of EP list that year.

Kyla Henry joined on backing vocals, keyboards and glockenspiel for the “Hug Point-Death/Love” recordings while longtime friend Jeremy Petersen (also from This Charming Man) joined on bass.

As the band evolved, Diaz contributed to the songwriting. The band began recording the 12 Strange Empires songs in late 2022.

The record showcases Millward and Alberts’ expert indie voices and fiery fretwork, both Henry and Diaz offer up melodic turns at the microphone this time around, while Petersen’s bass nestles neatly throughout the album’s collaborative efforts.

While several Strange Empires songs showcase the intricate guitar interplay (“Mood Ring,” “Wind Chimes” and “Bolt of Blue”), others, like the Kinks/Thinking Fellers Union Local 282-tinged “Loose Cannon” and Millward’s brilliantly eerie “I Can’t Remember” display the Lions’ penchant for unpredictability, occasionally bordering on psychedelia.

Henry takes the spotlight on the irresistible “Lost in Spokane,” a grabby ode to saying goodbye to a new friend. “White Trucks” features a lead vocal turn from Diaz that highlights the band’s (and Deresh’s) studio skills, along the group’s embrace of occasional horns that drive the song home.

The record ends with the gripping “Happy Birthday,” a live showstopper that translates well here, as Henry and Millward trade vocals, Catenary Wires-style, as they celebrate, well, music in general.

“Strange Empires” is available for order physically and digitally on Bandcamp through Braxeling Records.

Lions of the Interstate · Strange Empires

Exclusive quote from Arturo Diaz:
“Turn signals be damned, the Lions have delivered a white-knuckle ride through the speed traps of indie rock.”

Exclusive quote from Kyla Henry:
“The songs on Strange Empires are the journey through the happiness and heartaches of getting to the other side of these last couple of years. We had the patience, dedication and trust to let the songs evolve very collaboratively, naturally and unselfishly, so everyone had their time to shine. We really put a lot of love and time and energy into this album and I’m so proud of it!”