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Q&A with Strawberry Launch

Strawberry Launch is a pop rock band, est. November of 2018 after lead singer, Riiza, cold-called guitarist, Matrianna Gahol, hoping she would want to start a band with a complete stranger. Together, they added Abby Flicker on bass, Taylor Hurt on keyboard and Benjy Berkowitz on drums. Their debut EP (released in August 2021) quickly gained praise from Under the Radar, Rolling Stone India and Atwood Magazine, saying of the bands EP, “Strawberry Launch cast a wide net, embracing astral synths and guitar tones, big pop harmonies and melodies, and cathartic chorus crescendos that amount to massive simultaneous releases of emotion and music”. The group has built a devoted following in New York City, sharing the stage with heavy hitters Beach Bunny, Hot Flash Heat Wave, Small Crush and Post Sex Nachos. The group will be on an east coast tour this fall.

Band photo of Strawberry Launch.

Riiza, how did you find out about Matrianna and what made you want to start a band with her?

I have Miss Grit to thank for introducing me to Mat. I can't really remember how we met…but I had approached them about starting a band together. They were already starting their own project (and now they're a total rockstar, it really worked out for the best!), so they sent me a list of people they thought might be up for the challenge. Matrianna was the first person on that list. It was luck really - I didn't know anything about her, we met at her dorm and she played a really early version of "She" I had sent her, and we just started hanging out. She’s the only guitarist I met in person, and I didn’t meet with anyone after that, I knew she was the right person.

How did you find your other bandmates?

Matrianna went to school with Abby, Taylor and Benjy. Taylor and Matrianna actually knew each other growing up and played in School of Rock together. We had had people come in and out of the group the first year we were together, but by the end of 2019 we were the group of 5 you see now.

The band was originally called Sister Signs. Why did you change it and how did you come up with the name Strawberry Launch?

It just wasn't us. We went through intense metamorphosis that first year we were together and we outgrew the name. Our previous drummer, Marissa Dumlao, was the one who came up with Strawberry Launch by making a giant list of words thrown together, and Strawberry Launch was the only "word grouping" we all liked.

You initially wanted to make hard rock or alt rock music. How did you find your current sound?

Our dynamic changed alot when we added Taylor to SL. Having keys involved in our music, and so many cool synth sounds changed the game for us. Once we all learned how to play together, we got more comfortable experimenting (we honestly still are) but now our experiments feel more refined.

That being said, “Videos” has a bit of a darker sound than many of your other songs. I really like how the mood and tone of it matches the song’s lyrics. What was the writing process like for it?

Thanks! We wrote this one upstate at Nick LaFalce’s (of Atlas Engine) house in March of 2022. This song evolved from something I saw at a concert into a full blown reflection on relationships and how influenced they are by technology. We make pretty fun, pleasant music, and I wanted to challenge that image a little with this track.

Do you have a music video planned for “Videos”? If so, what can we expect from it?

At the moment, not right now, but it's not out of the question. We thought about doing one as we were gearing up for this release, but we're about to go on tour, and we just felt we wouldn't be able to give both the tour and a MV the attention they both deserve. But, I have tons of visuals saved with this song, things on my mood board that I definitely want to incorporate when the time comes to make the MV.

Do you have a favorite song you’ve written? If you do, why is it your favorite?

It has to be “Sweet Basil”. Matrianna had written an instrumental piece called “Sweet Basil”, and put it on SoundCloud before we met, and I just started writing on top of it. I didn’t have any direction, I wasn’t trying to say anything with this song, but it flew out of me so naturally. We put the whole thing together in one rehearsal. That's really a song that showed me its meaning after we wrote it.

Who, or what, has most influenced your music and artistic style?

I try to listen to A LOT of different things. But I grew up in the Midwest, I listened to a lot of classic rock as a kid. I like the feel of a big band, a big production, but I come from a theatre background, so I love listening to artists with incredible voices or bands that have really talented lead vocalists. I like the camaraderie that comes with being in a band. I tried being a solo act when I first started out, but I craved the collaboration aspect of making music. And honestly, singing to tracks is absolutely no fun.

What are you listening to currently?

I listen to at least one Ethel Cain song a day (lol), but I’ve been listening to Amaarae’s album “Fountain Baby”, it's incredible. Also really enjoying Ashnikko's new album “Weedkiller”, and berlioz’s “Jazz is for Ordinary People”.

Listen to Strawberry Launch's single "Videos" now.

Band photo of Strawberry Launch.

Photo Credits: Taylor Valentine

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