Strangelove – The Depeche Mode Experience is truly one of the best Depeche Mode tribute bands around. Their shows often sell out and they have even headlined at venues exceeding 7,000 seats in capacity. Freddie Morales (“Devotional Dave”), Brent Meyer (“Counterfeit Martin”), Julian Shah-Tayler (“Oscar Wilder”), and James Evans (“InTheFletch”) took some time with Blogcritics to discuss their development as a band and their current tour.
How did the band start?
Meyer: I had a prior iteration of the project in 2006 that morphed and coalesced into this one by 2010. I honed the lineup and we got it world tour ready.
What’s the scope on your set list?
Meyer: That ranges from the first album Speak & Spell all the way to Delta Machine and Spirit.
You’re including Spirit on this tour?
Meyer: Absolutely, but [some nights] we omit Spirit tracks because we’ll form more of a “meat and potatoes” approach of getting all the hits everyone wants and expects. It’s part of the reason for our popularity because we do that sort of wish fulfillment for Depeche Mode fans. We could play 3 1/2 – 4 hours and still have glaring omissions in the set list because Depeche Mode has such an enormous body of work in their catalog.
Do you ever include any of their solo works?
Meyer: We have, yes. You did “Kingdom.” (to Morales)
Morales: I sometimes bring in “Kingdom” stuff from [David Gahan’s Hourglass] album. It depends on the audience and what we feel we’ll add. That’s what’s cool about Strangelove: we’re always adding something.
Shah-Tayler: We’re always keen to take requests online on the Facebook page. We often do what Brent just said, a poll of songs that people want to hear. If enough people want to hear it, we learn it and get the tracks together.
Meyer: We adjust it and build the set list accordingly.
Were there any songs in the catalog that were particularly challenging to learn?
Meyer: Several. (laughs)
Morales: For me, it took me a while to get into “Walking in My Shoes.” Depeche Mode is challenging and that’s why we like it. We like to just dig in and do it. As we do these songs over and over, it gets better and better. I perfect what I need to do.
Shah-Tayler: “Condemnation” is tricky to get right with the gospelly sound, the heavy keyboards, and locking in the vocals. That was one of the first shows I did with these guys. “Condemnation” was in the set and I spent five times as much time working on that one as everything else!
Meyer: Depeche Mode have been in so many places musically over their career arc, that makes it challenging. It’s not so narrowly focused as a lot of tribute bands. If you’re doing Journey, they have a pretty narrowly defined, rigid formula for their sound. If you excel at that as a musician, then you stay on that track. Depeche Mode have done everything from crude monosynth all the way to full EBM and punky things. They’ve been all over the map.
How do you gear up for a tour?
Meyer: It’s nice for us that we have a road map. We watch what they do, not just in their current incarnation, but in past iterations that are beloved to people. We spend time pouring over 101 and Devotional tour films and deconstructing those. Those are particular eras that people gravitate towards as favorite time frames for the band. We draw a lot from those.
Do you have a favorite album?
Morales: Can I pick two? (laughs) 101 and Devotional.
Shah-Tayler: Songs of Faith and Devotion, mine, too.
Evans: Same here.
Is there anything else you want fans to know?
Morales: We want fans to come to our shows and experience something magical. We like to thank the fans who have been following us. We’ve been doing this for seven years and now we’re going into different cities. It’s great to have the fans come out and support the show. We love it because the show is for the fans.
Meyer: It’s nice that we fill in the gaps of the Depeche Mode tour schedule. Fans are very appreciative that they get to experience a classic, focused Depeche Mode show. We performed a series of soldout shows in Chile last year. Depeche Mode hadn’t been there for 20 years.
Morales: We went to Guadalajara in February for a huge show.
Shah-Tayler: We try not to book another venue in the same city on the same night they’re playing.
Meyer: (laughs) That probably wouldn’t go well for us.
Thank you all for the interview. Best of luck.
All: Thank you!