Sparked with a writing prompt and inspired by Jefferson Airplane, the new single from the NYC jangle-rock power-pop band is about “figuring out who the real you is”
For a creative, nothing possesses more promise than a blank canvas or an empty page—
There’s also nothing more intimidating.
Where do you start? Where do you go? How do you fill this space, create something from nothing? The possibilities are truly endless, and somehow that makes the act of creation more tricky, and terrifying, than anything else.
Sure, inspiration occasionally (blessedly) arrives randomly. Ideas are dreamed up at night or hand-delivered by the muse… an image flows from your pen, a riff writes itself or full paragraphs pop into your head and out through your fingers. But sometimes a prompt is the best way to get creative juices flowing, offering you something to work from or towards (or at least with) and resulting in a final product you might not have ever achieved otherwise.
Beyond creativity as a general practice, I’m talking, of course, about a specific instance. This particular process is one that demonstrates the power of a prompt—a set of instructions randomly sent from one bandmate to another one day—that through iteration and collaboration became Whoa! Is Me,” the most recent banger from NYC jangle-rock power-pop band Strange Neighbors, out everywhere NOW!
Whoa! Is me, baby // Cuz I think maybe // Something’s wrong, baby // I’m not right lately
As for the meaning behind the song (and the absolutely perfect pun), it’s one that hinges on identity and accountability: taking a look at yourself, examining your actions (and their impact) and reflecting not just on who you are but who you want—and don’t want—to be.
Ahead of the release, the band sent over the following intel on the track’s making and meaning, as well as the spelling debate that ensued and the feathery friend featured on the artwork:
“’Whoa! Is Me’ started as a writing prompt. Strange Neighbors singer Aidan texted guitarist Zach out of the blue and said Hey write a song called ‘Whoa is me’ like a pun on ‘woe is me.’
So Zach wrote three verses of a song called “Whoa is me” and then Aidan finished off the last verse. They ended up with a song about catching yourself in the act of being the bad guy. It’s about figuring out who the real you is.
Musically the song was inspired by Jefferson Airplane’s second album Surrealistic Pillow, but by the time the remaining Strange Neighbors, drummer Tracey and bassist Dana, got their hands all over it, it morphed into a much janglier, power poppier type tune.
The band played the song live for a few months, workshopping through the noisy instrumental section in rehearsals and on stage. Eventually the band tracked the song in early 2022 at the Bunker Recordings near Catskill, New York with their trusted producer Mike Dwyer.
After debating the spelling of ‘Whoa’ (Was it ‘Whoah?’ or ‘whoa?’ or ‘Woah?’) it came time to design the cover art. The band was instantly drawn to a photo Zach’s partner Natalie shot of the most handsome chicken any of them had ever seen. His name is Chicken and he resides near Pittsburgh, PA.”
Catch Strange Neighbors (but probably not Chicken) at Mama Tried on Sept 15th with Creek and Kills and OOF (for free!) and take a little road trip to catch them at the O+ Festival in Kingston on October 8th.
Maybe, if you ask nicely, Aidan will provide you with a writing prompt of your own.
Follow Strange Neighbors at @strangeneighborsmusic , buy music on Bandcamp and add the songs to your Spotify playlists!
Featured image, provided by the band: Velvet Curls