Josh Hodges, architect of indie upstart band STRFKR, isn’t a nobody. So it should come as a surprise to hear he aspires to be one. However, there’s more peace and contentment in the sentiment than a willing toward indolence.
“There are people that do terribly violent things to kind of make a name for themselves, to be somebody,” Hodges says. “And a lot more of us just drive ourselves low-key crazy trying to get ourselves or our situation just right, you know? So anyway, I like the idea of the total opposite of that, of working to be nobody doing nothing going nowhere. Just being is good enough.”
However, at their current pace of touring, Hodges and his STRFKR bandmates, Keil Corcoran and Shawn Glassford, couldn’t be further from that goal. “That’s partly why it’s been so long since I’ve released a new album,” he says. “We were sort of trying to take a year off and write/record, but that didn’t really happen.”
Yet, he does say fans can expect a new album to appear this year. Hodges discloses the working title of the album as “Being Nobody Going Nowhere.” He explains the title as, “Kind of an eastern idea I read about. Not totally sure I understand it, but as far as I think I get it, it has to do with our commitment and attachment to our sense of self, like who we think we are. ‘I am Josh Hodges of Portland, of that band, etc.’ Just like all the stories we learn and tell ourselves about ourselves. That belief system can create a lot of suffering.”
The first single, “Never Ever,” is streaming on the band’s Facebook page and is available for download on Bandcamp. The song is every part as jaunty and refreshing as STRFKR’s 2008 breakthrough ditty “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second,” which was featured in a Target ad and an episode of The Blacklist. “Never Ever” has the same potential for success. And if it does become a hit, it will be on the virtue of recapturing the charm of their previous work without aping the sound — demonstrating an evolution for the band while maintaining their integrity and stable identity, which broadcasts as genuine.
Of the band itself, Hodges notes, “We’re just along for the ride. I just hope when it’s over we’re all a little wiser and happier from it.”
He enlists a poem by Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese,” for illustration: “‘You do not have to be good/You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert repenting/You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.”
Hodges explains his appreciation for literature: “It’s impressive to me. I can hardly imagine having the skills, patience and inspiration to do something like that.”
There’s no self-deprecation or false modesty in his assessment. It comes across with the same honest, sober tone as everything else he speaks on. It’s a fair, unbiased analysis of his strengths and talents, conveying the same sincerity and authenticity that has allowed STRFKR to attract audiences with open and guileless lyrics and subjects.
Somehow, despite all the sincerity and openness, there’s something obscure, elusive and downright ephemeral encompassing Josh Hodges. Rather than gaining insight into who he is, one is only allowed to see through him, or past him, to what’s beyond. It may be fitting that Hodges once recorded under another name, Sexton Blake.
It was something of a pseudonym or alter ego for Hodges himself, while ostensibly serving as the moniker for the band itself.
“I don’t think I’ll use that name (Sexton Blake) again,” Hodges says, “but I am definitely going to release some non-STRFKR projects, hopefully this year.”
STRFKR once changed their name to Pyramiddd before coming back, and until recently spelled “STRFKR” more phonetically as “Starfucker.”
Hodges is not the first artist to tinker with persona. Take David Bowie, the prototypical rock chameleon who died last month, as an example.
“That was one of those celebrity deaths that just affected me, like I knew him or something, you know?,” Hodges says. “I feel weird having that reaction to a celebrity dying, but I mean, he did actually affect me. So many of us have deep relationships with his music and his rare inspiration, so I think it’s OK to feel something about the death of someone I’ve never met.”
It would be presumptuous to stretch the comparison between David Bowie and Josh Hodges to extremes. Whatever ligaments might connect STRFKR to Bowie’s music are, admittedly, tenuous. For instance, Hodges lists Blonde Redhead, not Bowie, as his most significant musical influence.
But there’s more to the parallel than evinced by a cursory analysis.
While Ziggy Stardust wanted, and even needed, to be a star, Hodges states an aversion toward such egoistic self-aggrandizement. Yet, there’s a shared sense between them that they’re not what appearances might suggest.