Playing it out: Stray Fossa is a new band with a long history

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Stray Fossa closes its first Northeast tour with a show at
The Southern Café and Music Hall on Friday. Photo by Tristan Williams Stray Fossa closes its first Northeast tour with a show at The Southern Café and Music Hall on Friday. Photo by Tristan Williams

Nick Evans sometimes wakes at “god-awful hours of the night” to find his brother, Will, in the living room, sitting quietly amid microphones, coiled cables, amps, guitars, and drums, his shoulders hunched toward his computer, the blue-white glow of the screen illuminating his face, laser-focused, with headphones covering his ears.

Nick laughs as he describes the frequent scene—“it’s not very cozy…not a livable space at all,” he says of the room, which, with its abundance of gear and its walls covered in padded packing blankets, is more recording studio than living room.

He laughs not to mock, but rather to appreciate his younger brother’s attention to detail: Will’s focus is always set on some aspect of a song for Stray Fossa, the poppy, shimmery, atmospheric three-piece rock band comprised of the Evans brothers and their longtime friend (and now housemate) Zach Blount.

All three members of Stray Fossa grew up in Sewanee, a small town in southern Tennessee, and they’ve been friends since they were kids—Will and Zach have celebrated their birthdays together since they were 5 years old, says Nick, who is two years older.

They played music together throughout high school (their parents served as their roadies), but left the project behind as each member graduated and went on to pursue his own interests.

Nick moved to Berlin for graduate school and performed guitar-driven, solo singer-songwriter material all the while; Zach played bass in a number of jazz and funk bands in college; Will honed his percussion chops as an undergrad at UVA, playing in a few local bands before moving to the United Kingdom for a year-long graduate program, where he started focusing more on music production (and developed the habit of staying up late to obsess over details).

It’s been “a study in compromise, getting back together. We aren’t a high school group of friends anymore,” says Stray Fossa guitarist Nick Evans. Photo by Tristan Williams

During that time and distance, there was never any question that they would play music together again. A few years ago they reunited in Sewanee, and “the stars aligned for all of us,” says Nick—they wanted to give music another go. “To be fair, we made the stars align,” Will interjects, to laughter from his bandmates.

The group considered moving to Nashville, but it’s too big. They love their hometown of Sewanee, but it’s too small. Charlottesville—a growing city in the middle of the East Coast with a robust music scene and a clear venue ladder to climb, a place where Will had some connections—was just right.

Stray Fossa arrived in town about a year ago, without a single song. After getting their bearings—mostly finding Kroger and Lowe’s—the guys transformed their living room into a studio and got to work.

It’s been “a study in compromise, getting back together,” says Nick. “We aren’t a high school group of friends anymore.” They’ve had to figure out how to live together and how to be creative together.

Local band Stray Fossa closes its first Northeast tour with a show at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall on Friday. Photo by Tristan Williams

And that’s a good thing, if you ask them. The music they’re making now, as Stray Fossa, is much more intentional, says Will. They have more to say in their songs, and they know why they want to—and sometimes have to—say it.

In September, the band released its debut EP, a three-song effort titled Sleeper Strip after the catchiest song of the three, one with an earworm of a melody and lyrics that hold particular emotional meaning for Nick.

There’s “Bear the Waves,” a Will-penned tune about his general reluctance to go out and party, and “Miss the Darker Nights,” a subtle call to conservationism that is also an homage to the band’s wooded hometown—while living in Berlin, one of the largest cities in the world, Nick was overwhelmed by the light pollution, and he missed the noise of the forest. In the summer, he says, with the cicadas and the katydids, all the animals scurrying and birds flying around, the forest is actually quite loud.

Recently, the band released a new track, “Commotion,” which was featured on Spotify’s popular “Fresh Finds” and “Fresh Finds: Six Strings” playlists. So far, all of these songs have been written, recorded, and produced in Stray Fossa’s living room studio.

The band grows its songs collectively, with all three members contributing parts to the whole. “We come together in the middle every time,” says Zach, who gets “a lot of satisfaction from writing icing on the cake kind of stuff,” like harmonies and bass parts that capture the emotional quality of a song. Nick and Will do the majority of the songwriting, though each brother has a different process: Nick brings a kernel to build around; whereas Will brings a nearly complete song.

In the current music landscape, there’s a lot of emphasis on a band’s “sound,” and while Stray Fossa understands why—it can help bands stick out in this world of constant music consumption—the threesome doesn’t want to limit itself by attempting to develop a sonic identity that might constrict it in the future.

“As long as we’re the ones on the track and the ones with the creative energy, it’s going to be our sound,” says Zach, to a round of enthusiastic nodding from his bandmates.

They’re not seeking a revelation about who they are; they just want to say that they’re here.

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