Forlorn Strangers x Vinyl Mag

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Raw. Old soul. Americana. Roots. Foot stomping. Soaring Harmonies…these are only some of the words that can be used to describe the sound being amplified by our speakers as we listened to Forlorn Strangers‘ self-titled debut album (out this Friday, August 5th).

Forlorn Strangers is comprised of sisters Abigail Dempsey (fiddle, percussion, vocals) and Hannah Leigh Lusk (mandolin, percussion, upright bass, vocals); Chris Banke (guitar, mandolin, vocals); Benjamin Lusk (banjo, guitar, vocals); and Jesse Thompson(upright bass, dobro, guitar, vocals)With these five unique songwriters, ascending family harmonies and energetic percussion, the string-forward quintet entertains a comparison to an ‘Americana Fleetwood Mac.’

We sat down with Abigail to get an inside look into the band, chat about the creative process behind the new album, and where you can catch them on tour over the next several months.

Vinyl Mag: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. Being that you all are from varying states, I would love to start off by getting into the story behind how you all came together to form the band.

Abigail Dempsey: My sister is in the band, Hannah Leigh [Lusk], and she and the guitar player Chris [Banke] and the banjo player Ben [Lusk], the three of them went to school together in South Florida. They actually started out as a writing group. They would all get together and share their poetry and stories, and then they started playing music together. They eventually moved out to Waco, TX, and lived on a farm for a little bit out there and then moved to Nashville. The three of them then met our now bass player Jesse [Thompson] here and then I moved down in September of 2013. After I moved down, that’s really when we started taking Forlorn Strangers seriously.

VM: With your sister in the band, have you learned anything new about your sister or each other?

AD: Honestly, it’s hard to even say because we’ve been with each other every single day for the past  15 months. We’ve been on the road touring for those 15 months, so it’s hard to even think about previously, like, ‘Oh man, I didn’t know she was like this and now she’s like this…’ We come from a really close family so we’re all friends anyways.

VM: You mentioned that the group started out as a writing group, what does the creative process look like behind the band’s songwriting style?

AD: All of five of us write and sing, and we all play the guitar. Usually, we’ll all individually write a song…Before we started touring so much we would have practice every Sunday and Wednesday and it would be like, ‘Oh, guys! I wrote this new song’ or ‘I came up with this idea..’ or something like that. And it’s kind of funny that it just all works itself out where if everyone is diggin’ on the song and you know it goes ‘Hey Chris, play that song again and lets figure out the parts.’ And I’ll pick up a fiddle and we just kind of jam it out until we feel like it works. If people don’t really respond to a song then you’re like, ‘OK! That’s just going to be one I’m going to keep in my back pocket.’

VM: I love the fact that you all write and then you all come together and work it out like that. On this new album, each band member is taking a lead on varying songs. How was each band member chosen for their given song?

AD: It’s pretty much whoever wrote the song sings the lead on it. We haven’t really dove into a lot of cowriting which is something I think we’d really love to explore once we have some time to be more creative. Overall, if I wrote the song I would sing lead on it and usually Hannah and I will do harmonies together. The one song, ‘Down in the Trenches,’ that all of us sing a part on it; Hannah originally wrote that song and when we were in the studio our producer was like, ‘Man, it would be cool if all of your took a verse.’ Because there are five verses in the song, and we were all like, “Yeah! That sounds great.’ So that was the first time we did something where the person who wrote the song wasn’t singing lead and I love the way that it turned out.

VM: Listening to the album, I feel that the album is very raw and has an old soul to it. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

AD: I would say, it’s roots. We use the word roots a lot and meaning roots based in American music, but also personally and individually. Cohesive is a word we use a lot; it’s something that has a lot of different moving parts, but overall it has one vibe and one feel.

VM: In 2015 you guys did extensive touring and right now you are towards the end of your summer tour. Do you have any favorite venues that you have played or are you looking forward to playing for your upcoming tour to promote the new album?

AD: We love the Carolinas. Our booking agents live in Charlotte and Charleston, and both of those places have been so so good for us. We’re playing Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA, and then our Nashville show is at Little Harpeth Brewery. It’s going to be awesome, they are setting up a stage outside and I think it’s going to be really fun in August. We’re also going out to the West Coast for the first time, so that’s really exciting!

Catch Forlorn Strangers on Tour:
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It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.

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