Music

John Lawrie and the Welcome Strangers release an existential alt-rock classic on their new EP

We’re calling it: John Lawrie and the Welcome Strangers are the next big alt-rock group to saturate the airwaves and regulate massive festival stages. You read it here first.

Aptly titled, First Dates and Funerals is as much an EP of kitch-friendly moments as it is of a deep shadowlands. And so, with a richly decorated and synchronised record, the Sydney four-piece have arrived. A sprinkling of singles releases and a debut EP have paved the road to redemption on this huge rock release.

Their band bio names some serious names, and we won’t argue:

“Kind of sounds like if The Cure, Slowdive and Bruce Springsteen had a night of passion – narrated by Nick Cave.”

And it’s with the gothic nature of the later that we hear the poetic darkness of a band with grand longevity.

John Lawrie and the Welcome Strangers are felt before their heard. The thunderous baritone of frontman John Lawrie rumbles towards the back of your brain – scrapping all the walls of your frontal lobe on the way in. And it feels good. Each new track is like an epic theme song to the loss of innocence and yet also the celebration of that too.

None is more celebratory than the EP’s opener, Sober. Grandiose and full of heavy handed drums, bright synths keep things playful. Yet the ever present vocals of Lawrie, reminiscent of a rambunctious Dave Le’aupepe, are standium worthy. Slinky electric guitars signal an 80’s influence that feels coy and welcomes the audience in with a sheen of nostalgia. A guilty pleasure in more than one way, the band explains:

“‘Sober’ is an energetic, heavily fuzzed out shoegaze/indie-rock anthem about wanting to drunk dial an ex, realising it’s a dumb idea and stopping, but still wanting to.”

Midway through the record, the crux of the EP is unlocked with Keys. Momentous and unshakeable, it’s what brings the shoegazey elements of John Lawrie to a complete halt. Keys is undeniably cinematic and feels like both a nordic pre-battle rally and also the aftermath montage, smokey and obliterating. Each strike of the drum kit feels like a Vikings boot and the harmonies rises to meet a filthy guitar solo. John Lawrie are the Welcome Strangers of Valhalla.

Tracks like Happiness elongate the gothic balladry of Keys and it’s a visceral moment of reflection. This is where the band have found their stride. And it’s deep, long and threateningly beautiful. Whilst Cave writes his Red Hand Files and Gang of Youths mull over their next move, we predict John Lawrie will rise and rise.

If you’re lucky enough to be in our digs this weekend, John Lawrie and the Welcome Strangers are officially launching the EP at Waywards, this Saturday 3rd April.

Enjoy the full seven tracks of First Dates and Funerals on Spotify below: