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Didn’t get enough of Elvis Costello at Bluesfest this year or you did and want more? VICTOR STRANGES & THE FUTURISTS will be playing the hits and obscurities of ELVIS COSTELLO at Sooki Lounge in Belgrave on Sunday 26th May. The venue is a vibrant hub for live music nestled in the arts and social scene in the hills, Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.

The four-piece band will perform for almost two hours, presenting two sets of music. The show will include beloved radio hits like ‘Alison’, ‘Watching The Detectives’, ‘Oliver’s Army’, ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Everyday I Write The Book’, and ‘Veronica’, alongside lesser-known singles and album tracks.

Tickets for the Sooki Lounge show:

In the throes of musical fervour, how does one transcend from a devoted fan to a stage performer, passionately paying respect to a beloved artist? Victor Stranges, a Melbourne musician, embarked on this journey of musical immersion and creative metamorphosis that culminated in a two-hour live spectacle, ‘The Songs of Elvis Costello’, an ode to his long-time inspiration.

In 1986 and at the age of sixteen, Stranges discovered the gritty rhythms and alluring melodies of the London-born musician whilst playing drums in underground punk group, Drunk ‘n’ Disorderly. The band was billed with other legendary Australian acts at the time including Weddings Parties Anything, The Johnnys and Celibate Rifles. They gained a reputation and a loyal following on the Melbourne circuit and college campuses. The pub scene was a common one for Melbourne bands at the time; loud music, beer, violence and, er…more beer. Some fourteen people were hospitalised from one show that the band played in Mount Eliza. It was a common occurrence but the aggression at shows transcended social boundaries, drawing in both affluent youth and members of the skinhead and rude boy communities.

Drawn to the music of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, it sparked within Stranges an eagerness to ditch the chaotic punk scene. He stopped his drumming in favour of guitar, took up song writing, and wanted to lead his own group drawing inspiration from the vibrant post-punk UK music scene that cleverly and melodically lifted the middle finger to the over-bloated corporate rock establishment of its time.

The songs became a musical lifeline of curiosity that would last decades; recently culminating in Stranges assembling his own live show. Billed as Victor Stranges & The Futurists, it is a cadre of seasoned Australian musicians meticulously curating renditions spanning Costello’s first twenty years of commercial album releases; Stranges’ favourite period of Costello’s work. What began as a casual pursuit evolved into an arduous yet fulfilling endeavour, as Stranges painstakingly dissected and reassembled Costello’s oeuvre, endeavouring to encapsulate the essence of each composition.

When Stranges first considered a Costello tribute show, he was an independent songwriter and performer. His second album of original material, ‘Hello Me To You’, had just been named one of the ‘Best Albums Of 2009’ by Pop Underground, which led to a distribution deal in March 2010 with Bruce Brodeen’s US label, Not Lame Recordings. It ensured the album received exposure to the worldwide power pop community.

The title track, ‘Hello Me To You’ gained traction from various industry types including Charles Foskett, who previously worked with Elvis Costello, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Richard Thompson. Even Edwyn Collins, who was the lead singer for 1980s post-punk band Orange Juice, expressed a fondness for the track.

Reflecting on the genesis of the Costello project, Stranges recounts the evolution of his perspective, from reluctance of embracing covers, to an earnest appreciation for the resonance they evoke among audiences. While shopping for an Australian label in 2010, Stranges said, “Because of the similarities I had with his voice and style, I was asked by a concert promoter to put on a show of Elvis Costello songs and tour it with a band.” Stranges abruptly declined. Fast forward fifteen years and Stranges is a little more circumspect. “Back then I was focusing on an original music career. Playing other people’s songs was the furthest thing from my mind. The truth is, what I learned from Costello was how to write songs. His music was a puzzle I used to pull apart and put back together a lot… I relented and started playing his songs live for fun. When a friend told me the show was a real indulgence for him, I knew I was onto something that could resonate with audiences,” he added.

Stranges initially played the show solo, debuting it at The Brunswick Ballroom (Melbourne) in January 2019, and eventually put together a backing band a la Attractions. For three years now, Victor Stranges & The Futurists have regularly played sold-out shows as they faithfully interpret Stranges’ favourite Costello studio recordings from ‘My Aim Is True’ (1977) to ‘All This Useless Beauty’ (1996). “It’s been a labour of love… and pain. Putting this project together”, confesses Stranges. The complexity of working on a shortlist of twenty years of Costello material took Stranges over thirty years to learn. “It’s just something that I did as a hobby, to learn his songs and get better at writing over the years, but without a deadline! Thirty years preparing for a show is what it takes. I mean you have to be convincing, right? “, he quips.

In a considered moment, Stranges remarks, “I am thankful I have Mike Dupp (the Adele Show) on keyboards. He has a feel that is pure and literally plays Steve Nieve’s parts note perfect. What’s more he is a huge Tom Waits fan.” Frank Scalzo was the original drummer in The Secret Agents from the early 1980s, who were later to become Pseudo Echo, of Australian and international fame. “Frank plays Pete Thomas’ drum parts and also has the extra task of singing backing vocals on almost every song. I feel for him. It takes a lot of energy, but he grew up on The Beatles so he knows the drill,” he laughs.

On bass guitar is Dave Leslie who is well regarded within the Australian music fraternity, not only for his work with multi-platinum selling Australian rock group, Baby Animals, but for recording and performing with countless artists including Jimmy Barnes, Van Halen, The Angels, and Bon Jovi. Though mainly known as one of Australia’s go-to guitarists, Leslie has also been bassist on various recordings; and even playing live for Suzi Quatro. It was Leslie’s fondness for the musicality of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ bassist, Bruce Thomas that aroused his interest in the Costello project. “… the parts are amazing… ‘So Like Candy’ was my favourite but I think now ‘Shipbuilding’ is”, confesses Leslie.

“The complexity of the chord structures in these songs are not run of the mill. They seem haphazard but they aren’t. A song like ‘New Lace Sleeves’ from his 1981 album, ‘Trust’ is the perfect example. The chords are oddball but are a remarkable substrate for the melodies that flow on top. Trying to learn these songs over the years, I often reflect thinking, man, why did it take so long to put this group together? But it’s so worth it when you hear it live,” concludes Stranges.

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