San Diego band matures with second release, plays festival to raise money for nonprofit

A Point Loma-based indie rock band has redefined their sound for their second release and is gearing up to show San Diego what they’ve got at an upcoming festival.

Stray Monroe — comprised of singer Blake Imperl, bassist Brett Kelly, drummer Colin Craft and Solana Beach-based keyboardist/guitarist Matt Magnaghi — released its sophomore, six-song EP, “Momentary Vertigo,” in March, following its 2017 effort, “The Stray Monroe Show.”

Since forming in mid-2015, the group has been featured on NBC SoundDiego, Spotify's Fresh Finds Playlist and 91X FM. After playing venues around the county, Stray Monroe will be featured at the Summ Music Fest on Aug. 4 at Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center, 3925 Ohio Street. The second annual event features 14 local bands and supports Feeding San Diego, a nonprofit that distributes healthy food to San Diego residents in need.

Tickets for the event are available at https://bit.ly/2Lr6K9O.

Ahead of that performance, Imperl recently discussed the band's history, its evolution and where it's headed.

What is your story as a band?

We started Stray Monroe under a different name, The Hype, in August 2015. It was initially just Collin and myself. We came down to San Diego and wanted to just do a new project more centered around influences of bands that we like, such as The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. ... I think, at first, we just thought things would kind of happen right away, and we would just record a song and things would start taking off. There are a lot of things that we kind of had to learn along the way, but I think that made us a better band. In early 2017, we released our first EP, “The Stray Monroe Show,” put out a few music videos and played a lot of venues around town, like the Casbah and Soda Bar. The first EP was just a learning process for us. During that time, we grew as musicians but we definitely wanted to do more. At the end of the fall last year, we started to write our second EP.

How does your March release, “Momentary Vertigo” compare to your 2017 EP?

The process for “Momentary Vertigo” took us a lot longer, but we really wanted to focus more on the music. We felt like with our first EP, we knew we could do better. We just basically spent most of 2017 writing. ... We've been gaining a little bit more traction through “Momentary Vertigo” and I credit a lot of that to just us taking the time to write a solid EP and grow as musicians and as a band.

How do the sounds compare?

I guess the biggest change in the sound is we went in knowing what we wanted to do. Things obviously changed a little bit in the studio as we recorded these songs, but we definitely took the time to be more conscientious of every part that was going into the song. Another big part of that was the producer we worked with, Peter Duff. Peter was just really foundational, and we took songs to him and he just showed us a lot of things we could do. Working in the studio with him just kind of felt like a really organic and natural process versus our first EP where we were young and naive. I don't think we really knew how to make the songs we wanted to make. We had the passion and the drive, but I think it was just coming in from a better place that made this EP a lot better.

The influences you cited — The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Oasis — all have very diverse sounds from each other. How would you describe Stray Monroe's sound?

That's tough. Everyone that has told us about our sound has given us something different, from a band like The Clash to Brit-rock meets indie. If I was to tell you what we sounded like, we just try to make catchy music that makes people want to feel good and move around. I'm not really one to put our music under more specific sounds. I think it's more up to the listener to decide that.

What inspires your lyrics?

I definitely took a lot of influence from events that have happened in my life and I try to make them relatable. I'm not trying to be overly personal. A lot of “Momentary Vertigo” was influenced by me basically transitioning from college to graduating. I'm not overly poetic in lyrics but I just try to write from a place that's real to me.

You're playing the upcoming Summ Music Fest. What can you tell us about that and your excitement to play that event?

It's put on by these guys called Rocktoc. They're a music community that supports the local music scene in San Diego. We're actually managed by them as well. ... [This show is] about bringing local bands together, giving them a space to play and giving them a platform to be heard.

What are your goals as a band?

I definitely think we want to get out of San Diego. We've gone around a little bit down to Mexico and have played around Palm Springs, but we definitely have goals of getting out and playing our music to as many people as we can. We want to keep making better music and just growing as a band. Everything we do, we do because we want to have fun and we want to give the best music we possibly can. We all have the goal of wanting to do this full time and just inspire as many people as we can. Some of the things that have meant the most to me are when we've had fans come up to us or message us and tell us what our music means to them. Hearing that, even if it's just from a few people, is a goal of mine just to keep making impacts on people that way.

For more information about Stray Monroe, visit www.facebook.com/straymonroe. The group's music is also available on Spotify and YouTube.

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