“We’re almost a year into this thing, and I still don’t want to kill him,” Cooper, the local duo’s drummer, says of his synth-and-guitar-playing bandmate. “That’s a good thing.”
“With other musicians, you’re always worried about stepping on other people’s toes,” Stratman explains. “But with two people, you don’t have to worry as much.”
They’re sitting across from each other at Stratman’s capricorn Studios in Little Italy. Stratman calmly leans back on the edge of a drum stool. Cooper radiates with energy.
“I feel like we’re the yin and yang of music,” Cooper says, half-joking. “You have the fucking responsible and smart and gorgeous producer with all the toys, and then me, the fucking weird, street-cred—.”
“Animal,” Stratman interrupts. “Yeah—primal animal,” Cooper adds. “The sexual dragon and the sex panther,” Stratman laughs. “He’s the panther, I’m the dragon,” Cooper adds, for clarification.
They both have extensive musical pasts—Cooper used to play drums for local alt-rock band Transfer while Stratman has been a producer and musician for several local bands, including Crash Encore—but this is the first time they’ve gone into electronic dance music. They came up with the idea for Hyena while recovering from a gig their respective bands had played together the night before.
“We decided we wanted to bridge our indie-rock sensibilities into dance music,” Stratman explains, “and from there, within two weeks, we had a bunch of stuff made.”
The project gained momentum when Cooper brought their music to local DJ and club promoter Gabe Vega.
“Gabe heard what we had and set us up for one of his nights at U-31 right away,” Stratman recalls. “After that, we had a show, like, every two weeks—at Casbah, U-31, Voyeur and Fluxx—which actually helped because we could see the flaws that we were doing live, then reflect on it, go back and rework it and adapt to what we were learning.”Two-and-a-half months later, Hyena’s debut album, the extremely danceable and solidly percussive We See You, was released on CD. The album falls into a category neither Stratman nor Cooper had any experience with before forming the band.
“I remember playing [our music] for some of these DJs who came through, and I asked them what it was,” Stratman recalls with a smile. “They said it was ‘electro,’ or ‘indie-electro.’ “Now I know, and it’s been so great because I’ve discovered so much more music that I didn’t even know was going on,” he continues. “There’s all these indie people with melodic sensibility who are bored with their instruments and resort to electronic instruments.”
“It’s dance music,” Cooper interjects. “I just love making women dance.
“That’s the thing with our show,” he explains. “It’s a hybrid set—half-DJ, half-live. When people see a band start to go on, they slow down and stop so they can watch. But when there’s a DJ going on, there’s nothing to do but look at each other and dance.
“That’s the beauty of a hybrid set,” Cooper continues.
“We’ll bring something original with live instrumentation, but we’ll still do a live DJ set.”
With this hybrid sound, they’ve gained a following among both the “North Park indie kids” and the “Downtown clubgoers,” as they put it.
“People go to The Casbah to watch bands,” Cooper says, “and people go to Fluxx to shake their ass. It’s all about trying to figure out how to cross-pollinate the two, you know?” “What was really cool about when we played Fluxx,” Stratman recalls, “was that we brought out so many people who would never go there, and it just worked.”
“And when we played Fluxx,” Cooper adds, “every motherfucker in that place was dancing.”
Of all venues they’ve played, they say, there’s one Downtown club where their audience has been consistently integrated.
“Voyeur, man. It’s straight-up rock ’n’ roll,” Cooper says.
“When I go there, I see indie kids, I see North Parkians, then I see these dudes that would go to Deco’s and all these other bars like Onyx Room and shit. They’re all there.”
“In a way,” Stratman explains, “we want to lead to a future where we can mix together the awesome people of North Park with the awesome spaces in the Gaslamp, without all this rivalry.”
“It’s all about being able to play our stuff under any roof and in any kind of situation,” Cooper says excitedly. “I want to play inside a dingy fucking dark bar like Casbah. I want to be able to play a clean-lines, posh, furry-couch, shortskirt, big-balloon-boobies, crazy-extravagant, showtimefucking-wild nightclub like Fluxx.”
Cooper takes a breath and continues: “We just want to play for everyone, man. Anywhere from the balloon boobies all the way down to the scraggle-muffins.”
Cooper looks at Stratman, who’s been watching his outburst, clearly entertained. Both men smile.
Hyena will celebrate the vinyl release of We See You with Music for Animals, Illuminauts and DJ Andrew Decade at The Casbah on Friday, Oct. 15. myspace.com/wearehyena