Q&A: STRFKR’s Josh Hodges Connects BDSM & Buddhism With New Record, Performing Two Nights in SF

A slow panoramic scan of the desert and cacti of Joshua Tree gradually reveals a subtle homestead—an RV with its awning pitched and a pair of hip scooters in its company. A couple crushed beers of nondescript branding lay as breadcrumbs leading focus to the man sitting in a cheap plastic chair. The dude had no particular thing to do but work on a tan with foil-reflected California sunshine. This is the set for STRFKR’s new video for “Open Your Eyes,” a single from the band’s new album, Being No One, Going Nowhere, which just dropped the morning of this post. The video came in advance of the album, along with three other singles. They’re all fantastic appetizers, and the video also peaks curiosity.

The sounds of a palm-muted guitar and a kick drum build over the new single’s synthy intro, until extraterrestrials suddenly beam down to the desert, nearly knocking the 20-something-year-old sunbather out of his cowboy boots. Subtitles let us know that these aliens are not friendly. But Dude Bro-sky, who clearly did not wake up willing to let America down, he challenges the invaders to a duel to save Earth. The opponents face-off in a hilarious best-of-five style match that brought our minds to wonder what the man behind STRFKR would actually do if he was visited by ET’s.

Joshua Hodges started STRFKR in Portland. The project since expanded to include drummer, Keil Corcoran, and Shawn Glassford on bass and keys. With their fifth studio album Being No One, Going Nowhere hitting shelves today, STRFKR is making their way to San Francisco to play two nights at The Fillmore, November 14th and 15th. Before they bring their Earth-defending dance party in for the double-header, an important question still needed answering. What would Josh Hodges do?

We connected with Hodges just before he rode his scooter—featured in the new video—to the band’s practice space in Joshua Tree. Although Hodges’ plan in the event of a first encounter was disappointingly intelligent and rational, the conversation that followed was spiced with BDSM and Buddhism—two seemingly unrelated topics that Hodges was able to stitch together without a seam. Find the full conversation below, and grab tickets to STRFKR’s double-header at The Fillmore here. And without further delay, here’s the highly recommended new video for “Open Your Eyes.”

Congrats on your new album! I love the new video single, “Open Your Eyes.” I’ve watched it multiple times now…

Yea! It’s based at our desert house out at Joshua Tree. That was my scooter that I ride to practice every day (chuckles). We used our neighbor’s trailer. It was really fun to see the video with all our stuff that I recognize in it.

Was the video concept your idea?

No, that was Chris, the director. He did another video for us back when he was still in college. It was the “Quality Time” video. It was really cool, he’s really talented. He has a feature film he’s been working on for a long time. He moved to LA and we reconnected. He’s actually working on another video for us, for “In The End,” part of this album as well.

In the “Open Your Eyes” video, a man is visited by extraterrestrials on a path of destruction, and challenges the aliens to an epic and hilarious duel. Did this video get you to thinking of what you would do if you were encountered by ET’s?

Oh man, I would definitely want to see UFOs. Getting that practice house out in Joshua Tree, we were thinking maybe we’ll see some crazy shit out there. There’s a UFO convention there every year. Thousands of people go and share stories of weird things they’ve seen…I would love to see that stuff.

I actually woke up to an article—right before I saw your new video, coincidentally—which reported out of 2.5 million stars observed, 234 show this weird rare oddity which scientist have hypothesized could be a message from another life form declaring its existence.

Sticking with the benevolent alien theory…if ET’s dropped in on your spot in the desert, what would you do if you had one day to hang?

I would want information from them! But if I had to share something…Carl Sagan and his wife made this gold disc, like a message in a bottle. They used a gold record because the information couldn’t be corrupted. You just drag a needle across it and the information is there. Maybe I would reference that disc and give them what those amazing people thought you should hear.

Do you think we’ve had contact with extraterrestrials before?

It’s totally possible. I mean, just the numbers game. My girlfriend’s dad works for NASA and lives in Houston. He trains astronauts how to fly. When we were there for the holidays, we went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. They have a buoyancy pool that astronauts practice in. All that is so neat. Astronauts have to be super humans. We got to go to the locker room and one of the astronauts I saw said his colleague, an astronaut, is a fan! I signed a CD and everything and she’s going to come to our show in Houston on this tour!

Maybe she’ll take your record into space to go down in history next to Carl Sagan’s!

Yes, that would be amazing!


STFKR started as just your project, right? Is it still just you writing the music or are Keil and Shawn part of the writing process now, too?

Yep. It’s mostly still me. Keil wrote one of the songs on the new record and Shawn helps with some of the words if I’m stuck with that. It’s still mostly me but I’m always showing them stuff along the way and getting their opinion. Shawn is the first person I’ll show a batch of songs to. He’ll be like…not these ones, definitely finish these ones. Keil will come to me with some songs written for STRFKR and we’ll finish them together. We have our parts, even though it’s still primarily me.

Did you try a new approach or anything different with Being No One, Going Nowhere?

Yeah, and I started like 3 other records before I got to this one. I kept starting, getting half way, then thinking, “Man, I don’t think this is right for STRFKR.” This has been the longest it’s taken me to write another album. I still want to finish those other albums, but they’re all different. One has a kind of swing vibe, with swing drums. So I had another drummer play on it because Keil’s style isn’t really swing. He’s a badass drummer, it’s just not his style. I thought it’d be weird to force him to play it live. Being No One, Going Nowhere is all about the live show. So I needed it to be a certain way. So each song is pretty dancey and we can play each song without there being a lull.

Jeff Brodsky helped me finish it. He plays drums in RAC and Yacht. He’s a really good producer and my neighbor in LA who’s another Portland dude that moved here. I’m working with him on another project, actually.

Do you foresee releasing those other songs, the one’s you said don’t quite fit for STRFKR, under another moniker or project name?

Yeah. Probably under another name. We’re just focusing on this album for now. I’m practicing with the band and also trying to write and record the last two songs for this other project I started with these other guys from Amsterdam. I’m really excited about that project. The song “Tape Machine” on Being No One, Going Nowhere is left over from that project. That was written with these two Dutch guys who I met while visiting my girlfriend over there. There’s five other songs that are similar to that vibe and we’re just finishing those up. We don’t even have a name for that project yet.

Can you talk a little about what the name, Being No One, Going Nowhere, means to you?

There’s a book called Being Nothing, Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema. She’s the first western Buddhist nun. I read her autobiography. She grew up during the holocaust and escaped it. She had a really interesting life and became a Buddhist nun later on. There’s a fundamental concept in Buddhist philosophy regarding sense of self and the lengths we go to to prop up and protect it, and that actually causes a lot of our suffering. It’s never taught that just existing is enough. To be alive and be human, that’s good enough. There’s no need to prove yourself, or become famous, or become known for something, or be anybody in this bigger way. And it’s totally elusive, too—a carrot that’s just dangling, ya know? Even once you’re rich, or “beautiful,” or whatever it is…it’s never enough when you get it.

So I think flipping that whole script and just sitting and existing is Being No One, Going Nowhere. It’s not something I’m good at. It takes practice. Even naming an album that, for me, is a reminder of that value that I respect and want to cultivate myself. So when I’m working like a squirrel packing away nuts, I try to stop and just tell myself to enjoy this moment. Because I’ll be dead. Just sitting here enjoying a coffee, talking to you, sitting outside…that’s as good as it gets and it’s good enough.  

…And then there’s another theme, which is BDSM. I went to this BDSM club—which isn’t really my thing, necessarily. A friend was going to one on Valentine’s Day a few years ago and invited me. I had no idea WTF that’s like, so I went. It was a cathartic, cool experience. There were all different ages and body types. It felt so open and non-judgmental. In one room, this 60-year-old mom was getting spanked over a school bench. There were people getting tied up. There were transgender people, young hot people, and also mom-looking people. It was so non-judgmental.

Did you engage in the experience or just feel it out?—so to speak.

I just watched and talked to my friends. There was a hangout area where we talked to people who were super into it. There were groups of friends who had come together and would take turns tying each other up. It seemed like a super healthy thing. I grew up catholic and definitely had shame around sexuality. So, I got to unpack all of that bullshit that’s not useful. That’s part of what people get when doing that, I think. The place you can get to with the pain—being the receiver—is a place where everything disappears and you’re just in that moment. You’re not worrying about bills. It’s a shrinking of the experience of self. Several songs were written about that experience.

I love the idea of getting weird with no judgments at all. And I never thought about how…I love the way you tied it back into the shrinking of self. I do hear that as a reoccurring theme in your art. The outro monologue on your “Golden Light” remix is a great example, too. The last line of the monologue is ‘Cheer up! Because we’re all basically nothing.’

Yea, man. Alan Watts. I use his quotes a lot. Because he talks about that stuff in such an accessible and entertaining way. He’s really intelligent. He really understands how to have these ideas and communicate them to people. I love him. I’m glad his estate hasn’t come after us, because we’re just trying to share his wisdom with people.

You’re about to share your album with a national tour. Is there a plan for an international leg, too?

Not right now, but I’m sure it will happen. We’ll probably go to Europe and South American. We’ll probably go back to China. Last year we did China and Japan. We’ve been to China a few times. The way we tour it, though, is super exhausting. Touring is a lot different than traveling. Not enough sleep. Every time we go somewhere it’s like, load in, soundcheck, play the show, pack out, eat a little bit, sleep, then drive off to another…

Well, it’s always so much fun when you come to San Francisco…

I love San Francisco! San Francisco was one of the first spots I was able to play shows, one of the first cities that supported us. So, Portland and San Francisco are the two cities that feel like home. And some of my favorite people are there. I was subletting a friend’s place when I was there a few months ago. My favorite thing is biking around that city. That’s probably my favorite thing to do in any city. But I love biking through Golden Gate Park. There’s also the buffalo milk soft serve ice cream at Bi-Rite. I get fat on that. I didn’t know buffalo could be milked.

+++STRFKR performs two nights at The Fillmore, on November 14th and 15th, with Gigamesh and Psychic Twin. Swoop your tickets for the first night or the second night, here. Each night, doors will open at 7pm with music starting at 8pm.

Written by Ryan Mannix

Bay Area blogger and former radio host, spotlighting Bay Area music and rising artists