In the video for "Being Me," the first single from The Strange Familiar's new album, Chasing Shadows, singer Kira Leyden sheds layers of clothing and accessories as she walks down Hollywood Boulevard and delivers lines like "I'll never be as cool as the Black Keys" and "I may never sing a duet with Gaga."
Leyden isn't dissing the Black Keys or even Lady Gaga. The song simply illustrates the way the Akron-area pop band has finally found a musical identity after struggling to do so during its 15-year journey.
"I feel like we're finally playing the music that is us," says Leyden. "We're not trying to be anything that we aren't."
Leyden and Jeff Andrea, her husband and bandmate, started out as the members of the band Jaded Era while in high school during the late '90s. After pop star Ashlee Simpson recorded their song "Invisible" in 2006, the two thought it would bring mainstream success. But that didn't happen.
"We wanted to use that as a launching pad for the band, but everyone was in a different space. We wanted to move to LA and we didn't know if the other band members wanted to," Leyden says.
So she and Andrea regrouped later that year with a new band, The Strange Familiar, and moved west. The proximity to the music business initially paid off. The Strange Familiar, which also includes bassist Frank Freeman and drummer Nicholas Sainato, appeared on the reality TV show America's Got Talent, and the band's song "Courage Is" appeared in promos for the ABC Family TV show The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But when it came time for a follow-up to 2009's This Is Gravity, the group ran into a roadblock.
"We didn't have the money to do the record," says Leyden. "We thought about moving home and going back to school and getting jobs."
But they raised enough funding to record a six-song digital EP, which caught the attention of New York-based Krian Music Group. The label signed the band last summer, retooling those six songs and adding five more for Chasing Shadows, an album that Andrea describes as "piano pop rock with a singer-songwriter feel."
Since then, the group has continued to gain momentum. Just this year, the song "Redemption" was used on the CW series The Vampire Diaries, and the band has committed to playing regularly in Northeast Ohio since moving back home. Its next gig is at the Streetsboro Family Days Festival July 26.
"The key to writing music is being authentic to who you are," says Leyden. "You start off imitating people and eventually you realize it's better to be just like you."