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By Cynthia Munrayos

Despite the quarantine, local musicians are still working to put out new music. Like most bands before the 2020 pandemic hit, Strip Mall was playing shows and getting their sound out to Providence locals in anticipation of a new EP estimated to come out in the fall. 

Strip Mall is a newer PVD-based emo band out of Warwick, Rhode Island. The band consists of three members: Vinnie Ortez, Jack Anderson and Nick English. The band does not categorize their sound as just emo music, but instead, they are party emo. How does one describe the party emo genre? Drummer, Jack Anderson, simply explains party emo as being moody and a little angsty. 

“We want people to dance and have a good time, even though you may be crying a little bit on the inside,” said Anderson.

Having known each other for years, Ortez and Anderson jammed a bit one day. They had never formed an actual band together, but lived together and played in multiple bands together in the past. Eventually they brought in English and made Strip Mall official.

The inspiration for the band name simply came from their desire for something funny. Anderson said he  had it in his mind for a while and liked the vibe of it. Regardless of where the band name came from, it adopted the nickname “mallrats” for their fan base.

For the moment, they have two songs available on all streaming services: “Reverse the Curse” and “We All Have Plus Things.” Strip Mall’s sound acquires aspects from different genres like math rock and jazz. Ortez’s post hardcore-styled vocals are melodic and aggressive, and the riffs are very rhythmic and jazzy, yet root from a progressive rock style. Anderson said a lot of their songs have a loop section where they can jam for a while. Certain parts let Ortez solo for a bit, and for Anderson to change up the tempo. All-inclusive, Strip Mall really sets the mood to dance and vibe out. 

“You are gonna feel whatever we put out, and if it makes you dance, that’s a plus,” said Ortez. 

They are all inspired from different genres and subgenres, but meet perfectly in the middle of it all. Bassist, Nick English, said their venn diagram is a pretty eclectic mix. They all dabble a little bit in heavy genres, but listen to the same type of stuff whether it is emo or post rock. As for the songwriting process, English said it can be sort of a puzzle. Like most bands, they take pieces and fit them together. It’s important to realize that most musicians do not have an established process, but always seem to work with what each band member brings to the table. 

“We’ll come together, practice and put together two random parts, and I will try to glue it together with transitions,” said English. “I’d say that’s probably where I shine the most, and try to make the song flow together.” 

Strip Mall’s approach to making music is having fun. English said there is no point in playing music if the people playing aren’t having fun. Because you feel intensely what they feel intensely, Strip Mall is almost like a tribe — that’s what Ortez said Strip Mall feels like to him. 

“Any time I like to go to a show, I like to have fun and dance and sing the words. If we can inspire people to do that and maybe make up songs of their own, that would be great,” said English. 

For the remainder of our time in a socially distanced world, Strip Mall is working on recording the last four songs of their EP. Because they can’t meet in person, it has become difficult for the band members to lay down the tracks and get all the takes they are satisfied with; however, they plan on releasing it sometime in the fall. While you wait, you can still support and follow up through their social media and singles on streaming services. You can find their music on Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp. 

There is a compilation playlist on bandcamp started by Providence Podcast, Where The Living Room Used To Be, with local artists who donated songs to raise money for Pawtucket music venue, The News Cafe. The website offers a name-your-price option to donate money and download on electronic devices. Artists include Strip Mall, Nova One, Delko, Jesse the Tree, Slitty Wrists, Ghosts in the Snow and The Benji’s, among others. A simple listen will suffice for any local musician, so it is imperative you support your locals in times like this one.