Kieran Strange isn’t afraid to be herself. The 26-year-old British-born pop-punk musician says she’s always considered herself a nerd, and in choosing to play up that aspect of her personality at shows and on social media, she’s gained a loyal following of fans who identify with her interest in cosplay, gaming, and live-action role-playing.
“I’ve always been into video games and comic books, and for the longest time I was really worried that people would judge me for it,” says Strange over the phone from her tour bus in North Dakota. “I hid the fact that I was into all this nerdy stuff because I thought no one would listen to my music.”
At that time, the only place Strange felt open enough to be her true, nerdy self was at comic conventions—where she now often plays shows to die-hard fans, who’ve gone so far as to dub themselves #Strangers on Twitter.
“I guess it sounds really cheesy, but I felt like it was my responsibility as someone who’s a nerd and an artist, and a little outspoken, that I blend the two and help my fans who feel like they are being judged for liking those things,” says Strange, who admits that it’s been easier as “nerd culture” has slowly become a larger part of mainstream entertainment.
Her big break came in early 2014 when she was commissioned to compose the theme song for TV’s first-ever transgender-focused sitcom, The Switch, which is set to air in November. The song, “Tear Down the Wall”, has brought a lot of notoriety to the Vancouver-based songstress, who identifies as bisexual and has worked to raise awareness of issues related to the LGBT community through her music and her online presence, and by playing at Pride events across the country.
“It was something I really wanted to write about. A lot of people who have found that song have contacted me and said that it gave them the strength to come out to their family and friends. It changed how many people I’ve managed to reach, and it’s so humbling to hear those stories,” says Strange.
In addition to being vocal about LGBT rights, Strange doesn’t hesitate when it comes to speaking out about other topics that are close to her heart, like mental health, autism, and eating disorders. Strange suffered from an eating disorder in her earlier years, and discovered at 19 that she had Asperger syndrome. Unknowingly dealing with the symptoms as a teenager was difficult for the young musician. Now, she’s happy to be a voice for those who are similarly affected.
“It’s a disorder that just doesn’t get enough attention or awareness. If people are aware of what they are suffering from, they can get help to manage it,” she says. “Before I knew I had Asperger syndrome, I wondered, ‘Maybe I’m not just strange; maybe there’s something legitimately wrong with me.’ ”
Strange’s latest EP, Last Hero Standing, features four punk-infused tracks that she says are much more in touch with the type of music that she’s always wanted to create, with honest lyrics centred around themes like difficult relationships and self-realization. “Reckless” combines raucous drums with Strange’s brassy, rounded vocals, while “Teeth” showcases her softer side, blending in mellow guitars and building to a sing-along chorus that could easily be the singer’s mantra: “I don’t care, I’ll open up my mouth and show my teeth/Sing about the things that I believe/…Maybe then we’ll both be free.” Strange explains that she’s become much more comfortable with herself as an artist now that she’s learned more about her style and vocal range.
“I love [Adamantine Heart] but I was so young and I really had no idea what I was doing. Now I’m singing about things I want to sing about, and I finally feel like I’m ready,” she says.
In addition to making music, Strange plays a very active role in creating the visuals that go along with it. She’s as much a visual artist as a musician, she notes, adding that her friends and family once wanted her to become a graphic designer.
“I love that music has become so three-dimensional. I did the artwork for my last EP because I’m OCD, and I really wanted the music to inspire the artwork,” she says. In addition to her contributions to album art and music videos, Strange says she’s working on a graphic novel, “the biggest visual project I’ve done to date”. Inspired by an array of manga, anime, cartoons, and comic books, the book will be hand-drawn and released alongside a concept album sometime next year.
Kieran Strange has just wrapped up her North American tour and plays the Media Club on Wednesday (August 26).