It's hard to say exactly when it happened.
It could've been during one of the 100+ shows STRFKR played over the past two years—ecstatic sold-out dance parties that started in tiny, sweaty rooms before word of mouth spread and forced a move to larger (and even sweatier) venues.
It might've been when touring guitarist Patrick Morris officially became a full-time member in late 2011, rounding out a line-up that included multi-instrumentalists Josh Hodges, Shawn Glassford, and Keil Corcoran.
Most likely, though, there wasn't a single defining moment when the change occurred. With evolution there rarely is.
Instead, progression happens naturally and steadily—each step leading inevitably to the next until you reach a point when you realize how far you've come without even being fully aware of how you got there.
In early 2012, during a rare break in the group's touring schedule, Hodges retreated to secluded Astoria, Oregon. But this time, rather than completely isolating himself to work on new material (as had always been the case in the past), Hodges invited the other members to visit often and truly collaborate in the process of writing STRFKR's third full-length, Miracle Mile.
And so it was that STRFKR became a band.
As a result, whether participating in all-night lyric writing sessions, fleshing out song skeletons originally conceived during European soundchecks ("Malmo") and long van rides ("Leave It All Behind"), or completing half-finished ideas kicking around Hodges' brain and hard drive, there isn't a single song on Miracle Mile that every member of STRFKR didn't contribute to and ultimately improve.
For proof, look no further than first single and opening track "While I'm Alive," a song that bursts out of the gate with what can only be described as swagger. Not overconfidence or false bravado, but the undeniable sound of a band that knows exactly who they are: swirling keyboards that take you up, down, and all around, rhythmic guitars, irresistible basslines, and drums that keep an unrelenting beat.
Disco-y standout "Atlantis" is the paragon of this formula, with vocal and musical hooks seemingly custom fitted to a spot so deep inside your eardrums they'll never dislodge.
But upbeat isn't Miracle Mile's only tempo.
In fact, it's in quieter moments like "Isea," which briefly slows down the album's pulse with gentle "oh-oh-ohs" over acoustic guitar, that the record truly coalesces as a complete whole that couldn't have come together any other way.
Just like STRFKR.
Formed at the tail-end of 2008 as a bedroom recording project, Small Black first made waves with their eponymous debut EP. Recorded in the attic of singer Josh's uncle's remote Long Island beach-house/surfboard workshop, it served as an ideal introduction to the group with its pulsing patchwork synths and addictive, stay-gold hooks that seemed to unfurl themselves gradually over repeated listens. Slightly more immediate and polished than its predecessor, Small Black's debut LP New Chain remained a continuation of this contrasting ethos – a delirious smudging of the lines between melancholy and nostalgia, tension and celebration, unabashed pop music and experimentation. Next, the band wanted to combine their aesthetic with overt sampling, inspired by legendary beatsmiths like RZA, DJ Premier and J Dilla. Enter the Moon Killer mixtape. A free full-length release through Small Black's website, Moon Killer not only openly borrows from sources as rich and diverse as Nas, Pere Ubu, Drake and the Carpenters, but features multiple drop-ins from Das Racist MC Heems, as well as remixes from Star Slinger and Phonetag. What truly stands out is the ease with which Small Black folds their source material into their own inimitable sound. It's a legitimate step forward for the band—a sizeable stride closer to what they've been hearing in their heads this whole time. Currently, the band is hard at work on a new full-length for Jagjaguwar, to be released sometime in 2012.