Von Strantz
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Von Strantz

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE | AFTRA

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | INDIE | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2013
Duo Alternative Americana




"Coyotes's in the Coffee Shop"

To borrow a line from Joni Mitchell, I am staring a hole in my scrambled eggs.

Sitting in a diner on the far west side of Indianapolis, I am transfixed. And I don’t want to move. Any shift in the air, any change to my personal-space bubble, would be a distraction, and I don’t want to miss anything.

I’m listening to “Troubled Souls”, the new single from the Northern Indiana collective Von Strantz, and I am trying to imagine a world in which all musicians, or those who call themselves musicians infuse their art with a tenth of the emotion that Jess Strantz and her vagabond band have put into this big sky of a four minute song.

The song begins innocently enough; a simple acoustic phrase gives way to the first verse, bathed in a thick vocal harmony. “We’ve entered in as troubled souls/we come and go unnoticed”. It’s the sound of a band waking up at their next destination and venturing out into unchartered territory, brave and crazy and rolling its rhythm across a vast prairie that seems to be theirs for the taking. It’s impossible to listen to “Troubled Souls” only once. It’s the antidote for almost everything that’s wrong with music right now.

“Troubled Souls” leads off Narrative: Chapter 1, the first of three planned EPs the band will release in the coming year, with chapters 2 and 3 coming in summer and fall respectively.

Jess Strantz is on the horn from Mishawaka. “We’re hoping that people will figure out what we’re trying to do”, she says when I ask her about the intentional or accidental thematic linkages between the Narratives EPs. “There are multiple stories that intertwine with each other. I wish we could record the whole blasted thing in one sitting but I’m glad we’re taking time to put it out because it will take on more shape”. It is fitting that Strantz is approaching the Narrative project this way. Much like the band’s live performances, the audience’s interpretation of their music will be unique to the individual listener. Von Strantz’s music is a variable and the depth of its meaning all depends on your baseline.

One thing that is universal about Von Strantz is that they get their audience’s attention before they even start playing. At their Indianapolis gigs, where they’ve shared bills with bands like Veseria and Coup D’eTat, Von Strantz’ violins, cello and upright bass got people talking about them instead of the usual between-set banter. And once they start their set, and Jess’ voice breaks the ice, everyone – even the smoking-patio dwellers – stops what they’re doing.

“I am in love with that woman’s voice…Dear Lord”, says Veseria’s Jen Roberts. It’s a sentiment that gets repeated throughout our little music community quite often. When you see them, musician or not, you want to know when they’ll be back. Everyone knows Von Strantz and thinks of them as one of ours, not some out of town band that plays here occasionally. They are on that short list of bands we wish we could adopt.

It’s hard to mark a point of reference for this band. You can easily hear geographic and cultural influences, but when someone asks “who do they sound like”, you’re stumped. They don’t sound like anyone, they sound more like…a place.

Von Strantz
Jess Strantz’s place started in Houston, Texas. Her dad’s job saw him taking positions all over the country, and the family went with him. Her mom home-schooled and eventually she found herself in the South Bend area. It was there that Von Strantz came together and still calls it home base. During a “dry season” in which she was recovering from an injury, Jess started writing songs that tilted away from the piano-based pop-rock she had been doing. “I wanted to write music that would sound good all by itself, but also with multiple arrangements. The music just lends itself to whatever set-up we have.”

“We played our first gig in 2012. It was me with a string quartet and it went really well.” With the acceptance of the local music community quickly under their belt, they put out an EP in January 2013. Featuring cinematic style meditations like “Death…Or So You Think” and “1793”, the VON STRANTZ EP about as far from the typical freshman release as a band could hope to get. Already sounding like a band that knew its way around the stage and the studio, they “inherited a few more musicians…and from February (2013) until now we’ve been playing as many shows as possible”

Narrative: Chapter 1 and its sister EPs were recorded as a seven piece. The goal is always to perform in that configuration, “but sometimes it’s a 6 piece, a 5 piece, a 4 piece….”.

The new material is a testament to the group’s road tan. The songs sound of a larger space. “Troubled Souls” and “Nothing Good In Me” come across as a new form of spiritual, and would have people testifying in a stifling rock club or a desert-blown tent revival. There is more of a stomp to the new songs, a slightly rockier vibe. But it doesn’t undermine the gentle beauty of the songs. There is some intricate electric guitar, mixed with prominent and lilting phrases from the string section. Strantz’s voice beckons and soars, delivering lyrics that convey both a curiosity and an understanding. It’s a complex world, and Strantz’s lyrics ask questions about what we might be if that complexity was stripped away, and life was simpler.

Strantz says the songs are the result of a communal effort. “We meet in my home, an old school building in the middle of nowhere,” she says with a laugh. “A lot of time they bring their influences with them and everybody is so different. Josiah (Gaut, guitar) loves progressive rock and metal, Nick (Leatherman, bass) likes Motown and surf rock, and the string section….I am not even on their level…its another world. Kelsey (Arntzen, violin) loves alternative rock and metal, Kristen (McDonald, violin) and Isiah (Brock, cello)– a lot of the music they tell me about I don’t know anything about. Alyssa (Neece, violin) loves modern contemporary classical arrangements.”

The classical elements seem to suit the bands overall charter. “Me and Nick and Josiah are the ‘rock and roll’ half of the band, and the string players are used to working together and want to make a piece of music sound as beautiful as possible together. So it’s a perfect marriage where both aspects of the band are looking to make our music sound as beautiful as possible and that’s why it works.”

To put Von Strantz into any kind of bucket right now would be stifling to the listener. The dividends are greater if you listen to this band with a mind as open as their music. It’s deep, yes, but also very likeable. You don’t find yourself singing along right away, but eventually. This is music that has to seep, like a fine tea, into your soul. Before you know it, you’ve disengaged from the regular distractions and the ones that nag you at the periphery…and you’re lost in Von Strantz. And you don’t want to be found.

And your eggs are cold. - MP Cavalier

"Starry Night Fest a glimpse into community"

Von Strantz may be the brainchild of Jess Strantz but to call her band “backing” would not be accurate. There is a fervent sense of equal footing when they play on stage, as each band member has a hook or melody to add and each individual performance demands attention. - purdue exponent

"Indie folk band brings soul to State Street"

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 10:54 pm | Updated: 5:52 pm, Sun Aug 25, 2013.
Roaming through campus on the first Friday of the semester, students found themselves stopping on a street corner listening to the heartfelt songs and stories of an Indiana indie folk group.
Von Strantz, founded in 2012, caught the attention of students with the powerful vocals of Jess Strantz, along with the beautiful music of her band members Kelsey Artzen, Kristen McDonald, Issaiah Brock, and Nick Leatherman.
The show got started just outside Greyhouse Coffee & Supply with songs that came from the heart of Jess Strantz. Songs inspired from a broken smart phone to the passing of family members, Strantz related each one to the audience and connected with them on a personal level.
Strantz shared the struggles and joys of her eight year marriage while introducing one of their newest songs "Fields."
"Pursue your relationships with intensity and passion," said Strantz. "All good relationships take a lot of hard work to reach joy, love and peace."
The band undoubtedly is soulful and emotional, but there is more to Von Strantz than meets the eye. The band and audience were constantly sharing laughs in between songs. It was apparent that the band members had a close, humorous relationship which they wanted the audience to be a part of.
Kristen McDonald, a violinist and vocalist for the band, said there are always memorable and awkward moments when on tour with her band mates.
"We're not very awkward people," said McDonald. "But once Jess started a song with the wrong chord at a bar, and it's the small things like that makes drunks hate you from the beginning."
Lacey Carlson, a senior in the College of Agriculture, enjoyed the night with Von Strantz. Carlson said the interaction between the band and the audience was the funnest part.
"We should all keep our ears open for them in the next few years, they're potential is undeniable," said Carlson. "And that girl can wail!"
Closing the night, Strantz directed the audience to get close and loud by clapping, stomping and singing in rhythm with the music. As the song progressed the audience started to be just as involved in making music as the band. A night of folk and soul will be hard to be forgotten. - purdue exponent

"Von Strantz New Single!"

VON Strantz is the quintessence of folk. Their single Death.. Or So You Think is a great tune, more soulful than anything presently sold as that. - - Tastic

"Shine Indy Anniversary Night"

VON Strantz took the stage. As of late, the band has been scaled down to tow members from upward of 7. Seeing, hearing and feeling the music that Jess and Kelsey were making, made the night special. Jess has a way of grabbing you with vocal range that takes you on fast-paced emotional roller coaster. Then, she kicked your ass with the bass drum coming in and Kelsey joining in on the vocals......almost nothing better in life....i have a special feeling about this act. I've seen quality music, i've seen the best players in the world. I've heard more music than most would in 10 life times....these ladies are top tier and you can experience that in their performance, live and recorded. Jess, I look forward to hearing your music and seeing you perform for a very long time. You need to pick up Narrative Chapter II. Needless to say, it's beautiful - Jamie Jackson

"A Storybook Ending for Von Strantz"

"Narratives Chapter III: Eighteen Eighteen represents Von Strantz' boldest release yet. On earlier albums, the use of violin and cello was a centerpiece for the band's sound. And while this element certainly remains present on Narratives III, new sounds crept in, too. The start of the opening self-titled track launches the listener into a manic dance of melodies between keyboards and vocals before soaring into a powerful, synth-driven chorus. Digital sounds replace previous soft string melodies on tracks like "Cigarette Smoke," as Strantz's vocals layer seamlessly over synth parts." - Benjamin Cooley

"Three Times The 'Narratives' for Von Strantz"

"The first movement, the four-song “Narratives Chapter 1: Troubled Souls,” was released in March.
“We’ve entered in as troubled souls,” Strantz croons on “Troubled Souls” in a vocal reminiscent of k.d. lang that follows her Neil Youngish acoustic guitar intro, “We come and go.”
On Aug. 29, Horton and Strantz put out the second movement, the four-song “Narratives Chapter 2: The Line.”
“At the end of the year,” Horton says, “we’ll release the full-length (all three movements) on one big disc.”
“Narratives,” so far, has already drawn comparisons to the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, ELO and a host of genre-stretching artists spanning Americana and bluegrass to the dark side of stringy indie roots that fuel bands such as The Vespers." - Jeff Harrell

"Narratives Chapter III: 1818"

"The track that stands out the most to me on Narratives III is “Cigarette Smoke.” The dynamics throughout the song make it impossible to do anything besides give your full attention to the experience. The lyrics bring you into one of the most honest and raw choruses I’ve heard. The whole song has so much heart, which is one of the things I love about Jess’s voice. When she sings she makes you feel exactly what she wants you to feel in that moment. I wasn’t sure if that was something that would be transferred onto the recordings, but she did it!

Another song that really stood out to me was “On To You.” This song is such a great folk tune. Finger snaps, catchy piano, and an amazing strings section are the things that really make this a catchy little folk tune. The cat and mouse game you feel is going on in the lyrics make you feel playful, and ever so slightly uncomfortable. Even with slight commiseration for whoever got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. You also get the triumph of being one step ahead of an opponent." - Koli Meadows


Still working on that hot first release.



"If you don't have a soul child, you're gonna have one by the time we're done." Jess Strantz, the founder and main vocalist of Von Strantz, declares between songs to the audience and band surrounding her. She exchanges glances with Kelsey Horton, violinist and multi-instrumentalist and then winks at the crowd. Von Strantz writes music, as Jess will say, "created for real depth and real community . . . what's important is that we be humans and love each other."

The sound of Von Strantz is described simply as folk n' roll, akin to the tradition of Over the Rhine and the sacredness of The Vespers; the instrumentals stir the soul much like Mumford and Sons. 

Utilizing a variety of instruments such as the mandolin, violin, bass, and cello, Von Strantz unites harmonies strung together by commanding and soulful lyrics. With story-sharing as their passion, Von Strantz invites their audience into the emotion of each piece. Von Strantz is storytellers, an ebb and flow of two different musicians, exploring the dark and emerging with hope. 

Von Strantz released their first self-titled EP in early 2013, and has also released "Narratives Chapter I: Troubled Souls" March of 2014 & "Narratives Chapter II: The Line" August of 2014.  The band has traveled extensively, booking more than 400 shows since January 2014, including Electric Forest, Hard Rock Cafe, Schuba's, Paper City Music Fest, Audiofeed, Starry Night 2013 & 2014 ,Steel Bridge Music Fest 2013 & 2014,  and has shared the stage with some of their favorite artists, My Brightest Diamond, Over The Rhine, Howie Day & A Silent Film. Von Strantz's new EP "Narratives Chapter III: Eighteen Eighteen" is out now in online stores everywhere , on spotify and Pandora!

Band Members