Brothers from another mother (almost — they’re cousins), Rick Kennedy and Ryan Kennedy have an admittedly easy time keeping their acoustic musical duo, Strangerwolf, a democracy.
First of all, they’re roommates. So checking in with each other before making band decisions is a piece of cake. Second, as mentioned, they’re family. So any squabble is guaranteed an outcome one way or another. Third, they’re talented. So they’d be morons to mess up a good thing.
“We tend to write pretty serious, almost dark songs at times. But in reality, we are pretty silly,” says Rick of the band’s bottom line. “I genuinely consider Ryan to be the funniest person I have ever met. His impressions will probably make him famous one day.”
Formed in early 2014, Strangerwolf is Rick (guitar and vocals), age 33, and Ryan (percussion and vocals), age 26. Both born and bred in Jacksonville, the Kennedy cousins were previously in the rock group Red Letter Bullet from 2006-’09.
“We released an EP and recorded, but never officially released a full-length album,” Rick says of the former project. “We toured twice, and enjoyed moderate success in Jacksonville and the Southeast. It was made up of Ryan and me, as well as our brothers. We all really loved it.”
With just a year-and-a-half under their belts as Strangerwolf, the twosome got together kind of by accident.
“I had a collection of acoustic songs I had been writing since 2010,” explains Rick. “In early 2014, an old friend of ours came to Jacksonville on tour and pretty much made us open up for him. So we used that as an opportunity to start playing music again after a four-year hiatus.”
Strangerwolf’s musical influences are far-reaching and plentiful, including Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Brooke Waggoner, mewithoutYou, Incubus, Jason Isbell, and Noah Gundersen.
“We focus heavily on lyrics and harmony,” says Rick. “We try to keep a pretty natural sound — especially on this album.”
Rick is referring to Strangerwolf’s debut full-length, which is self-titled and slated for an official release Wednesday, Aug. 5 at Underbelly. The event is free in conjunction with Downtown Jacksonville’s First Wednesday Art Walk and also features performances by Connor Hickey and Speaking Cursive.
Strangerwolf has previously released only a few demos recorded at home on GarageBand.
The songs on the full-length debut, written between 2010 and 2015, are permeated with some unflinchingly personal narratives. “They represent a lot of tough transitions that both Ryan and I have gone through during that time,” says Rick. “After taking four years off from music, releasing this album feels almost redemptive.”
The disc was recorded with the Kennedys’ friend and Speaking Cursive frontman, Rick Grice, at Grice’s Endangered Wise Men Studios off King Street in Riverside. Strangerwolf (the album) comprises 10 tracks and was funded from money the Kennedy kin saved over the past year or so.
“During the day, Ryan works for Blue Buddha [Exotic] Foods,” Rick says. “And I just recently re-entered the education world and will teach high school reading in Duval County this fall.”
With a shared love of long conversation dealing with “travel, philosophy, spirituality and just good old-fashioned story-telling,” the dudes of Strangerwolf have no problem when it comes to songwriting — especially for this debut.
Rick explains, “I have written most of the songs on acoustic guitar and, once I’ve shown them to Ryan, we collaborate on writing the accompanying music. We have, however, started to move toward writing songs completely together, and are both already looking forward to how that will come out on our next album.”
For Rick and Ryan, the opportunities Strangerwolf affords them are looking bright.
“We would love to travel more, and share our music with as many people around the world as possible,” says Rick. “The only thing we know for certain is that we will always create music.”