Intimate Stranger: Hard to Define, Harder to Dislike

Tessie Woodgate puts the bottle of Royal beer to her lips with one hand as she holds her bass guitar in the other. As the singer for pop-rock band Intimate Stranger, she has to keep her vocal chords primed at all times during concerts.

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Woodgate puts down the bottle and tells the audience in a high-pitched Barbie Doll-esque voice, “Now, a song in Spanish ... oh, and saludos. Muchos saludos.” She then proceeds to unleash a mature, melancholy voice unto the audience, getting them on their toes, bobbing their heads and swaying to the beat.

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With front lady Woodgate singing and on bass, Lautaro Vera on guitar, Mauricio Muñoz rocking the drums and Ismael Palma pouring over the keyboard, Intimate Stranger is a complete and talented team ready to intoxicate any listener.

Somewhere between the rock and female vocals of the Kills and the inviting voice of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Intimate Stranger tends to break barriers when it comes to labeling them with a genre.

“I think that what makes us sound unique is the melodic composition of our songs. They’re original, solid and distinguished from other songs. It’s catchy,” said Vera.

And while the band’s unique sound sets them apart from being neatly classified, Vera admits that Intimate Stranger exists somewhere in the realms of alternative and ambient rock. Melancholic melodies can trance an audience but the strong bass and drum influence of the group keeps fans swaying and whistling.

Their sound aside, the most authentic part about Intimate Stranger is perhaps their contagious confidence. You can tell from the way they play that even if the audience isn’t feeling the music, they definitely are. That charisma means that an entire audience is sucked in to, in some way, appreciating their music.

Vera turning his ear to his guitar as if tending to the needs of a child, is one example. Another is the grin that shyly creeps upon drummer Muñoz’s face during a few of the songs as he unabashedly pounds away at the drums.

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Intimate Stranger started with Woodgate and Vera, who formerly played with bands like Don Fango and Disturbio Menor. In 2006, the duo joined Muñoz to record their first album Life Jacket.

“Life Jacket is a collection of stories told and personified by strange characters and their perplexing experiences with life and death,” said Vera.

The band later jetted to London for two years touring the underground rock scene at venues like the Rock Garden and Dublin Castle. Before returning to Santiago in mid-2008, Intimate Stranger spent three months in Austin, Texas, where they played at the indie-famous SXSW music festival.

Back in Chile in the same year, Intimate Stranger picked up Palma to add another layer and dimension to their music which is heavily reflected in their newer material and showcased in their next album, Under, scheduled to be released by the end of the year.

Palma’s presence with the organ and synth effects deepens the music and helps support the lyrics which are often insightful. For example, “For Annie” is Intimate Stranger’s adaptation of Edgar Alan Poe’s famous poem.

And while Intimate Stranger’s instrumentals are outstanding, the real star of the stage, in every sense of the term, is Woodgate. The way she bends one knee as she seduces the microphone, and how she looks from the corner of her eye out into the audience as she looks for someone to sing to, are captivating subtleties that aren’t common to many artists.

Clearly, her performance wouldn’t mean much without the strong accompaniment she gets from her band mates, but as the face for Intimate Stranger, Woodgate makes sure that the band rocks it.

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