The Star-News


No Stranger to the scene

Sun, Jul 10 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite

When Stranger plays, you’ll remember their name.

Stranger has been a familiar face to the South Bay since it formed in 2000 in Chula Vista.


The original band started with lead vocalist David Ornelas, Arthur Tilley (bass), Nolan Clark (drums),  Daniel Montgomery (guitar) and E.N. Young (keys and vocals).

Two others were added in 2008:  Don Carter (trumpet and trombone) and Aaron Hudson (saxophones and vocals).

A melodic blend of reggae, rock and jazz, Stranger’s music forms what the band calls conscious lyrics. They recently produced the album “World Underground,” which will be promoted at their CD release party Friday, July 15, at the House of Blues in downtown San Diego.

Ornelas said the album title suggests that everyone is connected on a deeper level and through the movement of selfexpression.

“Since we started we had aspirations to do big things,” he said. “We want to inspire people to inspire themselves. We hope people will think about what’s really important in life and be open to learning and willing to change.”

Stranger started off like most bands, playing local events and house parties and, in late 2001, began gaining a loyal following.

Tilley, 30, said fans go hand-inhand with music. “Music is a family and that’s what makes music work,” he said. Ornelas agreed. “Our fan base is loyal and they are real people,” he said. “There have been occasions where people with illnesses or hardships have told us how songs or albums have completely changed their lives. It can be scary knowing how powerful that is, but also amazing.”

Ornelas said music is one of the most powerful tools that can be used to influence people.

“It’s probably one of the most important parts of people’s lives whether they realize it or not,” he said.

Ornelas, 28, writes all of his own lyrics and began listening to reggae when he was 18 years old.

As far as hardships go, Ornelas said the business side of music has been the most difficult.

“There’s been times that you question what you’re doing but you stick to it and stay positive,” he said.

Carter is a freelance graphic designer by day and put together the album artwork for “World Underground.” He said he wants to make new waves with the album.

“I don’t want this to be the standard,” he said. “I want people to embrace it and expand their idea of what reggae can be.”

Carter, 33, has played horns for 20 years and grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and The Clash.

“When I was in sixth grade my mother told me to pick an instrument for the school band,” he said. “I chose the trumpet. But the trombone is what made me want to become a musician.”

Tilley is a teacher’s aide and school youth leader at Mendoza Elementary School in Imperial Beach, but said he’d love to be able to live off his talent and travel the world with Stranger.

“Once I decided I wanted to get serious with Stranger it put the rest of my life on hold,” he said. “Playing music is about contributing to a bigger cause. I put all my chips into this — there’s no turning back for me.”

Carter said he wants to make a positive impact on the world through music and hopes to see Stranger travel the world as well as promote charitable causes. “Music is a form of therapy,” he said. “It makes people forget their problems at that moment.”

Tiley said: “Through this experience, we’ve all made sacrifices. I really believe the message behind Stranger is going to do bigger things and help change the way people think.”

Stranger had their first recording experience with Southwestern College recording techniques professor Jay Henry and produced an album titled “Life Lessons.”

Stranger immediately began recording their second album, “Shelter from the Storm” and was introduced to Don (trombone) and Aaron (sax). The release of “Shelter from the Storm” in 2007 allo wed the band to travel up and down the West Coast and to Hawaii. In June 2009, Stranger released a five-song EP that was produced, written, performed and mixed by the band.

An earlier version of this story stated that keyboardist E.N Young joined the band in 2008. Young was a member of the original band, which formed in 2001. The Star-News regrets the error.


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