Now, it’s just Juliette Commagere (and her orchestra)



To hear Juliette Commagere tell it, she needed a break — not so much from music, but from the rough-and-tumble business of fronting a perpetually-on-the-verge rock band. So the keytar-slinging singer of the dance-rock quartet Hello Stranger struck out on her own.

“I guess I was feeling a little bit frustrated — we had just returned from a big tour and everything came crashing to halt. And it sometimes happens when I get home from tour: I get depressed,” she says of the solo excursion that resulted in the release of “Queens Die Proudly” (Aeronaut Records) in October. “I had some songs I had been writing in an attempt to just comfort myself, and I just went off to the desert, and then to a friend’s cabin up north and kept writing.”

||| Stream: “Queens Die Proudly”

A few months (and four weeks in Martin Pradler’s studio) later, her album of fastidiously orchestrated synth-pop was done. “Queens'” sheen complements both her soaring vocals and the yearning in her songs, taking you toward the same land of enchantment ruled by the likes of Kate Bush and Annie Lennox, a place where the daunting obligation to detail your experiences collides with the songwriter’s warm spirit.

“Maybe part of the desire to do this record came from years of trying to reconcile the business side of music with the artistic side,” Commagere says. “It’s fantastic that Aeronaut wanted to put it out — you don’t want around for a $500,000 record deal these days — and its really nice that people are responding to it.”

Even if the project has taken on a life of its own. “Suddenly I have 14 people in the band,” she says, noting her backing band (including her beau Joachim Cooder and another Hello Stranger bandmate Ben Messelbeck), as well as a string-and-horn section. “It doesn’t feel much like a solo project now.”

Cooder’s father, Ry, plays on a couple songs, and Commagere’s brother, singer-songwriter Robert Francis, contributes guitar on another. Pradler arranged. “I love synthesizers, so I wanted the layered synth sounds. And then the strings and horns — when you’re in a band setting you only dream of that,” Commagere says. “What it came down to is that I wanted to have no limitations.”

||| Live: Commagere (supported by Obi Best and Wait Think Fast) plays tonight at the Troubadour.