Adam Jones has not seen Stranger Things, which is indeed a little strange. For one thing, who the hell hasn't seen it at this point? It was all anyone talked about this summer. And as Jones admits, the show's supernatural themes and classic horror references are right in his wheelhouse, too. Plus, you figure he would've made time for it, considering his band, Survive, created its instantly iconic score.
"It seems like something I'd be interested in," Jones says with an audible shrug from his home in Austin, "but media like that is distracting for me."
To be fair, Jones wasn't directly involved in the soundtrack, which was helmed by his bandmates, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. And hey, the guy's been busy. He runs a label, Holodeck Records, specializing in the kind of creepy-crawly synth music he makes with his own projects. And he has a tour to prepare for. Ostensibly, it's in support of Survive's just-released second album, but its newly widened fan base is surely expecting Stranger Things: The Live Show, which means he's got to learn songs he hadn't even heard until rehearsals started. Ain't a lot of time for binge-watching in that schedule.
That's left Jones in the odd position of riding the wave of a phenomenon he has yet to even engage with. But then, this whole thing is sort of weird for everyone. Survive formed in 2009, when Jones and longtime friends Dixon and Stein, along with college pal Mark Donica, had the idea to combine their teenage obsession with glitch gods Autechre, '70s krautrock and the film scores of Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter in the form of an instrumental, four-man analog-synth band. While the group became torchbearers within their hometown's small scene of electronic gearheads, their name hadn't traveled far out of Austin.
No one is exactly sure how Matt and Ross Duffer, the creators of Stranger Things, even found them. But when the show premiered on Netflix in July, Dixon and Stein's eerie, pulsing theme song became as much a point of critical adoration as the series' various nods to the Two Stev(ph)ens, Spielberg and King.
"All of this attention is pretty new to us," Jones says. "We're still wrapping our heads around it—and trying to figure out how the hell we're going to get our gear over to Europe."
Even without the show, the year was setting up to be a big one for Survive. New album RR7349 is its first for venerable metal label Relapse Records, and its machinist grooves, layers of bump-in-the-night keyboards and ambient sense of dread probably would've expanded the band's reach anyway. Of course, with the second season already being teased online, Survive is perhaps fated to always be known as "the Stranger Things guys." But Jones doesn't have to see the show to know that's not such a bad thing.
"Now that Stranger Things happened, people have a context in their mind for how they're supposed to enjoy [the music]," he says. "Before, it may have seemed boring to people who otherwise listen to synth music that's more poppy. Something clicks when you see it in a sci-fi horror soundtrack setting, where they say, 'This is the correct context for me to enjoy something like this.'"
SEE IT: Survive plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Majeure, on Tuesday, Oct. 11. 8:30 pm. Sold out. 21+.