They may call themselves The Random Strangers, but musicians Larry Park, Suzanne Todd and Dave Wren are both bandmates and longtime friends. Bassist and self-described occasional vocalist Ripley Howe joined the group after showing up uninvited to play alongside Park at Powell’s Steamer Co. & Pub. The rest, as they say, is history.
“We don’t have the look of a rock band or country band, not much glitz or glamour,” shares Rita Harrington, drummer and most recent addition to the lineup. “But when we start playing, jaws drop and people have nothing but great things to say!”
The Placerville-based performers—many of whom have been professional musicians for decades—are recognized throughout the foothill region for their eclectic sound, which fuses elements of country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues.
“The general public would be surprised at the diversity of our music,” says Todd, the band’s lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and business manager. “We started off purely country but are in the process of rebranding ourselves country and rockin’ Americana, because we cover such a wide selection of music.”
Among the band’s favorite local venues to play at are Cool Beerwerks, Powell’s Steamer Co. & Pub, PJ’s Roadhouse, Sequoia Woods Country Club and the Sierra Nevada House. In addition to upcoming shows throughout El Dorado County, The Random Strangers say they’re looking forward to taking the stage at the Cameron Park Concert Series on Saturday, March 28.
“Our clean sound, strong musicianship, three-part harmonies and volume level distinguish us from other bands,” Todd explains. “We make it our mission to provide excellent music at a volume that can be appreciated by listeners, yet still allow them to carry on a conversation without yelling. We value our hearing, and that of our listeners!”
Although known for their sweet on-stage harmonies, each member’s pre-performance rituals couldn’t be more different. While Todd enjoys a cup of hot tea with lemon and a chat with friends and audience members, Wren prefers to get to the venue early for set-up, but Harrington’s once-private approach is undoubtedly the most unique. “I…have a friendly chat with my drum kit,” she explains. “I touch each drum and cymbal and tell each one how much I love playing [it] and how grateful I am to be making music for a living. My bandmates did not know this, and I bet I’ll get teased till the end of time now.”
Harrington, a lifelong drummer, played her first gig at age 12 and toured with Circus Vargas in the ’70s, but she isn’t the only Stranger with a unique backstory. Before joining the band, Todd enjoyed a career as a fire chief and Wren was inducted into the California Western Swing Society’s Hall of Fame. For his part, Park was named one of the “50 Fastest Guitar Players” by Guitar World Magazine and won an Academy of Country Music Award for “Band of the Year” (non-touring) .
“Most all the songs we play are my favorite,” shares lead guitarist and vocalist, Park. “We choose songs we like, and add our own twist to them. It makes it fun for anyone who’s listening”