Sunday, July 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Make a Scene: Strangely Alright’s pop-rock will cure what ails ya

Singer-songwriter Regan L. Barger has been a staple of Tacoma's rock scene since the late '70s with stints in Baby Knockors, Strypes and Groovy Times in Babylon, among other bands. But he remained largely A.W.O.L. for years following the breakup of his band, Brokenness, in 2005.

“The songwriting never goes away. But the reality is, my wife and I had a baby,” he said recently, by way of explanation.

Not that he could give in to “the old picket fence mentality” forever. “The simplest way to put it is when I'm not doing music I'm not whole,” he said. “So I started writing again and really getting back into it about a year ago. It makes me complete; I mean, I like being a dad. I like being a husband, and I'm in some recovery-based stuff that's good for me. But music's been such an integral part of my life, and I'm such a huge fan, too.”

Barger's musical rediscovery led to Strangely Alright, the new pop-rock outfit he formed with bassist Ken Schaff. The name of the band is a reflection of the struggles he has overcome to find balance in his life. “I used to be a dope fiend, and now I've been clean and sober for quite some time,” he said. “It used to be breathing is good enough. But now it's nice to feel 'strangely alright.'”

The band's debut album, “The Time Machine Is Broken,” recently surfaced on iTunes, Amazon and, its title and many of its lyrics inspired by the philosophy that keeps him grounded.

“The idea of 'The Time Machine Is Broken' is that I can't go forward and I can't go back,” Barger said. “So I want to live in the now. The whole record is really based on being in the now, being in the here. The things in the past are just that; they're just illusions, but they're lessons. And the future: I don't know what that is?”

The band also includes Lee Gregory on keyboards and vocals, Jeff Reiner on lead guitar and Preston Darvill on percussion. Their 11-song CD was recorded under the direction of Todd Ensminger.

“What happens to me is I always wind up going back to pop music,” Barger said. That could be the Beatles, the Raspberries, Crowded House, Jellyfish. I like that kind of stuff. It just is what it is. But there are certain aspects of this record (inspired by) how Bowie has taken some modern instrumentation (with) synths and things used as sound effects and texture with the whole foundation still being a pop song that you can play on acoustic guitar.”

Strangely Alright will next perform at 4 p.m. on June 22 on the main stage at Meeker Days, located at Meeker Street and Second Street SE, in Puyallup; at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park during Taste of Tacoma 2 p.m. on July 29; and at 7 p.m. at Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheatre during Bite of Seattle.