Though 2020 has been a downright awful year with very few bright spots, the emergence of Bartees Strange has been one silver lining people can be happy about. The Washington DC-based singer and multi-instrumentalist first came to widespread consciousness this March with Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy, an EP of songs by The National that he reinterpreted in spectacular fashion. In October, that inventive release was followed by Live Forever, his debut full-length that’s earned him widespread attention and high standing on a bunch of year-end best albums lists.

Last week—minutes after learning his song “Boomer” was named the best song of 2020 by Spin Magazine—Strange spoke to My First Band host Tyler Maas about his whirlwind year (that just so happens to be taking place during a worldwide pandemic) and what he’s working on to follow-up his pair of lauded releases. Eventually, the conversation turned to the up-and-coming musician’s upbringing in a Christian household with an opera singer mother, his discovery of hardcore music as a teen living in the Oklahoma city of Mustang, his years as a backing musician and touring guitarist in Brooklyn, what brought him back to DC, and the years of work and life lessons that went into creating Live Forever. Along the way, the pair talked about Hanson’s underrated “Mmmhops” beer and their shared love of Appleton, Wisconsin.

My First Band is sponsored by Mystery Room Mastering and Lakefront Brewery. The show is edited by Jared Blohm. You can listen to My First Band on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you get podcasts. You can also listen to rebroadcasts of previous My First Band episodes on WMSE every Wednesday from noon to 12:30 p.m. CST. Music used in this episode comes courtesy of Devils Teeth (“The Junction Street Eight Tigers”) and Bartees Strange (“Mustang”).