YSU student’s band heard on network television


Nicholas Sainato, a YSU junior, plays the cajun drum for a performance with his band, The Strange Familiar. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Sainato.

Youngstown State University student Nicholas Sainato began playing drums in the fifth grade. Nowadays, he’s the drummer of The Strange Familiar, which has been featured on “America’s Got Talent,” ABC’s “Pretty Little Liars” and NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” among other popular television shows.

The Strange Familiar formed after Sainato’s former band, Another Found Self, played a high school rock off in Cleveland. He had the chance to meet Jeff Andrea and Kira Leyden, and played a couple of shows with them in 2006.

Andrea, the lead guitarist, said both groups were in a transitional phase when they first started projects on The Strange Familiar.

“Nick met us at our rehearsal space in North Hollywood. He came in and nailed it.

He really didn’t even get a chance to rehearse, but we knew he would be our drummer after we jammed together,” Andrea said.

Leyden, vocalist and keyboardist, said she found inspiration for the band’s name from a cultural anthropology course she took in college.

“My teacher said in order to study other cultures, you have to render the strange familiar, and that stuck with me. I really like to understand other people who might be radically different than you. Like walking around in other people’s shoes,” Leyden said.

Sainato said one of his favorite moments with The Strange Familiar was performing at SXSW in 2012.

“There was a lot going on at the time. Our debut album just released, and we were even able to play with Ed Sheeran and Ingrid Michaelson. So, that was pretty cool,” Sainato said.

When Sainato isn’t with the band, he’s performing with YSU’s jazz and percussion ensembles. He admits that balancing his time performing with the band and finishing his schoolwork isn’t always easy.

“To be honest, it sucks sometimes. It’s worked so far, but it gets tough scheduling everything. When I was coming back home from Texas to Akron, I barely made it home for concert at school,” Sainato said.

Sainato’s biggest influences have been his parents, who have always supported him. Musically, he gains a large influence from his favorite band, Coldplay.

His message for college students trying to break into the music scene would be to stay persistent.

“A lot of people get discouraged, but there are so many different avenues. There’s television, performing and writing songs. Some that people don’t take advantage of. As long as you keep working at it, you’ll find your way,” Sainato said.

When the band first came together, they had only enough cash for a month’s stay in California. They took a chance and eventually landed spots on television and then resumed living there.

The Strange Familiar is working on writing songs and preparing to enter the studio again.