MUSIC INTERVIEW: Looking up at indie Stars

By Garth Paulson

Would it be wrong to say we North Americans have a particular fascination with endings? It doesn’t take a particularly in-depth glance through our unifying institution, pop culture, to see this morbid obsession in full. We just can’t get enough of things coming to an end, whether it’s something as trivial as high school or slightly more hefty like love and life. Music is one of the more popular avenues for expressing this fascination.

“I always think its strange,” says Torquil Campbell of the indie-pop group Stars. “You create something and then when you look back on it you realize it has a theme. It’s not a conscious decision you’re making when you’re doing it. [When you’re making a record] you do what’s coming into your head because you have to do something. Later you realize that you’ve written about something. This last year, for a lot of people around us, it has been about endings and new beginnings, that made its way into the music.”

Stars may be guilty of falling for endings like so many others have before them, but the sophistication with which they do it sets them apart as evidenced on their latest album Set Yourself on Fire. The new album is a departure for the band as they move to a more mature, orchestrated sound. Horn and string sections, as well as electronics, play a greater role on Set Yourself on Fire than on any of Stars earlier releases.

“We made [our last record] Heart in a bedroom with no budget,” explains Campbell. “This time we were in a great studio in Montreal. This is really the first time we’ve been able to realize our ideas of what the music should sound like. You’ve got to take advantage of it, sometimes labels will only give you a lot of money once.”

Judging upon the results of Set Yourself on Fire, whichever label Stars calls home in the future, will likely have little problems shelling out the necessary cash for the band to keep making their intelligent brand of pop. The only real problem the album presents, with its lush and complicated arrangements, is the potential difficulty of translating it into a live sound. This is after all a band who has built a large deal of their growing reputation upon the back of their live show.

“They’re actually much easier live,” remarks Campbell. “We wrote them live so we know they work in a plainer way than on the album.”

Plainer or not, if the quality of Set Yourself on Fire has any positive correlation to their live sound, Stars’ reputation as a stellar live band should remain safe. Their boisterous live show can only help cement their status as talented and confident studio innovators.

“I wanted someone to be able to skydive to it,” says Campbell. “If their parachute doesn’t open I’d hope they’d to leave it on. I think it would be good music to go skydiving for the first time to and to face the end with.”


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