INTERVIEW: Stars (2013)

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Stars released their gorgeous album The North recently.  The Canadian indie pop group is quite eclectic, having started as mostly electronic and gradually going more rock as they added more instrumentalists to the band.  The new album is like a mixtape with a bit of EDM, shoegaze, ambient, and rock flowing together like a soundtrack.   On tour with Diamond Rings, I spoke with band member Chris Seligman before their show in Nashville.

DJ Ron Slomowicz: Everyone contributed to the album, what was the song writing process like?
Chris Seligman: Well it depends; it usually starts with the music. We either hang out in our home studio or jam space and come up with different ideas and either send them off to people or, if we are all in the same city we just cram into a room. Generally Amy likes to have us give her music and then she writes at home and spends time on it. Torquil tends to write pretty quickly, so he usually does it in the room. Once we have the basic idea for a song, we then have to figure out how to produce it. Producing songs takes on a whole other world of thought. If it’s an electronic tune, it can take a lot of different steps. We did both electronic and more organic rock that we wanted to do live off the floor to capture a real moment in time; in that case, you do the production as you go. There are tunes that we spent a whole day in the recording studio working on and we gradually got more comfortable playing them. The guys engineering the track would engineer it and we would go back and listen to it, then from there pick out what direction we wanted it to go. That is it in a nutshell.

RS: Talking about the album, there are so many different sounds, one second it’s like a 4AD track and another it’s an indie rock track, then a shoegazer track- was it a sign of the development of the band with all the different sounds on there?
Chris Seligman: I guess so, we have always been pretty eclectic but earlier on we didn’t have as many tools and we weren’t as good. We hadn’t spent as much time being a band, so now it’s fun to try out different things. Like I said, once a tune is initially cultivated, then you look at it and figure out what the best way of truly making the tune come to life is.

RS: With two vocalists, how do you choose which vocalists does which part?
Chris Seligman: Well it’s funny because some tunes, musically, we just decide to hand off to Amy. We kind of subconsciously have an idea of where things will go, and sometimes it’s not thought out at all. We like to give many “pops,” if we come up with a good “pop” we like to keep it equal. If a “pop” is good, we know that a good song will come out of it, and we want to keep it balanced. Partly what makes the band tick is finding the balance between the two singers.

RS: Do you do the programming?
Chris Seligman: I have done a lot of it in the past. Initially, we were an electronic band and we didn’t even have a drummer. We called it Stevie, who was the drummer, the sampler. Paddy has been in the band for years now and he came in as a great live drummer. He has taken great strides, we slowly had to find a way to get him involved in the electronic side. I think that was partly what was fun about this record, we were programming electronic beats almost live in real time. Sometimes that can be super-stodgy and take too long though. I think that I programmed “Progress” and that is about it.

RS: When I listen to “Hold On When You Get Love” I swear it is New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” it’s very similar.
Chris Seligman: Just the groove?

RS: The hook and the beats of it. Did you write “Do You Want To Die Together” or do you know the story behind it? I was wondering what relationship or experience inspired it because that song stood out to me lyric wise.
Chris Seligman: I didn’t write it lyrically. I think towards being obsessed with relationships,  the complexities of relationships and the thought of wanting to die together. When you think about that over and over again, it is a pretty intense thought. I guess that is what marriage is based on and you don’t really think of it that way all the time.

RS: You wrote “Progress” right?
Chris Seligman: A lot of it.

RS: Could you share with us the “head spinning” memory that the person whispered to you?
Chris Seligman: If you want to talk lyrics I am not the guy, I deal with more of the music, etc.

RS: Okay that’s cool. I liked the way that the tracks in the middle of the CD blended together, was a vision to have a mixed tape regarding that context?
Chris Seligman: We haven’t hit it yet but I think that we are really trying to find that perfect record, perfect flow, and just have different, interesting songs. Essentially we want people not to get bored, it’s hard for people to listen to a whole record these days.

RS: So what was it like touring with fellow Canadians, Diamond Rings?
Chris Seligman: It was awesome, they are really great guys. I know Graham, of Miracle Fortress, from Montreal. We have hung out quite a bit in Montreal.  I just met John.  They are really nice guys. I had my 40th birthday in North Carolina and they got me a present, they have been super sweet.

RS: I haven’t spent much time in Canada but I am guessing “The 400” is referring to the highway, what does that symbolize to you in that song?
Chris Seligman: I think that we are getting a bit older and it’s the idea of being on the highway driving and possibly having existential angst. Everyone drives which is amazing, but it can be a very therapeutic and meditative experience to be out there on the road. Not that I have this in my life, but if you have kids and family I think that coming home to them at the end of the day is a pretty profound experience.

RS: You all did a remix exchange with Diamond Rings where they remixed one of your songs, what was it like remixing Diamond Rings song?
Chris Seligman: It was actually really cool, because at the time we were super busy getting a live show up and only had one day to do it. We didn’t really know what we were going to do because the tune was super rocky and rock pop. It was fun because we took it into a whole drum-and-bass electronic vibe, it was super minimal but fun to do something catchy.  We rarely work on other people’s music, so it was kind of cool to work on someone else’s ideas and musicality. We threw Amy in the chorus and got that super sweet, “Stars-y” chorus. I thought that it was good mesh of things.

RS: How did you like his mix of “Theory of Relativity?”
Chris Seligman: I liked it, I said the other day that it would be a really hard remix to do and he did a great job.

RS: Do you see a part two of “Do You Trust Your Friends” remix album coming?
Chris Seligman: To be honest, I doubt it, but you never know. Torquil has these great ideas, so maybe he will want to.

RS: How do you feel about remixes of your music?
Chris Seligman: I love it, I am waiting for someone to do the “Everything But The Girl” bit and become super famous off of a remix.

RS: We’ll call Todd Terry. What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Chris Seligman: We love you and it’s amazing that you keep coming to shows and the experience keeps happening. It is equally profound for us as it seems to be for people showing up and hearing the music. We have a baby in the band now, Delphine, so it’s an interesting time.

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Interview conducted September 2012.

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