By Lauren Rosier
Canadian indie pop band, STARS, released their latest record, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, in October 2017. It has received critical acclaim from various music outlets including Pitchfork, NPR Music, and Billboard.
Although they’ve released several records, it wasn’t until the recording process with producer/mixer Peter Katis (Interpol, The National), that the five-piece really found their voice. In a recent phone interview, I spoke with vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Torquil Campbell, and we chatted about the record, the state of the world, and more.
“We were actually thinking about who to hire for The Five Ghosts and The North, we almost worked with him, and then his schedule, at the last minute, didn’t work out,” Campbell explained. “When he [Katis] heard we were making another record, he wrote to us actually and said, ‘I felt bad about not coming out the last time and I always wanted to do stuff with you guys, so why don’t we do it now?’” That was the beginning of the STARS-Katis relationship.
The band worked with Katis at his Connecticut recording studio for Fluorescent Light and took a different path compared to previous records. “The big thing for us this time was working with Peter Katis, who produced and mixed it,” Campbell noted. “We generally self-produce and Peter was a completely new step for us because we really turned over a lot of decision making to him.”
The five-piece gave Katis the choice of which songs he wanted to work on. They had written a ton of songs, “a bunch of songs about the seemingly imminent end of the world thanks to the ‘orange-headed monster’,” Campbell explained. From there Katis really directed how the process was going to go and what material they would work on. “He kind of directed the movie as it were and the big difference that made it such a great experience for us.”
The writing process was different than previous records due to the state of our world. In a sense, they felt an obligation to write a protest record “because the world is so fucked up, we felt an obligation to be like ‘we gotta write a record about how fucked up the world is,’” Campbell replied.
If you’re like me and have been a longtime fan of the band’s dreamy pop sound and lyrical content about love, the band wrote a bunch of songs that are just very classic STARS’ songs, in the sense of dealing with very deeply personal and interpersonal relationships between people. “Katis listened to all of the songs and wasn’t really interested in the ‘world being fucked up’ songs, and said let’s do your dark STARS thing,” Campbell said.
While they love protest music, ultimately, Campbell stated, “We’ve always prided ourselves on making records that people go back to and that people have as a part of their life for years.” For many STARS fans, their music is timeless, classic, and transports you back in time to where you first heard their music, it’s all about love. That’s when Campbell mentioned the ‘oranged-headed monster’ again and “his desire to be loved and not getting the love he thinks he deserves.”
The album’s artwork, a photograph [Campbell didn’t remember the photographer’s name], they felt, “was visually capturing of what’s happening to the world” and added “I don’t think there’s a single person in the world that doesn’t think shit is getting out of hand. I think music and art and that aspect of human existence is one of the things that can slow that down, that can help people reflect on that. I think that’s why it’s more than important than ever to make art, even though it matters fewer people are paying attention, it’s more important to do it because I think it’s kind of a revolutionary act to try and be beautiful at this point.”
“With Fluorescent Light we ended up with something I think, for all of us musically anyways, is such a huge leap forward. It’s like the way that we wanted to sound all along and just never managed to get to,” Cambell explains.
The band is currently on tour, with the Philadelphia date tonight, and several festival dates as well.
06/11: Victoria, BC / Capital Ballroom
06/12: Vancouver, BC / Vogue Theater
06/13: Seattle, WA / Neptune
06/14: Portland, OR / Aladdin Theater
06/16: San Francisco, CA / The Fillmore
06/17: Santa Cruz, CA / The Catalyst Atrium
06/18: Los Angeles, CA / Teragram Ballroom
06/19: Solana Beach, CA / Belly Up
06/20: Pomona, CA / The Glass House
06/21: Phoenix, AZ / The Crescent Ballroom
06/23: Denver, CO / Bluebird Theater
06/25: Dallas, TX / Trees
06/26: Austin, TX / The Mohawk
06/27: Houston, TX / White Oak Music Hall