THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Sunday, July 4, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH STARLING CRUSH
Americans and dreampop, there's something that links them I guess but this duo do it a bit different I guess. For a Belgian musiczine (www.musiczine.net) I described them as if Cocteau Twins would have been fronted by Harriet Wheeler and look, Jennifer does even agree on this! Here's the interview I did with Jennifer (the Dutch version will soon appear on above cited site)
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN MUSIC?
American atmospheric melodic pop/rock?
I WON’T BE THE FIRST AND I WON’T BE THE LAST BUT I SAID IF HARRIET WHEELERR WOULD BE THE SINGER FROM COCTEAU TWINS, THEY’D BE CALLED STARLING CRUSH?
I actually had to google that name to figure out who you were talking about ! Ah, the Sundays. She’s got a beautiful, distinctive voice so I’ll take the comparison gladly. As far as The Cocteau Twins, I honestly haven’t spent much time with their music and hadn’t heard of them until I met Michael… I know they are very influential for him, so as far as the sound and production of the songs, that comparison certainly makes sense, and its flattering.
BEFORE STARLING CRUSH, BOTH JENNIFER AND MICHAEL WERE DOING SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT MUSICWISE, WHY THE CHANGE THEN?
Well, for me, it wasn’t entirely different. The collection of songs on the record are , for the most part, songs that I’d written over time and had been playing out in various different outfits for awhile. When I met Michael, I was actually looking to bring him in as a guitarist to play with me, but when I heard his then band’s record and learned that he’d written and produced it, I became aware that he was an artist in his own right, and had more to bring to the table than just great guitar tones. I could hear in his work the kind of sound and influence I had been longing to bring to the songs I had. The spaces and tones and cinematic breadth he worked with was precisely the direction I’d been hearing- I just hadn’t yet met the person who knew how to create that atmosphere, and who would ultimately be my partner in Starling Crush.
I SOMEWHERE READ THAT YOU TRY TO ENRICH THE SOUND OF COCTEAU TWINS WITH THE NEW INNOVATIONS OF BRITROCK, NOW EXPLAIN THAT!!!!
I wouldn’t say we’re trying to enrich the sound of the Cocteau Twins…they are a huge influence for Michael, and so I think tonally and sonically you’ll hear that in his playing and in the production. As far as Britrock, I love orchestral lushness , anthemic music and the drama, for lack of a better word, and that drew me to Britrock and Britpop. Bands like Elbow, and Muse and Oasis make me feel something, and push a song from its simple structure ( which is essential, to me – a song should always be a song and stand up to the acoustic guitar test) to the grand cosmic scale that makes you want to play it as loud as possible. Michael has endless patience for the process of finding new sounds and creating space and architecture in the soundscape of a song- thank God because I have very little patience for the recording process.
I MEAN THIS WITH RESPECT BUT STILL…. AMERICA HAS PLENTY OF ETHEREAL DREAMPOPBANDS, HOW WOULD YOU GET OUT OF THE GREY AREA OR HAS THAT ALREADY HAPPENED?
True, that. There’s a glut of every genre of music, for that matter, and its certainly easy for a listener to lump music into one category or another for whatever reason. I’ve never really put much stock in originality for originality’s sake. I think what’s more important is authenticity. Staying true to your musical roots, delivering honest vocals, following your gut as to how to best serve and treat the music, and conveying the emotion or feeling you are trying to get across is paramount. That’s all you can do. So if that puts you in a crowded genre in someone else’s eyes for a moment, so be it. I can live there.
ISN’T A BIT FRUSTRATING THAT IN TIMES LIKES THESE (MUSICINDUSTRY IN CRISIS), IT’S SO DAMN DIFFICULT TO REACH A PUBLIC OR DO YOU THINK THE OPPOSITE?
Well, yes and no. In some ways it’s a shame that labels are no longer really finding raw talent and giving them the time, patience and funds to develop- I shudder to think of the artists and music that we wouldn’t know and cherish had this model not existed. These days , artists have to really come to a label fully realized, with ‘hits’ and fan bases, in order for a label to take an interest and a chance on them as a business venture. So, the development and marketing really has to happen long before there is a larger organization or structure there to support it. The internet certainly creates a platform to put your music out there, but bands today really have to know how to market themselves, and be fastidious and relentless about getting themselves out there and heard, aside from the primary work which is to make music. For me personally, the business side of things is really tough, and at odds with the point. I find the the self-promotion difficult and uncomfortable. I’d like to think that if what you create is genuine and quality, that it will find its ears without all the neon signs. Probably naïve.
YOUR ALBUM HAS BEEN RELEASED ON LITTLE SHOUT RECORDS, IS THAT YOUR OWN RECORD?
Yep. I created “Little Shout Records” when I recorded and released my EP “Little Shout” under my own name, that preceded Starling Crush.
AND STILL BESIDES THE DREAMPOPTHING, I ALSO HEAR SOME COUNTRYINFLUENCES….
For sure. When I first started playing and songwriting, I was enamoured by The Carter Family, Hank Williams, and then up through Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. I grew up in the south as well, and I think there’s a ‘country’ in my voice that I can’t eradicate. I spent a great deal of time writing and co-writing in Nashville and ultimately didn’t like the process or the current state of ‘country’ music I found there ( although I will say there are some amazing Americana artists in Nashville that I do not group into this stereotype), so when I was called country when I would come back up to New York and perform it sounded like a dirty word. I don’t feel that way now- I embrace my roots and influences- it’s who I am and where my voice goes. It’s just honest, as is my love for The Beatles and Britpop and the cinematic scope of bands like Elbow and Oasis and The Verve. I do think the Americana influence is something that sets us apart from other “dreampop” bands out there. It’s not a purposeful posturing, its just what it is.
YOU GOT THE CHANGE THAT VAUGHAN OLIVER GOT INVOLVED FOR YOUR RECORDSLEEVE, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THAT….
Michael has always lionized Vaughan’s work- again, I was unaware of his contribution to the 4AD ouvre and didn’t know his work well, but after having seen some of the artwork that he’d created I completely concurred with Michael’s vision to pursue him for the packaging. It was a pipe dream, mind you- we reached out fully prepared to be ignored or laughed at, but to our surprise he took a shine to the music, and was game for collaborating with us. As with any great artist it would have been counter intuitive to try to tell him what we were looking for- we gave him an open brief and what he came up with, to us, is the perfect marriage of image and sound. We were so very fortunate to have him with us on this, and we’re still pinching ourselves.
NOT A DANGER AROUND THAT YOU MIGHT END UP BEING NAMED AS 4-AD COPYISTS?
Well, I’d say there would be worse things to be called ;) But to be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of 4AD or spent time listening to any of their artists until Michael came along, although now I do have a great deal of respect for the music and artists they have curated over the years. That body of work remains a musical treasure trove I have yet to delve into.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVE RECORD OF ALL TIME AND STATE WHY PLEASE
ohhh the toughest question of them all. My answer would be different from year to year, day to day… hour to hour . The canon for me would be Springsteen’s “Darkness of the Edge of Town”, any Elbow or Van Morrison record, Dylan’s “Oh Mercy”, and The Beatles “Let it Be Naked” ( I realize I may be alone in singling this one out in the Beatles catalog, but it was my gateway, so it remains my favorite). I guess the best way to answer the question is to identify the record that galvanized music for me- the first time I heard a collection of songs that completely gelled the lyrics, the music, the artist, and impacted me at just the right time in my life for me to think of it as my own; it became very personal for me. And that’s U2’s The Joshua Tree. It’s a complete thought from start to finish, an astonishing group of melodic, cinematic songs, and the first time I heard it, it completely pole-axed me. As if I understood that one day I’d be striving to do the same. It remains a record that I am happy to hear over and over, anytime, anyplace. It’s all at once celestial and grounding. Delicious.
THE LAST WORD IS YOURS……….. I consider making music a privilege. And for anyone who is reading this, or takes that time to listen to Starling Crush… I’m honoured, and thank you so very, very much.