Stellastarr* Interview

A fascinating and honest exploration of frontman Shawn Christensen provides an insight of one of the most exciting new bands of 2003. As well as finding out exactly who Jenny is, Glasswerk gets to grips with band who are capable of going so much further, but equally are astounded by where they are already.

You have a pretty heavy tour coming up here in the UK and the US to cap a pretty mad year. Is there any venue which you are really looking forward to playing at? Well, I don’t know a lot of the venues on the upcoming tour – – we have never played them before so we are looking forward to all of them. We always look forward to the London gigs because they are bigger and the crowds are more on top of things. Last time they knew all the lyrics before the album as out.

Are you going back to New York at Christmas? Will you see each other or will it be a complete band break? We’re going back for Thanksgiving then we open for Placebo for a few weeks. For Christmas I’ll be home, but I might have to reconvene after the holidays to write new material. There’s a lot rolling around our heads that needs to be taped, but we are going home to our families.

What are the rest of the band like to tour with?
Michael is the slowest man on earth. At first it was an irresponsible thing but now it’s a joke. The common phrase in this band is “where’s Michael?” He’s the kind of guy you always end up waiting for – he’s always 45 minutes late. Anything that takes a normal person two minutes will take him four. Were thinking of making a t-shirt saying, “Where’s Michael?” But in general the touring things is great because we have been best friends for years

But seriously, does your previous friendship make the whole band thing easier, or is it tougher because its your job as well?
Because we’re so involved with the band as a business we argue quite a bit during the day but at the end of the day we are still best friends. We are always asking, “How many cds have we sold?”, “what press do we have to do today?”, “what will be the next single?”… we want to know everything that’s going on around us and behind us.

That’s quite unique for bands… I didn’t realise that what you just said is true until this trip. We are touring with other bands that don’t really have an idea of what is going on behind the scenes. They wander into town and they are surprised about everything. It just doesn’t make any sense.

As kids I guess you had loads of interests especially in the arts. Did you ever really imagine you would become some rock star, or did that concept not even figure till later?
This stuff is insane to me. I didn’t think this would be a career. Painting is really hard to get into so acting seemed a more feasible career to me, and that’s what I came to NY to pursue. I had an agent and it seemed like something I could live off… the music was just a fun thing I did at night time. I never saw it happening the way it has.

So when did you think hang on, we could be really good?
I don’t know if I actually have ever said that! There was a time when I said “wait a second I might be able to be financially secure and have fun doing this at the same time and I think that was a little less than a year ago when we started getting attention from record labels. Until that point I was extremely depressed and pessimistic and everything seemed hopeless. It’s looking better now but it is the worst industry to join. It’s really great now but what happens next month or next year? What happens when whatever labels merge or people change ranks, or if the record doesn’t do well? That applies to any band not just us.

Who is Jenny? She’s a girl who will never figure out that I wrote a song about her cos she’s so tripped out of her mind and oblivious to everything that happens around her. I had a best friend in college who was outgoing, head editor of the comic book at college, one of the most talented guys I had ever met in my life, and he met this girl and she basically ruined him and turned him into this completely different person. When it came to writing lyrics, issues that were personal to me were very prominent. This was one of our earlier songs.

What is your favourite song to play live? It changes every day… two nights ago my favourite song was probably My Coco. It depends on what mood I’m closest to on the night. If I’m in a really down mood it will be Million Reasons or Homeland.

Do you have any ideas yet for 2nd album?
It’s becoming really clear to me. The first album was recorded in three different studios because we had no money. We had to stop and start and it was difficult, and you can detect variations in sound levels through the album. This will be sonically same.

Why Stellastarr and who stuck the * on the end?
It’s a pretty redundant phrase! Stella is Latin so it really means star star! We were writing these epic sci-fi songs, imagine a whole album like Moongirl, and it seemed to fit.The female name was always curious to us because we have a female in the band. The asterisk we just threw on as a design thing. Some people hate it or think it’s pretentious. I don’t really know how I feel about it… it was just a fun thing we did. We never thought we would be in the press or play outside New York City. All of a sudden we get into the press and the media are asking about it.

The album sleeve has quite innovative portraits of you guys. Who’s the artist? I did those with the intention of the front cover being 4 portraits and later we changed it to the package inlay. When we do autographs the big things is to sign our own pictures. It’s a true introduction to us. There’s always a photo of the artist on band albums and we thought why not do paintings instead.

How have the UK crowds to date differed to those back in New York? There are different kinds of UK crowds. We are opening for Jane’s Addiction crowds and they are friendly and supportive, But they are there to see Perry Farrell. They are not there for support bands. It will be a different vibe when we headline. The UK crowds are more up on things because we released here before America. I think also the UK is a more literate country. People read more. People sang along to songs we have never released. I think people are more into searching and finding things, making an effort to get to bands that they are into.

Finally, what other artists are you listening to at the moment? Earlimart – I’m really into their album. Our Tour Manager was playing it and got me into it. Also Metric, who are excellent.

Thanks for talking to Glasswerk Shawn, I hope the rest of the tour goes great for you.

Steallastarr*s official site is found at link. Meanwhile subscribe to their mailing list

Alex MacHorton

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