STARS. PHOTO COURTESY OF NORMAN WONG
If Stars’ performance tonight at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg is news to you, then you’re late to the gaze. The Montreal-based band is in town for one night only, and the show is sold out. But, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re in for a rare treat, poised to attend the first of five appearances the sixsome is making along the East Coast this week, and the sole Northeast stop.
Stars, all of whom are also members of musical collective Broken Social Scene, are taking a brief break from recording to revisit former stomping grounds, preview some new tunes, and reunite with longtime fans. They last released a new album in June 2010, titled The Five Ghosts, though a rerelease of In Our Bedroom After the War hit shelves this summer under the repurposed title, The Bedroom Demos. A new disc is due out come spring, but, to tide you over until then, read on.
Bassist Evan Cranley filled Interview in on the latest, from his mixed feelings about being back in NYC to what it’s like living life on the road with an infant. He also speaks to the band’s exceptional chemistry and how he feels about lending their work to TV shows like Gossip Girl and movies such as the upcoming Like Crazy.
NELL ALK: How does it feel to be back in New York?
EVAN CRANLEY: We haven’t played New York in a little while. We’re actually going to road test some new material. Williamsburg is a really cool place for us, because that’s where the band started. It’s pretty cool to go back 12-13 years to when we first started out in that neighborhood [and] to play new songs that we’re writing for the record. There’s some symmetry there.ALK: Just an East Coast jaunt, huh?
CRANLEY: Basically. It’s just to play. This is for the joy of playing live, playing some of our favorite clubs. It’s like a muscle; you gotta stay at it. We’ve been writing a lot of new music and working on a new record, so it’s nice to play live.
ALK: Totally. Your fans here couldn’t be happier. Being that you’re now based in Canada, do you ever miss New York at all?
CRANLEY: I do. It’s an incredible place. There’s no place like it. Every time Stars plays there, I get very sentimental about it because, like I said, that’s where we started. Always nice knowing I can go. Always nice knowing I can leave.
ALK: So about that forthcoming album…
CRANLEY: We’re hopefully going to have it out in spring of next year. We’ve been working on it for a month now in our studio in Montreal.
ALK: What’s the process like?
CRANLEY: It’s really been Chris Seligman, the keyboard player, Pat McGee, the drummer, and myself working every day and coming up with music. Torquil [Campbell] and Amy [Millan] will write lyrics and sing to these sketches we’ve created. That’s the process. Everyone has to take care of their own piece of the puzzle. It’s a very communal writing process that way.
ALK: That’s wonderful. How did you come together?
CRANLEY: We’re all childhood friends who grew up in downtown Toronto. We’ve all known each other for years. But, Torquil and Chris started the band 12-13 years ago in New York City. I joined a year after they formed. I moved to New York, lived in a loft in Williamsburg, [we] released the record, [we] became a band. And then, 11 years ago, [we] moved to Montreal, where we are now.
ALK: How does a band make it a decade without calling it quits? Seems like odds are always against longevity.
CRANLEY: Patience, forgiveness, and a sense of humor. That’s really what got us this far. We still have chemistry. When we write together and we perform together, there’s still chemistry. When there’s no chemistry and it’s not fun anymore, we’ll stop doing it. But, because all those crucial things are still alive in us, that keeps us going. It’s like being involved in any family.
ALK: What’s life like on the road?
CRANLEY: The very nature of joining a band, living your life on the road and living your life record cycle to record cycle, is a really impossible way to live. If you don’t love the people that you’re doing it with, you should do something else, because there’s too many bands as it goes anyway.
ALK: What’s your personal experience with this strenuous, albeit rewarding, lifestyle?
CRANLEY: I have a very unique experience on the road. I’m touring with my six-month-old daughter. I’ve been playing shows all summer and she’s been with her mother and father on the road. I don’t live like a lot of other people. My whole family, my whole life, is on the road. Everyone I love. So, I’m never lonely. I have my family and my friends. It’s really intense, but I’m surrounded by love. I’m a very fortunate person that way: I can travel with my family. My experience is really different from a lot of other people’s. It can be a very lonely way to live, never seeing your loved ones. My situation is pretty particular to me.
ALK: That’s amazing. Apart from life on the road, what’s day-to-day life like in Montreal?
CRANLEY: Now, writing a record’s like a job. Drop your kids off at daycare or school and write for six or seven hours in your studio. Come home, have dinner, and go to bed. Inspiration used to come whenever it came. Now, it’s more about focus time and going to work and coming home. The structure of that actually helps. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.
ALK: What’s it like performing in a band with a male and a female lead?
CRANLEY: It’s really led to character development when you have two narratives. A female and a male can cover a lot of ground. When you’re trying to tell stories through song, it makes it a little deeper when there’s two people talking. More of a conversation. I think that’s one of the benefits.
ALK: You’ve amassed a fairly dedicated, cult following. Can you comment on this solid popularity?
CRANLEY: We’re definitely not in the limelight, and I think that’s what makes us successful. We’ve grown our fan base, and the fans that really love us held on. We just try to make honest music and be as creative as possible. People that like you will take care of you. When we started in the late ’90s, we put out records when people bought records. People were interested in us before the Internet happened. There’s a lot of new fans that like us, but we have this amazing fan base who remember how the music business used to be. You used to fall in love with bands a lot differently than you do now. You used to have to form your own opinion a little bit more. Being into a band felt like such a special thing. It was your own secret world.
ALK: I remember that world. Your music has appeared in a number of TV shows. Most recently, “Dead Hearts” was featured predominantly in the trailer for Like Crazy. Can you speak to these kinds of cameos?
CRANLEY: I always thought that we made cinematic music that lends itself well to film and television. Some of my favorite films have some of my favorite music. I think music and storytelling and cinema go hand-in-hand. I love being a part of that. We don’t sell our songs to commercials in any way. We don’t try to manipulate the audience into buying kitty litter or toilet paper through our music at all. But, I believe in storytelling and cinema and song.
ALK: My guilty pleasure is Gossip Girl, on which your tunes also appeared…
CRANLEY: I’ve always wanted to be that band; you go in to a teenage boy’s room or a teenage girl’s room and you see a poster of their favorite band on their wall. That’s the ultimate honor. I’ve always wanted to be on that poster in that bedroom.
ALK: I can dig it.
CRANLEY: I think I’m answering the question more in a romantic way. I want to be a part of someone’s imagination. Whether they’re watching television and hearing our song or seeing our poster on the wall of their favorite character’s bedroom. I used to jot down my favorite bands on the back of my knapsack with a marker. Etching Stars on their backpack or their t-shirt? That’s so cool. I used to be that guy.
ALK: Do you ever read press or reviews about yourself?
CRANLEY: No. I find it very self-destructive. Some people in the band do, obsessively. But I can’t do that. There needs to be some sort of suspension of disbelief that happens. When I play a show or make a record, I can’t listen to other people. I just have to live in that experience.
STARS WILL PLAY TONIGHT AT MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR MYSPACE.