OUT OF THIS WORLD
By Dan MacIntosh
“When people come up to me and ask, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I have no idea what to say to them,” admits drummer Patty McGee for the Montreal band Stars. “I mean, there are so many subsets and subcategories of categories now.” That’s not a serious problem, though, because music was always meant to be enjoyed, not merely categorized.
Stars’ latest album, North, which came out late last year, sounds a little like peppy synth-pop one minute, and a bit more like ambient alt-folk whenever dreamy vocalist Amy Millan weaves her precious vocal cords around a song. Patty McGee (who is a guy, by the way), admits there are multiple styles woven into Stars’ panoply of sound—but not every style. “You’re not going to find any reggae in there, I don’t think,” McGee explains. “Probably not a lot of reggae’s going to show up in a Stars album.”
Perhaps the phrase “smart pop” is the best descriptor of what Stars does, if a description is even truly necessary. This is, after all, a group that took the brave step of covering The Smiths’ “This Charming Man,” (on their very first album, no less!), and later covered The Pogues’ far-too-honest Christmas song, “Fairytale of New York” in 2005.
Oh, and by the way, don’t expect anybody in this group to ever act the part of any rock-and-rolling Bill Nye the Science Guy, merely because the band is astronomically named. “I can safely say that I think the most of us know virtually nothing about astronomy,” admits McGee. “We can find the Big Dipper. If I was really pressed, I could take an educated guess at The North Star.”
The group has already released seven full-length albums since 2001 and has been nominated in the Juno Awards Alternative Album of the Year category, twice, and also nominated two times for the Polaris Music Prize.
Make no mistake about it though, Stars loves to come out and play in Southern California, and not just because there are so many stars (of the more terrestrial, celebrity variety). “We can wear shorts in January, that’s awesome!” says this man from the Great White North. Furthermore, there are also significant dietary reasons why Southern California is a favorite destination for Stars. In a word: food. “People might get angry at me for saying this, but nobody makes a good taco up here (Canada),” McGee explains. “It doesn’t exist. I mean, you can make a good taco but they’re gonna be 15 bucks for three tacos and there’s gonna be zucchini flour stuff in them. There’s nothing like Texas or California or Arizona. Tacos, man, that’s all we think about! When we’re in Kansas, it’s barbeque, and when we’re in the Southwest, it’s tacos. We eat and drink regionally, no matter where we go.”
Not surprisingly, Stars is already preparing music newer than North and band members were even working on a couple of fresh tunes the very day of this interview. “We want to get one done quick,” says McGee, of the North follow up. “We want to get it done fast and furious.”
Some of this new music might even end up on a movie soundtrack. However, since it wasn’t yet a “done deal” at the time of this talk, McGee couldn’t say much about the film itself. However, writing music for film has always piqued Stars’ creative interest.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while,” says McGee. “We were really interested, and we’ve had some songs in movies before. I find that Stars can be quite theatrical. We’ve got some pretty dramatic people in the band, so I think it would be a great experience to work in movies and we’re also getting a little involved in theater, which is pretty interesting. It’s a different approach and it’s kind of broadening your horizons a little bit.”
You may have already heard Stars’ music in TV shows like Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Queer as Folk, as well as the films Tanner Hall and Like Crazy. Right now, Stars is concentrating on touring, including a few dates with veteran Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. Once all the barbeque and tacos have been consumed, recording the next album will become priority one. After the completion of Stars’ next album, you can almost guarantee it’ll be back in Southern California soon. After all, there are tasty tacos here to consume.
Stars w/ Trails and Ways at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us.