- Posted on Mar 4th 2011 5:45PM by Benjy Eisen
STRFKR (or Starf---er, depending on preference) are full of contradictions. Even in conversation, ringleader Josh Hodges seems split between the yin and the yang, the heads and the tails. His band's latest release, 'Reptilians,' is an album about death, but it projects neither melancholy nor the infinite sadness. Rather, it's about wonder and curiosity -- properties that belong uniquely to the living.
All contradictions aside, 'Reptilians' is a wickedly good album. In a confessional interview with Spinner, Hodges discussed the band's problematic (for some people) name and why dressing in drag can sometimes be a drag. But mostly, he contemplated death.
If you're just listening to the music, 'Reptilians' sounds almost like a joyous, life-affirming album. But when you pay attention to the lyrics, you realize that a lot of it is about death. Did you mean to juxtapose the two?
I'm kind of obsessed with death, and I think that was the motivation for that. I think about death a lot. I've gone through periods where I'll just lay awake in bed and imagine not existing and the world going on without me. It's scary, but it doesn't have to be. There can be a way in which death can not only give meaning to life, but so much more than that. Everything is dying all the time. Nothing is permanent. Everything is only existing because of other things happening.
The obvious question when interviewing STRFKR is a question you're going to be asked until your dying day: Why'd you name the band STRFKR?
Originally the band started as just me, and I was kind of giving up on music, at least in a certain way. I was like, "F--- trying to do anything." I was in this other band, and I don't know -- I was approaching it in a weird way or something. It didn't feel right. Music to me is partly therapeutic. It's like eating or exercising. It's something I need to do to be healthy mentally. I wasn't in a band. I wasn't playing shows or anything, but I was in my basement, playing drums and singing over loops or songs that I made. I was like, "This is fun. I'm going to actually play a house show or something -- I think people would like this."
I was just having a really good time, and that's why I called it STRFKR. I thought it was such a f---ing stupid name that it was perfect, because obviously I'm not trying to do anything with a name like that. But then it became successful, at least locally, really quick. People started to like it, and then, in time, I was like, "This is fun. We could actually tour and keep doing this." Ever since we started working with people like managers and stuff, they're always like, "Did you ever think about changing your name? You're probably going to have to change your name."
You did change your name, temporarily.
It was probably after two years of pressure from people trying to get us to change our name. We were like, "We're never going to change our name; that's like the whole thing." And then it just wore us down. People were like, "This can either be a hobby for you, or this can be what you do." We were like, "Really? Well then, if that's what it has to be. I would rather do this than have to work at the f---ing parking lot downtown or whatever." So we were like, "OK, let's do this."
This one label that we really respect, this ultra-cool label that was really interested in us, wanted us to change our name, and so we gave in to all this weird pressure from people that didn't even get what we were doing. They were stuck on this old model, this old formula. For me at least -- I don't know about the rest of the guys -- I feel like my integrity was compromised. I was exhausted from touring all the time. I wasn't thinking right about stuff, and I got seduced by the idea that this could go away if I didn't change the name, and I really liked this. But I don't think that's true, for one.
That's how the temporary name change came about. Really quickly, we were like, "What the f--- are we doing?' It really felt bad. We stopped touring right when we changed the name. Really quickly, once we got off tour, I started to come back to earth, and I was like, "What the f--- did we just do?" It didn't feel right. I was almost considering just quitting the project. But I was talking to Sean [Glassford], who is our bass player in the band, a lot, and he was like, "We shouldn't quit. We should just go back and figure it out."
When you're on stage, you guys sometimes dress in drag. Can you talk about that?
One of the first shows that I played out as STRFKR, once Ryan [Bjornstad] joined the band, we did that. I was thinking of Nirvana, actually. That was so awesome when I was a kid -- Kurt Cobain in a dress. I was just like, "Let's just do that."
Also, I grew up around it; my uncle is a Liza Minnelli impersonator at the longest running cross-dressing club in the country, or probably world, or something. I spent my 21st birthday at that club. Sean and I just went there a month ago to watch "Liza."
We all have our own reason for doing it. I kind of feel like retiring it right now, actually. I think it has run its course. The thing I most liked about it was when we were in the middle of nowhere in some "bro"-like college town, or the South, and it made people uncomfortable. I like that. I feel like people expect it to be this certain thing, and then they're like, "God, I like the music but they're f---ing wearing dresses."
Catch STRFKR's SXSW Set on Saturday, March 19 at The Parish (214C E 6th St.) 1AM.
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