Lindsey Best The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off yesterday…
- Posted on Jun 17th 2011 3:30PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
And last week saw the release of 'The Bedroom Demos,' the original recordings of songs from 2007's 'In Our Bedroom After the War' (which can be purchased or streamed here).
Recorded at fellow Montrealers Besnard Lakes' Breakglass Studios in the deep-freeze of winter 2006, the demos offer an intriguing glimpse into the creative process: 'Barricade' recorded with one microphone, Campbell singing both the male and female parts on 'Personal'; even the working titles of some tracks ('Flack,' 'Film Score') hint at musical and lyrical inspirations eked out as the songwriting progressed. (The band eventually ended up making the album at Bryan Adams' historic Warehouse Studios in Vancouver, where Campbell resides).
The release of the demos brings a flurry of renewed activity for the band: Stars headlined a big free show as part of the NXNE music festival in Toronto this week, and will play an intimate secret gig June 18 (a clever social-media campaign designed as an urban 'scavenger hunt' unlocks the clues to getting in) before embarking on a handful of summer festival dates.
Amidst all that, the band also recently reunited in Montreal to begin work on their next album, and Campbell continues to be the group's chief multitasker, juggling his Stars duties with parenthood and his other musical pursuits. Spinner caught up with the ever-garrulous Campbell to talk music, social media, and why he thinks people have been smirking at his "out-of-fashion" band for the past decade.
'The Bedroom Demos', while obviously raw, don't sound too far removed from the recordings on 'In Our Bedroom After the War'. Why did you decide not to use those particular tracks and record new ones for the final album?
Because we really wanted to make a slick '80s Fleetwood Mac record, and the Warehouse [in Vancouver] was the place to do that. Breakglass, on the other hand, is a place where you can literally taste the studio when you listen to things recorded there. They weren't sterile and Bryan Adams-y enough, I guess! [laughs] We are very strange people. Though we do love the demos, we made the album we imagined at the Warehouse.
Even after having made your living as a musician for over a decade now, and being in a very successful band, you never shy away from admitting a certain sense of insecurity -- where does that come from?
It comes from the deadly combination of being born in northern England and growing up in Canada -- if you want to have no confidence, that's the perfect combination. [laughs] But it's also just a manifestation of what's sort of at the heart of what it's all about for me -- it's like that Smiths lyric: "I sat in my room and I drew up a plan." I was listening to music that no one else was listening to before the Internet –- there really were only 500 people in the city listening to 'House of Love,' you know?
I always felt not part of the cool scene, and music and being in a band was a way for me of finding an identity and expressing a part of myself that I thought was beautiful and I really believed in but that no one else did. And I think that's always going to be a part of me. I think if the world was listening, I'm not quite sure what I would say. So I have to keep reassuring myself that no one is listening, and by doing that, I feel free to do and say whatever I want.
You certainly are known for not being afraid to speak your mind about everything from the state of the music industry to politics and beyond.
Very often I get myself into trouble in my career by assuming that no one is listening, or by assuming weakness, and they react to me as if I'm this very powerful person. But I don't feel powerful. And even if I am powerful, I don't find power interesting -- I don't find winners very interesting. I don't read inspirational stories -- I'm not interested in being cheered up; that's not what pop music, for me, has ever been about. It's about someone coming and putting their hand on your shoulder and saying, "I feel that, too."
I guess I feel like my job is to stand on the sidelines with all the other people on the sidelines and throw s--- at the people who think they're beautiful. And that, to me, is kind of a part of being in a gang, and a part of being a teenager, and therefore part of pop music forever.
Stars have certainly managed to cultivate a very devoted fanbase along the way, so perhaps that approach is working?
Incredibly loyal and lovely people listen to our music -- we're incredibly lucky that way. We got in the final five of the Virgin Awards [last year], and that's people voting -- that's testament to how loyal your listeners are, when you're competing against the likes of Arcade Fire and Tegan and Sara and bands who have a lot more listeners than we do. It's kind of a dream for a band. In many ways, Stars do have the ideal career, because we are largely ignored by the press and we are thought of as being quite out of fashion now, but the people who like us don't give a f---, so we're kind of free from worrying about all that stuff.
You think Stars are "out of fashion?" How so?
Oh, yeah. Stars are very outré, you know. I think we've always been out of fashion. I don't think we've ever been in fashion. I think people have been smirking at us for ten years. And hey, smirk away! Because the people who get it, love it. If you're a person who thinks that life is an ironic joke, then you may not like our music. But hey, f--- you. [laughs] Go find something else to listen to.
You've become very active on Twitter, which seems to be a medium that suits your outspokenness.
I don't like the Facebook. Someone said the other day that the difference between Twitter and Facebook -- and I think this is a very good analogy for what it's like -- is that Facebook is like high-school, and Twitter is the street. And I like the idea of everybody being able to throw s--- at each other -- anyone can write anything they want on Twitter while Facebook just seems to be very much about creating your little perfect exclusive world. F---, I spent 15 years trying to avoid half of the people I went to high-school with, so why would I want them to be able to find me? But Twitter I like. It's good if you're a glib, sarcastic prick like me -- you only have 110 characters or whatever it is; the conversation can never get too meaningful.
Do you feel like social media's been a good way to interact with fans, or just a necessary evil?
It's both, I think. I love using Twitter because it's a way of telling people who are into my music, "Hey, you should go listen to this record or that record." I've been using Twitter lately almost exclusively to tell people to buy the new Destroyer record. But the Internet is a tricky b----, isn't it? You know what the Internet is like? It's a highway, and everyone's in their little car -- and the reason people act like a------s in cars is that you can't see their faces. They behave in ways they never consider behaving if you can see them, and the Internet is the same -- it's very much up to you whether or not you want to be civil. But what are you going to do, ban driving?
It's more about people, not so much about social media. It's about how sad it is that when given anonymity, people so often choose to be cold with that anonymity. That's a disturbing thing about humanity, but I'm not sure it's changed because of social media. I think it's just been accentuated by it.
Stars play Yonge-Dundas Square tonight (June 17) @ 9:30PM