Stars Talk Personal Politics and Making Music for Introverts on 'There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light'

Stars Talk Personal Politics and Making Music for Introverts on 'There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light'
Photo: Shervin Lainez
The new Stars album, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, finds the band delving further into the darker, poignant regions of their songwriting, peppered with a lingering buoyancy of their previous dance-oriented records. Nearly 20 years into their career, the group have developed a sound that plays to their strengths — primarily the interplay between vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell. The band have honed in on creating cinematic and evocative pieces of music that transport the listener via warm production reliant on synths and strings. Exclaim! spoke to Campbell and bassist Evan Cranley about creation, politics, parenting and making music for introverts.
 
1 The band subverted the nature of their political songs, centring love in their writing.
 
Campbell: "[The] fact of the matter is that right now the world doesn't need protest songs — it needs panic songs. It needs three-and-a-half minutes of a fucking siren. That's the only statement one could possibly make that would keep up with the onslaught of mania that is our day-to-day lives. So what do you do? Try to encompass it all? And be on the cutting edge of it? Or do you say, well, behind whatever fresh madness there is, is the same old thing, which is the human fucking heart and how beautiful and how poisonous it can be. How shitty and how pristine and miraculous it can be. And why is the love I feel for my wife the same love that Donald Trump feels for himself? And why does this amoral force control everything we do and rule everything around us? The answer, I guess, is it does. But it's worth a few songs. If we solve that, we might be a long way towards trying to deal with it."
 
2 Stars rediscovered themselves as a band with the help of producer Peter Katis.
 
Cranley: "What [Peter] really liked was the stuff that was dark and sad. That's what he really loved about the band. [Those] were the tunes he really gravitated to, which was great, because we had a lot of kind of more upbeat, kind of electro stuff. But he's like, 'You know what, I don't like this side of what you guys do.' And he exploited that. Peter was really kind of the end of the funnel: all these ideas came down and he kinda had the last say. He even sequenced the record: for us that was so refreshing, to fight for things but at the end, just know that Peter was curating this record. It was a really comfortable place and a new place for us to be. So, I think he made some good choices with promoting the sadness."
 
3 Stars create pop that speaks to our interior lives.
 
Campbell: "I feel if you're a certain kind of person and you find music like Stars or like Prefab Sprout, it feels like you've been waiting for that kind of band, because we talk about private things. And if you're a private person, sometimes I think rock and roll kind of excludes your experience as an introvert or an interior person. There's a lot of importance in rock and roll put on communal activity and on sort of 'ruling the world.' We're not that encouraging, I don't think. So, it's encouraging to find someone who isn't encouraging all the time for people who, you know, like to curb their enthusiasm, as it were."
 
4 Touring as parents presents challenges.
 
Cranley and Millan tour and create music alongside their two children. He says: "Most of my days are filled with trying to keep my kids interested, and if the bus is parked under an underpass, and we're in Kentucky, I have to make sure that we're safe. That's a lot of my day. And then the night is just for my playing, but I think being a parent is a total evolution and still being in the rock'n'roll game as a parent, with your family — it's insane."
 
5 The band maintain their DIY approach with their new stage show.
 
Cranley: "We build our own sets, we automate our own lights, we design our own show, we've taken everything on ourselves, which has been really gratifying. That's kind of the future too. If you can do as much curation yourself, and be in control of as much as you can, that gives you longevity. And it pays off! People can tell that you're really caring about your show. You have to come with an experience, you have to come with something personal for people. If a fan of ours wants to come to see us for the seventh or eighth time, it has to be a little bit different each time. So I'm hoping that comes across to the audience, where it's like, 'These guys really care about their show or their art.'"
 
Check out Stars' upcoming North American tour dates here. There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light is out now on Last Gang.