Stars 'Fire' Up Their Sound On New Album
Canadian rock act Stars spent the early part of 2004 in the small Quebec town of North Hatley, north of Montreal. During that time, the quintet led by singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan wrote, woCanadian rock act Stars spent the early part of 2004 in the small Quebec town of North Hatley, north of Montreal. During that time, the quintet led by singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan wrote, worked, played, ate, tobogganed and occasionally argued with each other. But the end result is the exquisite "Set Yourself on Fire," a record Campbell says was more satisfying to make than the band's previous release, "Heart." The set is due March 8 in the United States via Arts & Crafts.
"We decided what we were going to do, how we were going to do it and we did it," he says. "With 'Heart' everyday was just an attempt to keep it going from disappearing altogether. It wasn't like you had any sense you were making a record people would listen to. It was just clinging desperately to the hope that something would happen. With this record we had a job and it was much easier."
"We had a very grandiose idea of how we wanted this record to sound as well," says multi-instrumentalist Evan Cranley, who also splits time in Broken Social Scene. "We were confident from the get-go."
Mixed by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air, Grandaddy), “Set Yourself on Fire” is a witty, gripping, thoughtful and consistently strong piece of work. Whether it's the tight, catchy pop of the single "Ageless Beauty" or the lush, orchestral touch of "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," the band seems to have evolved much like its Canadian contemporaries.
"We had been on the road with Broken Social Scene and the Dears a lot and we learned a lot about how dynamics can really affect an audience and give you a lot of dramatic possibilities in your music," Campbell says. "We wanted to extend our song structures a bit to get away from the three-minute, two-section song structure that 'Heart' has."
Knowing what they wanted, Stars headed to a Montreal studio to record the album with Scottish producer Tom McFall. McFall, who is also a member of Scottish band Serial P.O.P., worked 18-hour days with the group for five weeks to complete the record.
"It was pretty much like a conveyor belt," Cranley says of the process. "He set an example for us to finish it. You get a band on a medium-sized budget in a studio and they'll never f***ing leave -- they'll get a bunk bed and invite their girlfriends."
Campbell and Cranley say the title track epitomizes the grandiose, epic style they sought, but there was a slight twist from the original musical blueprint.
"[Keyboardist Chris] Seligman and I had the idea that it would be this outrageous instrumental outtro but Campbell just ran down to the basement and nailed it in one take," Cranley says. "The original idea was to keep it ethereal and instrumental and then it would just fall off the edge of the cliff. The hook ends nicely and also lyrically."
Although “Ageless Beauty” was an obvious choice for a single, Campbell admits it would have been interesting to release something less commercial.
"The reality is that in this day and age there are so few people in the game of radio with any vision or power," he says. "You really do need to sneak a rat under the door into their consciousness because they are so backwards. They are the Arkansas backwoods of the music industry.”
He continues, "If you went to the head of the programming at [Toronto station] CHUM and said, 'Look at this article in the New York Times that says the Arcade Fire is the best new rock band in the world,' they would go, 'Who the f*** is the Arcade Fire?'”