Star & Dagger Will Drink to That (...and That ... and That ... and That Too)
Leslie Van Stelten
Forget Thelma & Louise: Star & Dagger are the ladies you really want to take a road trip with. Only, though, if booze, blues and shenanigans in copious amounts are your thing. Or, as guitarist Dava She Wolf (Cycle Sluts From Hell) elucidates her band's appeal: "A subwoofer's cauldron forged by functional alcoholism, pharmaceutical voyage and junk drawer hallucinogens, all under a heavy contraband haze that hangs low enough to embrace the Almighty Downtrodden so they can revel in it."
Yeah, pretty much. Star & Dagger, rounded out by Sean Yseult (White Zombie) and newcomer/old soul vocalist Von Hesseling, are whisky rock-a-rollers. On their irresistible 10-song debut, Tomorrowland Blues, the swampy, sometimes-metallic tunes include the edgy, honky-tonkin' foot-stomper "Your Mama Was A Grifter," and "Before It's a Crime," whose ominous low-fi bass rumblings support lyrics such as: "...So you killed a few men in your time... can't execute you before it's a crime."
The appropriately whisky-voiced Yseult, a North Carolinan who divides her time between New York and New Orleans, notes that both cities inform the band's lyrics and musicality. "I love any old stripped-down blues I can get my hands on. In New Orleans, there are bands like EyeHateGod, who are super-heavy doom metal, but they always have this groove that is very indicative of New Orleans," she observes. "That's part of why I moved here; it's got this great vibe that influences your music, your writing, your artwork. You're surrounded by artists. It reminds me a lot of how the East Village used to be, as far as a community of artists."
The East Village of her White Zombie days may be gone, but, the bassist says with a laugh, "you can still trip down alleys full of rats, so it's not totally changed." It's the 'hood where Dava, a Bronx native, still lives. Yseult calls her "our poet in residence, our Bukowski," and indeed, the dark tone of Star & Dagger's lyrics is beautifully belted out by Von Hesseling, who was an obvious, if not immediate choice, to front the band, as Yseult explains. "We were already best friends and vacationing in Barcelona and Paris together. Von had never really been in a band before, but I'd seen her sing some smoky blues songs at burlesque shows in New Orleans, We didn't try out anyone else. She was right under our nose! It was like 'wait a minute, we gotta get her ass on stage!' She's totally uninhibited, and the prefect front person."
While it's the three of them on the cover of Tomorrowland Blues, "We didn't picture it as a power trio of three girls, which is what the press keeps saying," says Yseult. "Dava has so many guitar lines in her head, we knew we needed a second guitarist. But we did write and record all the music just the three of us, with a drummer." That said, it's the chick core that drives the dirty sound and good times, and that's showing no signs of slowing.. While Yseult has bar, art and band projects, she affirms, "Dava and I have written half of the next Star & Dagger record, and I feel like it's going to keep going. Fingers crossed!" You can bet they'll drink to that. Star & Dagger play the McKittrick Hotel on Saturday, Aug. 3.
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