Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
“When I was eight, my Dad and I made a haunted house in our basement for Halloween,” says Starring guitarist Clara Latham. “He played ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’ from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, terrifying all the children, including me.” From then on, Latham was hooked on psych music — no doubt her kinda-spooky, ultra-hypnotic, groove-obsessed Brooklyn five-piece would certainly make her dad proud. Starring are pulsating-and-glowing krautpunk churners that manage to find equal footing in sun-baked noise-rock and just-plain-baked psych-rock. Think Suicide and a Wooden Shjip sailing merrily on a thermos full of Red Bull and Verb Caf coffee. (They’re formiddable live, too.) With members drawn from a disparate array of local acts (avant-jazz terrorists Talibam!, art-pop wildmen Skeleton$, jaunty chamber-poppers the Fancy, my old pals Pterodactyl), Starring join together to tinker with volume, rhythm and the infectious drone of a Farfisa, angling to be a force more invested in body music than mind music. “We’re not driven by songwriting as a form of expression,” says Latham. “What we do is about simple, bodily and affective experience — we’re driven by grooves and riffs.” Their debut album, The Wife Of God (out June 8 on Death By Audio) stacks these grooves on top of each other in blown-out clusters, a poppier version of nu-psychonauts like Crime In Choir or the Psychic Paramount. Album trac “July” plays an acid-washed groove with the spazzy energy of finger-painting kindergarteners, sounding like the Stooges if they were a Saturday morning cartoon.
Starring’s Clara Latham on “July”:
What is “July” about?
Nothing. None of our songs are about anything in particular. Starring is a pretty formal project. We really try to go for intensity alone. The songs are mostly concentrations of different feelings. I wish I could say it was about something, but we don’t really seek to express anything in particular. We’re really interested in making an experience, even if it feels inhuman, or non-expressive.
What inspired its creation, musically?
I remember Mike [Gallope, farfisa player] had laid down this crazy riff that was like an Atari “game over” sound, followed by a hard rock chorus that sounded like Thin Lizzy. I think I freestyled the lyrics “We belong together!” which Mike followed with “Bring me wine and leather,” though those lyrics were cut when we eventually recorded the song. In the end, though, we hope its sort of like 12-year-olds trying to play heavy metal.
What’s your favorite summer song?
The band has been seriously debating whether or not “Daddy’s Home” lives up to Usher’s classic summer jam “Love In This Club.” Amy [Cimini, viola] and I are squarely in the Love In This Club” camp, but Matt [Marlin, drums] argues “Daddy’s Home” has what it takes to be a bonafide summer jam. Mike is on the fence, holding off on judgment till summer is actually here. Sam [Kulik, bass] only listens to NRBQ, so he wouldn’t vote anyway.
Is July a summer song?
I dunno… we would certainly be open to its inclusion on a summer jams’ collection CD, along with “Umbrella” and “Big Pimpin'” and whatnot. I guess, even though the song is essentially about nothing, the lyrics do, in fact, describe some kind of horrific bad-mushrooms-thing at a holiday BBQ. OK, so yes — “July” is definitely a summer jam. It’s perfect for driving with the windows down, drinking beer, and making out on tour. We plan to do all three at the same time!
What was itching to get out that you couldn’t explore in your other band, the Fancy?
There are lots of things I can do in Starring that I can’t do in the Fancy: Screaming, wailing, shredding, pouring beer on my head, dressing up as Jon Benet Ramsey… I love being in such drastically different projects. The Fancy operates like a string quartet. We belabor every detail of orchestration and use nerdy chamber music rehearsal techniques to get the sound right. Starring is more like a football team. We make a strategy and then go for it!
Tell my about your relationship with psych music.
I think what I love most about this kind of music is the trance state that happens when you lock into a groove with people. When we play “Get Over Here, Disco!” live, Mike and I do this interlocking rhythmic groove. When we boil it down and get it right, everything else leaves my mind. I think the approach Starring takes to jamming is interesting because it fits somewhere in between the trance state you get from repetitious, Phillip Glass-like composed cellular music and the flow state that can come from totally improvised, free music. It’s right on the edge of total control and chaos.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
In the summertime I love biking over to Red Hook to eat enchiladas from the taco vendors. I could eat Mexican food everyday and not get sick of it. I know this for a fact.
Starrings record release party is Thursday, June 10 at Death By Audio with Skeleton$, Grooms, Unstoppable Death Machines and me, DJ 1000TimesYes, manning the decks!