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  • Interview: Stars

    Mon, 24 Sep 2007 09:41:45

    Interview: Stars - A conversation with Torquil Campbell about the band's new record, why love rules all, and why New York sucks

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    Never shy about embracing melodrama, Canadian pop quintet Stars amp up the epic-ness on their new release, In Our Bedroom After the War, the followup to their critically acclaimed 2005 album, Set Yourself on Fire. Despite the title of their new record, Stars have been gradually moving away from the cozy bedroom lo-fi-ness that characterized their earlier albums.

    In Our Bedroom continues the trend, taking twee sweetness and melding it with pure rock 'n roll bombast to achieve a particularly affecting brand of emotive pop that moves easily between hushed ballads and storming, dramatic rockers.

    We caught up with one of the main voices of Stars, singer Torquil Campbell, at his hotel in New York, which he described (to our dismay) as a "sad, big, old northern town... that ain't what it used to be." An affable fellow, Campbell talked to us about the right to steal art, the influence of Fleetwood Mac and why love drives everything we do.

    You guys released your new album just days after you got the master, and months in advance of the street date, how has that worked out?

    It's been working out good. It went to #1 on the digital album charts in Canada, so that's a good thing. We've already sold 16,000 copies, I think. It's achieved the aim of giving people the option of buying the record, or stealing the record, or not hearing the record. Whereas had we not put it out early, it would have been steal it or not hear it. There are so many people who kindly put aside a portion of their income to buy art—to go to movies, or to go to plays, or to look at books. They're our bread and butter audience, they're the people who keep us in business—and we wanted to give them an opportunity to get the album early, but in a way that supports the artist, and it's gone well.

    16,000 is pretty solid considering the physical album isn't out until Sept 25th.

    It's fantastic. For a little bunch of ugly people in their 30s like us. It ain't Rihanna, but it'll do.

    Do you think this'll catch on, that other people will start doing early digital releases as well?

    I think it depends on the album. Our album was very leakable, and I think that a lot of people were going to hear the record regardless of weather we tried to stop them or not. And I don't think we should try to stop them. I think people should steal music. I think art is a profane thing, and it's everyone's. And nobody should own it. So I'm perfectly happy that people steal it, I just want them to hear it—that's the important thing. I think that most musicians feel that way.

    Turning to the album, what's the poem what opens the album?

    That's my mother, reading a little nursery rhyme that I wrote over the phone. And on Set Yourself on Fire that was my father reading a little nursery rhyme that I wrote over the phone. A little something to keep it consistent across the albums. We've always had a spoken voice at the beginning of Stars records. I kind of like that idea of, you know, on hip-hop records they sort of say hello before they start the record. I think it's an interesting way of drawing the listener into the world of music.

    Would you say that In Our Bedroom continues a narrative from Set Yourself on Fire?

    Well, it continues a world. Every good band has a world that it creates. And I think that every one of our records, in a way, is a continuum and part of that world. We're writing about similar kinds of people in similar situations. So in that sense we're a narrative band, and I think we'll always write stories about that particular kind of world, and those particular kind of people.

    And I guess it's a continuum in the sense that it's still thinking about and examining the idea of the public world and the private world and how they intersect. And your public morality and your private morality and the idea that love is a motivating force in everything—from people buying flowers for their girlfriend, to people invading Iraq.

    Seeking love and seeking approval and wanting people to know you're alive—it can result in a lot of beautiful things and it can result in a lot of terrible things. It's just one of the strange dichotomies of love, which I think is the central motivating factor in everybody's life, the quest for love. Of all kinds, not just romantic love. A serial killer can be motivated by his quest for love just as much as a lover can. And that has always struck me as very odd and fascinating, and I think we'll always write about it.

    In interviews for Set Yourself on Fire you talked about the political ideas underpinning that record. Did politics play as much of a role in the new album?

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