WORDS BY COLTON D. EDDY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSE ENRIQUE MONTES HERNANDEZ
STYLING BY GINA BOURNE
With subtle thematic choices and narratives drawing from sounds of their eclectic bounty of formative noisemakers, Canadian indie-pop outfit Stars’ sound has developed into something that is not pastiche. The group has recently shifted toward a more playful feel with their seventh album The North, and have been warriors of the road ever since. For over 10 years, Stars have tickled that bone of familiarity with their well-mannered humor, musicianship, and cinematic production. And with an ongoing headline tour, an upcoming tour with Tegan and Sara, and their second Coachella appearance on the horizon, the notion of “slowing down” is not on the agenda. The Lab Magazine caught up with the band’s lead singer, Amy Millan, the morning after their thirteenth show in as many days. With her and bassist Evan Cranley’s two-year-old daughter waking beside her on the tour bus, she took time to reflect on the decade since the Arts & Crafts community formed and the impact that Stars’ soundtrack has set.
THE LAB MAGAZINE—Well, good morning!
AM—Good morning! Sorry about that sneeze in your face.
TLM—That’s all right. Is that a trademark hello?
AM—I do tend to have sneezing attacks in the morning for some reason, but I don’t know if that’s print worthy.
TLM—How was the show last night?
AM—It was amazing actually. It was a rare occurrence where Evan [Cranley] crowd-surfed. There are not a lot of crowds of ours that get crowd-surfing going, but last night was one of those nights in Calgary.
TLM—Is that a special Calgary thing?
AM—It’s Calgary! It can be explosive and amazing. I mean, it just depends on the night and what’s happening. But it’s a rare thing for us for that to happen, but when it does, it just makes the night. It’s like breaking a string, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it means things are exploding.
TLM—Has motherhood shifted that balance between off-stage and performance?
AM—Not to do with performance, no. There was a huge party on the bus last night. We, the family, take the back of the bus and we couldn’t hear it at all and missed the whole thing. I think the party part has maybe calmed down a little bit, but not the show aspect. The only reason we’re out here on the road sacrificing being at home is to be playing these shows. It’s one of the best parts of the day.
TLM—Have you noticed any change in your approach to songwriting?
AM—Not at all! It changes you in other ways. In terms of emotional change, anxiety shifts, the view of what’s important and what needs to get done because you have a mouth to feed. The creative process and the person that you are and always will be is the same, I think. For myself, anyway.
TLM—Speaking of anxiety, has there been a moment when you’re about to go on stage and the anxiety doesn’t come as it did before. Is there a fear that loss of anxiety might change the value of the work that you’re putting out?
AM—I don’t think anxiety helps creativity. I think it hinders it. So whatever anxiety I’ve been able to dissipate is only a good thing. It definitely isn’t gone all together. I fight a lot of anxiety and there’s a song on the record called Backlines about that exact thing.
TLM—How much do you feel a song is complete before it is performed? Or is a song ever complete?
AM—That’s an interesting question. It just changes like anything. It isn’t one thing at all times. Every night it should be a little bit different. One of my favorite singers of all time is Billie Holiday and she never sang a song the same way twice. In the folk tradition, they used to change lyrics when they covered other people’s songs. I like to do that with our own songs. I’ve been changing the lyrics to Midnight Cowardnow for the past three months, just to keep it alive and fresh. I think that what is more important is living in the moment.
TLM—When you hear one of your songs back, on the radio, does the song take on a different life?
AM—I think that when you hear your song on the radio, you’re so excited that you’re not in a judgmental frame of mind. So if I’ve ever heard it on the radio, in a restaurant or in a clothing store, it kind of makes my day ’cause I feel like I’m penetrating something. It’s rare that it happens. We’re not Rihanna or Coldplay; we’re not a mainstream band.
TLM—Still, Stars has albums that have been widely celebrated by many fans and critics alike – such as Set Yourself on Fire. What do you think that album had and have you tried to chase it?
AM—That’s so interesting, because I think in terms of the world of critics, that’s the one that penetrated. But on every album, we have these songs that live inside the heart of our fans. Fixed and DeadHearts from The Five Ghosts, My Favorite Book and Take Me to the Riot fromIn Our Bedroom After the War. These are songs that are massive parts of our show and that are huge hits in the lives of our audience. So we don’t look at it that way at all.
Find the rest of the interview and complete feature here.