Portland, Oregon has an answer to class acts like Radiohead, Cold Play, Keane and The Postal Service. It lies with Jason Bell, Kevin Calaba and Daniel Orvik who form Stars of Track and Field.
The trio’s sophomore album Centuries Before Love and War is a treasure chest full of what is precious in contemporary rock. The Stars use intrigue and curiosity fully to their advantage with cold dark imagery as they project light and warmth in all the right places. Bell and Calaba’s guitars shimmer and soar one moment and are hushed with precision the next, while Orvik plays God of the drum kit and electro programming throughout Centuries.
Take a closer look or strain your ears a little and you will realize that this three piece band lacks a bass player but that realization is quickly clouded over and extinguished if it can be made at all. The three didn’t set out to find the missing link. Instead they pulled together to form one tight threesome. Kevin Calaba talks about the trio’s critically acclaimed album Centuries Before Love and War.
Can you tell us about the themes on your album Centuries Before Love and War?
It’s a conceptual album that embodies three themes: love, war and time. These things seemed to be very prominent at the time we were writing these songs. I was going through a very hard time in my relationship and the U.S. was invading anywhere they wanted. Everybody is tired of it. We wanted to comment on that, not on a soapbox so much, but just shed light on it.
Was there ever a time before war?
In an ideal sense, I’d like to say yes. But it’s unfortunately a natural thing for man. When the first caveman threw a stick, that guy was a dick. I guess there are still cavemen and that’s too bad.
Do you think love has changed and evolved over time? Do people love the way they used to in the past?
The definition is definitely changing with time. I can only comment on a North American sense because that’s where I live. Love in America is largely connected to materials and people love their materials. Do they love their suburban house, their success, or do they really love each other? It’s interesting to see what people focus on as far as love is concerned.
May I take a shot at your manliness and ask when the last time you cried over love was?
I went through a divorce so that was a very, very painful experience. There were a lot of tears there.
Parts of Centuries Before Love and War are reminiscent on lost love. When love is lost can it be found again?
I think that love is built on such an ethereal sense and it’s something you can’t describe, name or point at. If it’s built on that and that goes away, how are you supposed to find it? It’s such an abstract theory. If the flame isn’t burning it’s hard to figure out why not.
There is a huge sense of loss in the song “With You”. Who was it written about?
Jason wrote it about a friend who committed suicide.
Songs can get a little personal and Jason and you share writing duties. How do you feel singing each other’s songs?
I have a different relationship with my songs that I do his. I get to experience his as a second person and that’s really nice. His songs go through an evolution that mine don’t. I have to learn them because they’re melodies and lyrics that I wouldn’t have come up with. It’s fun for me to figure what they’re about and to present them. I’m really fortunate to be able to sing Jason’s songs.
Can you tell us about your song “Centuries”?
I think “Centuries” is my favourite song that I wrote on the record. The chorus is: “Put your coat on and don’t ask why.” Like pick up your gun and don’t ask any questions. It’s about the blind faith that a lot of brave soldiers have. They’re not allowed to question their leaders and if that’s the definition of a soldier, I believe that there is a large problem in that theory. Give a bunch of huge guys with muscles guns and take away their brains? That’s very dangerous. It’s a flaw in warfare and in human nature altogether.
If you were drafted to go to war what would you do?
If we were invaded I’d stay and fight. But if we were going to take over and insert a democracy somewhere on false pretenses, I would have a problem picking up any sort of weapon. I’d come live here in Canada or Europe. I’m a citizen of the European Union, my mother is from Germany.
On the subject of geography, what is your interest in Antarctica?
Our song “Movies of Antarctica” is largely based on the potential of an empty landscape or an empty room and what you can do with emptiness, like how it takes a blank slate to create something. A lot of people are scared of things being empty or wiping the slate clean but a white canvas has a lot more potential than a black one.
How do you feel about the shape of the ice caps these days? It looks like springtime.
It’s a tragedy and Gore is doing the best he can to put it on an international level and raise the level of concern so we can stop going to war for resources and figure this out before it’s too late. It’s going take a global change and a huge amount of awareness to create the overhaul that is needed. Hopefully it won’t take a cataclysmic event to raise the awareness that we need.
Could you imagine what the next century will be like?
I’m hoping that this overhaul will start to appear and that people are aware of what they’re consuming. It’s becoming affordable to become economically friendly so hopefully it won’t take a cataclysmic event to raise the awareness that we need.