Montreal-based group Stars have a lot to brag about. With five full-length albums, five EPs, two Juno nominations, a Polaris Prize nomination, as well as having had songs featured on television programs The O.C. and Degrassi: The Next Generation, it’s safe to say the quintet has enjoyed their fair share of success.
“This did not all happen in the bat of an eye,” assured drummer Pat McGee. “We were a band for seven years before anything really started happening.”
Conceived in early 2000 in New York City by vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman, the two gave up their respective Broadway gigs – Campbell was acting while Seligman was playing French horn – and moved to Montreal along with singer/guitarist Amy Millan and bassist Evan Cranley. McGee rounded out the group shortly after.
The last few years have been a time of change and reflection for the now 10-year-old band, who certainly has no intention of slowing down. Their fifth LP, The Five Ghosts, was released this past June. The album’s title is a feng shui term which refers to the bad energy left behind in a house after a loved one dies.
“The theme of ghosts came about [while writing the new album],” said McGee. “There really wasn’t any conscious decision to do it, it was just various events and experiences that arose that dictated what the theme of the album would be,” he continued.
As some of the song titles, namely “Dead Hearts,” and “I Died So I Could Haunt You” suggest, the band had to contend with some troubling circumstances while working on the album. Campbell lost his father, an event which McGee said was very hard on the singer and directly influenced the lyrics in some of the songs.
“When you lose someone close to you, it makes you reflect on all the people in your life who are here and not here anymore and how you relate to the people who are no longer here,” the drummer explained.
Around the same time, Seligman claims to have experienced an actual haunting while living in Vancouver. The keyboardist’s paranormal experience was what really kicked off the theme of the album, according to McGee.
In making The Five Ghosts, McGee explained that the band wanted to do something different and to get back to a sound from earlier Stars days when they were more of a synth-pop band.
“Our last two records were quite grandiose and orchestral, and I think we made a conscious effort to slim things down,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of strings or horns [on the new album] and there are a lot of synthesizers.”
The musicians experimented with analog and bass synthesizers as well as electric drums.
“We wanted to take what we’ve learned over the years and apply them to a more slimmed-down synthetic sound,” he emphasized.
In Canada, the album was released on the band’s own label, Soft Revolution Records. Having been in the business for so many years, they felt that Stars would benefit from more independence and control over their music.
The group spent the past few months touring North America extensively. However, after the tour, which ends next week in Montreal, the band will be staying put due the expected arrival of Millan and Cranley’s baby in March 2011. Fans can definitely expect some new tunes in the coming months as the band plans to spend the winter writing new content.
“I think we’re going to try to take a new approach to music in that we won’t necessarily sit down and try to write a whole record. [Rather], we just want to take it one song at a time,” McGee hinted.
Stars will play with Young Galaxy at Metropolis on Dec. 4.