What: Stars with Stel
Where: Capital Ballroom, 858 Yates St.
When: Monday, June 11, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $30 at Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St., and ticketweb.ca
Montreal melodicists Stars have not toured Canada as extensively as they did to promote their previous albums, which is unusual but understandable. With side-projects, children and other intangibles as contributing factors, dayparts aren’t as wide open as they once were for members of the veteran group.
Looks can be deceiving, of course. The second leg of the band’s tour to support their ninth album, There is No Love in Fluorescent Light, launches Monday in Victoria, and while they haven’t played many shows since their U.S. tour in April, the members have been busy nonetheless. “Being in a band now is not just making records,” singer Torquil Campbell said from Vancouver, where he lives part-time. “Now, it’s running social media accounts and all that stuff.”
The Juno Award-winning group, which also includes singer Amy Millan, bassist Evan Cranley, guitarist Chris McCarron, drummer Patty McGee, and keyboardist Chris Seligman, will still have some Western Canadian markets to cross off their tour itinerary after their upcoming tour comes to a close, but that’s how life goes sometimes, Campbell said. They are committed to criss-crossing the country, if needed. “I’m always mystified by the vagaries of why things get done the way they do in the music industry. We wanted to give people time with the record, and with the ground we had to cover in the States, it just worked out this way.”
Stars will not have trouble getting back up to speed. Campbell is positively ecstatic over There is No Love in Fluorescent Light, and sounds convincing when he calls it the best album of their career. Campbell said There is No Love in Fluorescent Light is the first to properly showcase the rock ’n’ roll skills of the band, which to this point has been known for its eloquent electro-pop and heart-rending storylines about love, loss, and enduring affection. “To me, that made the album a much more long-lasting and listenable thing. It is so much more dynamic than some of the other records.”
That could have something to do with the way in which it was recorded. The sessions for There is No Love in Fluorescent Light were the first in the band’s 20-year career not to have members play at least a small part in the production. In a bold move, the band left control of the record up to Grammy Award-winning producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), who recorded the album in Montreal and Connecticut.
“A big part of anything in life is getting too close to who you are, to the degree you can no longer see what it is you’re doing,” Campbell said. “We had always made records with engineers and co-producers, but we had still been in charge of the records. Peter was in charge of this record. He chose the songs, he chose the voicings, and a lot of the arrangement ideas. We really trusted him, and let him direct the movie. And we’re thrilled with the results.”
Campbell said the group also parted ways with its management recently, and has taken on those duties in the lead-up to this tour. That decision forced the band to confront its own mortality: Did they want to continue? Was there any point in continuing?
These were questions the group asked itself, Campbell said. Clearly, they came understand what it was they were seeking. “We love each other so much. We’ve made something that we’re deeply proud of and love a lot, and at this point we all feel a big obligation to protect that thing and make it beautiful. We’re very focused these days on being better than we’ve ever been, and being beautiful. That was always our goal — we’re not a cool band, we don’t make noise rock, we don’t make difficult music. We make music we want people to have in their lives on a day-to-day, quotidian basis. This band is an act of friendship, and the bands that last are the people who love one another.”
With two outspoken frontpersons in Campbell and Millan and one inter-band coupling (Cranley and Millan are married), it has been said that Stars resemble a modern-day Fleetwood Mac. Campbell, a wildly entertaining interview subject who spend part of his year acting in the theatre, takes the comparison as a compliment, despite the recent strife that effectively broke Fleetwood Mac into separate camps.
“There is an ongoing narrative in [Fleetwood Mac] about a man and woman speaking to each other, and I think that is exactly what we’ve done as well. We’ve had this dialogue for two decades between two characters. But when people listen to the music, they also see themselves in it, or they seem Me and Amy in it. And they read into it all kinds of things that they need to have in there, and that’s part of what makes a great band. There is a dramatic dynamism inside the band that people can apply what they want to apply onto it.”
Expanding upon the Fleetwood Mac comparison, Campbell said he often looks for hidden meanings in the songs Millan writes for the group. Is he the platonic Lindsey Buckingham to her Stevie Nicks? He’s resigned himself to never having an answer — because there most likely isn’t one.
“There’s times I will be singing a song I’ve sung 600 times that Amy wrote the lyrics for and I suddenly realize: ‘Oh, she was talking to me.’ I don’t even now if Amy knew she was talking to me, either. There’s a dream life that happens inside a band that you start to write about, and it’s maybe more real than you think it is, in a way. You’re willing to let go of things that seem impossible to let go of on your own — and to believe in things you’ve come not to believe in. It was great learning curve for us to realize that, after all these years, we don’t know everything. Surprise, surprise. ”